Oh, woe is the improperly dressed man. “The consequences of a zipper malfunction,” explains a video about the coat I am wearing today, “can take you out of your zone instantly. That’s what Puma considered when choosing the right zipper for Arsène Wenger.”
Arsène’s coat – that most famous coat in British football – is his closest companion, his oldest enemy. Often the Arsenal manager is pictured on the touchline, struggling with the zipper in the cold. The engineers at Puma have constructed him a special coat calibrated for his style of zipping, coming up with an oversized zip-pull, yet still he struggles.
This is an important issue. Of course the modern football manager must think, carefully and tactically, about his wardrobe. Steve McClaren lost his England job after sheltering, cowardly, under an umbrella as England lost to Croatia in the rain. Tim Sherwood, infamously, wore a gilet for much of his short and ignominious stint as manager of Tottenham Hotspur. Roberto Martinez enjoys a gothic, buckled-up bondage coat, as if he were Edward Scissorhands.
But the most successful managers are always well-turned-out. Joachim Löw – who won the World Cup with Germany – is known for his dandy-ish style and his mad, megalomaniacal obsession that his assistant Hans Dieter Flick must always dress exactly like him, for instance in a lavender V-neck and navy blazer. Jose Mourinho favours dark grey, dashing overcoats that complement his salt-and-pepper hair. Diego Simeone dresses all in frightening black, like an assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold in the movie Léon.
But I have been asked to wear Arsène Wenger’s coat out and about – even though I am a Tottenham fan and cannot stand him or his team – and why not, I suppose?
The first test? A stroll down Old and New Bond Streets,to see what the wealthy fashion crowd might make of this. Actually, a lot of them are also dressed in long caterpillar coats, but mostly these are by Moncler and cost much, much more than Arsène’s. A lot of them are in furs, too. I try to catch the eye of a beautiful 20-something brunette in a smart winter overcoat (the sort of thing Mourinho wears) but she averts her eyes, appalled.
My next stop is Vogue House, where I am working this week, and the doorman is happy to see me – it turns out he supports Arsenal. I sense his disillusionment when I tell him I’m only wearing the coat because the Guardian made me. Clearly, I feel embarrassed. And, more than that, I feel long. Very, very long. This is a coat so absurdly long that it inspired its own meme. It is difficult to move in a tightly zipped coat that comes down below the knees, and difficult to access any trouser pockets, too.
Coming out of the underground, I bump into a matewho says “I like your coat”, and I gaze sadly into the middle distance and complain that it’s hard to walk. And then he explains the double zip to me. It turns out that this coat can also be unzipped from the bottom – Arsène never does this at the football, but then he can hardly do it up in the first place – transforming it in to a flowing trench coat, or even a gentlemanly cape. Still, it looks awful on me, and only works on Arsène because he’s exceedingly tall and skinny, like the Nightmare Before Christmas.
Having said all that, I am toasty and comfortable – even when I pose beside the chiller cabinets in my local Tesco – if somewhat immobilised, in Arsène’s coat. It’s perfect for standing around in the cold, which is its purpose, and its quilting and fleece lining are very snug. Later this week I’ll be boarding a 26-hour-long cargo ferry from Immingham to Gothenburg, which will be very frosty, so I think I’ll wear it a little longer before donating it to charity or burning it. It’s a wonderful winter coat, I suppose– if you like Arsenal and can use a zipper.