In honor of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2010 Collections, which kicks off here in New York on Thursday, Steve Susi — founder of branding consultancy Brand Spanking New York, and video and photography director at the previous 13 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks — takes a moment to list his Top Ten Looks in Sports for One Great Season.
NOTE: To eliminate all bias, the author has excluded his favorites from consideration: Ohio State and all Ohio pro teams.
+ Coolest pro uniforms
Not sure if it's our northern neighbors' penchant for understatement or the thinly veiled Canadian nationalism, but the Leafs' simple, unchanged-for-decades look is the definition of Walk softly but carry a big stick. And I don't care if you're a Montreal Canadien, you just gotta respect the fact they said Not on Tim Horton’s life are we going to use proper English and proceeded to mis-pluralize their mascot. Leaves? No way. LEAFS. Fantastic.
+ Coolest college uniforms
So you may have read up top that I'm an Ohio State fanatic. How on earth then could I choose Meat-Chicken's uniforms as "Coolest"? Because I call a spade a spade. They're our archrivals, sure, but if those helmets and that basic contrast color combo generate half as much love in its fans hearts as it does hatred in mine, then it's done its job. Most certainly, U of M's Maize and Blue are the most recognized college colors on earth, and for good reason. They have more wins than any school in history, and way back in the days before Photoshop or Adweek, they knew that branding and visual differentiation could be just as important as winning in propelling a program to national prominence. When they brought all three together, it became nearly unbeatable. (Trying extremely hard not to bring up the fact that, as of this writing, it's been 2,270 days since the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes on the football field. Darn. I failed.)
Ana Ivanovic, tennis
OK, ya caught me. She's smokin'. But whenever the press catches her in a bikini, at a post-match press conference or even picking up after her lap-dog on the sidewalks of Belgrade, Ana is absolutely stunning. A few years ago I scored third-row seats for her second-round match at the Open. I couldn’t feel my teeth for an hour. But there are a bunch of beautiful female athletes, right? Sure, but that alone doesn't win a gal the "best-dressed" prize. This one oozes elegance, style, and sex appeal like no one we've seen since Gabriela Sabatini. And unlike Anna Pornikova, she actually wins and stuff.
+ Best-dressed male athlete
He’s got more product sponsorships than Tiger used to have, so maybe his look is the product of some stylist or something. If it is, or it’s his wife putting together his Garanimals, then my bad. But for a self-admitted dolt, Becks always takes a page out of Paul Smith’s book for a mix of Savile Row, Tanqueray bulldog, and "Snatch" gangmember. He just pulls it off — and even with that dumb faux-hawk phase he had a few years ago, his hairstyles seem to change all of Europe’s in about a day and a half. And Europeans don’t like anyone. Particularly the most-liked Europeans.
+ Best athlete-turned-fashion- designer
Björn Borg, tennis
The Ice Man was the Anti-McEnroe during my 7- to 9-year-old age range, and boy did he piss me off. Never yelled, never smiled, never respirated as far as anyone knew. And when Mac finally beat him in the 1981 Wimbledon final, he calmly picked up his racquet bag, ignored the press, and walked away from pro tennis forever. The Swede was, in effect, a kind of character study for the Cold War — and for that matter Ivan Lendl, so I guess he was ahead of his time. As were his fashion label’s underwear magazine ads. I had a cardiac when I saw his line's first print spread. To this day I've never seen anything like them, and can't even link you to them online anywhere, so you can have a heart attack too. Suffice it to say they weren't kid-friendly, and focused more on what one does without underwear on than with it.
+ Best designer in sports
J. Lindeberg, golf
Finally someone broke down the barriers between golf and modern fashion. The dominant look for the younger and skinnier players on the PGA Tour is clearly European, with equal parts retro, techy and preppy that provides a fashion-forward contrast to Nike's boxy cuts, boring patterns and big fat logos. Sorry Craig Stadler, you're not invited to the J. Lindeberg party, and that's the point. Only the younger, fitter players can wear this stuff, which makes a brand statement all its own.
+ Best Athlete Brand-Named Shoe
Nike Mac Attack
Classic, cool, and for the first time ever, a mid-top shoe made specifically for tennis. This was the most American of designs from the most despised Yank on Tour. But their simplicity rendered them as acceptable on Centre Court at Wimbledon as easily as they could to a pub in King's Road. The original gray, white and black model even looked like it fell off a New York skyscraper. Great job, Mac. Now bring 'em back.
+ Coolest national team uniforms
Until Puma took over — and summarily ruined — La Forza's kits, Italy's was hands-down the best kit in international sport. Now they're cheesy with tons of lines and shading all over the place. So now the mantel now belongs to the Dutch, whose famous orange and white uniforms (and occasionally the red, white and blue of the Netherlands' national flag) are instantly distinguished across the planet as the Clockwork Orange, a nod to their meticulous style of play. P.S. Hey Ivory Coast, get your own style, will ya?
+ Best-dressed coach
This dude is as cool as he dresses — and he can back it up too. A native of Barcelona, he played for his hometown club FC Barcelona on a "dream-team" that brought home the team's first Euro Cup crown in 1992. He's now its manager, and prowling the sidelines in the coolest suits ever, he's only nabbed the Champions League crown, the European Treble and the UEFA Super Cup. And he's just getting started. Can't find the suit label he prefers, but they look like Brioni. I'd guess he wears only Italian suits, but then, Guardiola is such an all-things-Spain kinda guy, I wouldn't be surprised if they were Zara. Either way, he still looks like he could play 90 minutes without loosening his tie.
+ Coolest cheerleader uniforms
Right on the cusp of too revealing for college cheerleaders (the tops are tight but not too tight; the skirts are short but too much so), the classic long sleeves and solid white with garnet and gold trim have become the trademark of the USC Song Girls, having graced the sidelines for decades without undue change or getting slutty. The founder of the Song Girls, Bothwell Lindley, summed it all up with a quote: "Have pride without arrogance and confidence without conceit." Sounds like good fashion advice to me.
Addendum: And because I was taught to keep my mouth shut if I couldn’t say something nice, I won’t approach Rafael Nadal’s capri pants, Oregon football’s taste in uniform design, CBC’s Don Cherry or the wardrobe selection of 90 percent of everyone on ESPN.
Be sure to give Susi a follow on Twitter. He's at @BrandSpankingNY.