Once upon a time, the footballer’s haircut varied little from the man in the street.
Centre-partings with brylcreem were the thing in the 50s, giving way to short back and sides in the 60s followed by hair that was long, frizzy or permed in the 70s and 80s.
But in the past 20 years, as footballers have started to see themselves as fashion icons or rock stars, the hairstyles have become more outlandish and Africa’s finest players have not been short of creativity or cringe-worthiness. Here, in no particular order are my favourite styles. But be warned – viewing the following images may make your hair stand on end!
Known as Locó, the mad one, for obvious reasons, Cange asked his barber to produce a stylish trim similar to the great Brazilian Ronaldo, circa 1998. Instead he got what appears to be a line of wiggling black caterpillars covering his forehead with the rest of his head shaved.
We’re not sure if the tarantula’s legs helped or hindered his heading ability, but the Angolan full-back is known more for his tresses than his trickery on the ball. A one-off though and that is probably a good thing.
The former Arsenal winger wore a wide hairband for most of his time at AS Roma, but this shocking image in 2014 apparently showed that the Ivorian’s hairline started somewhere at the back of his head. One cruel commentator speculated that his hairline went so far back it was stuck in 1989, while others compared the size of his forehead with various planets in our solar system.
A more scientific explanation was that he suffered from traction alopecia, the result of wearing braids too tight, combined with male pattern baldness, leading to a dramatically receded hairline. There’s a warning there somewhere.
The former Tottenham Hotspur left-back was another fan of the headband and his Cameroon teammate Benjamin Moukandjo is grateful for that. The pair clashed during Cameroon’s 4-0 defeat by Croatia at the World Cup in Brazil, with Assou-Ekotto head-butting Moukandjo.
Fortunately the alice band, as popularised by David Beckham a decade earlier, saved Moukandjo from serious injury. BAE, as he was known, was famous for eschewing the superstar lifestyle when at Spurs and instead likes to go to his local, cheap barbershop in Tottenham. You get what you pay for, Benoit!
Where do you start with the Daddy of them all? Song was one of the first African superstars to appear in the Premier League, after playing for Cameroon at the 1994 World Cup at the age of 17 and becoming the youngest player to be sent off in a World Cup.
Subsequent moves to Liverpool and West Ham in England, FC Koln in Germany and Trabzonspor and Galatasarary in Turkey enhanced his image as a no-nonsense defender, before he went for the complete wild-man of the hills look by dying his greying dreadlocks blonde. He was as hard as he looked and as well as competing in a further four World Cups, was sent off again, becoming the first player to get two red cards in the tournament. Truly wild.
Nephew or cousin of Rigobert (above), depending on who you believe, the West Ham midfielder has followed in the family tradition of hairstyling experimentation.
Although his trim is relatively tidy now he is in East London, his pre-Barcelona days with Arsenal were punctuated with some lively displays ‘up top’. A dyed blond hair and matching beard, in the style of Portugal’s Abel Xavier, was followed by a multi-coloured mohawk, braids and a mini-afro. The move to mighty Barcelona seemed to calm his excesses and he has looked positively demure ever since.
The most distinctive look in football, instantly recognisable from all angles, Taribo’s twists and tails have never failed to fascinate during a long and varied career which saw him playing into his late 40s, even though he usually claimed to be 12 years younger than his real age.
Hard to describe and even harder to copy, the Nigerian defender’s style looked like something even a poodle owner would not inflict on their mutt. Combining braids and pigtails, often tied up to look like antennae and dyed green or red, it is fair to say his hairstyle overshadowed his playing style and he is remembered more for his tresses than his crosses. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flatter and judging by the lack of copycats, no-one was impressed.
The DRC goalkeeper has taken a bit of late 90s Madonna and echoes of Japanese samurai warriors into his hairstyle, best described as ‘braids in a ponytail’.
Individual though this look may be, however, it is nowhere near as unique as the keeper’s goal celebrations, which involve shuffling across the goalmouth on his backside, bumping up and down as if on an imaginary roller-coaster. Add the hairstyle and the celebration together and you can see why he is such a popular character – to the extent of considering a career in politics in DR Congo.
Always tidily trimmed during his years at Chelsea, having been signed by the stylish José Mourinho, Kalou seemed to lose his inhibitions – and his sense of taste – when the ‘Special One’ departed. By the time Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, Kalou had gone loco, with a spider shaved into the back of his head.
The Ivory Coast striker may have taken a lot of his playing style from compatriot and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, but God only knows what inspired him to do the spider, which was widely mocked.
But lest you think it is only African players who can offend the eye with their outrageous hairstyles, let’s not forget the footballer’s favourite – the mullet.
From Chris Waddle to Cesc Fàbregas (yes, really), far too many players have embraced the short on top, long back and sides look that may have started with early 70s rocker Rod Stewart, but took over world sport for a horrifying period in the 80s and 90s. Even in the Bundesliga, the spiritual home of the mullet, Werner stood out during his playing days with Hansa Rostock and a quick trawl of google images shows why.
There you have it. Some footballer’s creativity knows no bounds.