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a cut above: our favourite hairstyles of the world cup

Cutting and styling a man’s hair is an art form. I have my hair cut at a Korean café under the railroad, and there the master barber from Seoul insists he’s the best in London. He once told me, “I’m not cutting your hair, I’m blessing it,” and also nonchalantly informed my flatmate, “Most hairdressers would only see three ways to part your hair; I see twenty-five.” It’s hard to find hair inspiration now though. When I was a boy you could bounce up to your local barbershop with a folded photo of, say, Chris Packham from the Really Wild Show, in your pocket but these days TV presenters and pop stars don’t have the exciting haircuts they used to; rather it’s footballers that are pushing the boundaries and showing us what’s possible and, most likely, coming to a catwalk near us soon. Top players have to wear matching kits, with boots chosen by their sponsors, and they’re not allowed to wear a slogan T-shirt under their top – or even a snood! – so really they can only express themselves through their haircuts (and what they do with the ball). That’s where the magic happens. And while their Instagrams have brought their lives closer to ours than ever, their football-futuristic crops are defiant monuments to the fact that they still live in a more thrilling world than the rest of us. Here are the top 5 World Cup haircuts.

Text Dean Kissick
Photography Instagram 

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  • Neymar

    I don’t wish to kick a boy when he’s down – and the Brazil team are way down in the hole, having their harrowing Requiem For A Dream moment – but Brazilian Vogue cover star and oftentime underwear model Neymar once celebrated a goal by donning a mask of his own face, so he hopefully won’t mind me talking about his hair, which is blond and has a lot of lift. He looks like Miley Cyrus, or a porcupine. He was one of many players who had haircuts, and in his case lighter shades of bleach too, during the tournament; unsurprising really when you have to spend so much time hanging out in a highly-mirrored hotel with nothing much to worry about apart from your hair. Also his teammate Dani Alves deserves a shout-out for dyeing his grey like Tavi.

    @neymarjr

    @neymarjr

  • Kyle Beckerman

    Early in the tournament the best player in my Monday night five-a-side, David, tweeted that, “America, in literally choosing to field its spirit animal, a white dude with dreadlocks, deserves entirely to win the World Cup.” They were brilliant and Beckerman, their crusty-locked midfield enforcer, was a revelation. One of the great Jewish footballers of our time, he’s a unusual proposition: a wrestling champion, a fisherman, a Malcolm Gladwell reader with messy, Medusa-like dreads. I like him and I like his wedding photos too. An honourable mention must also go to his teammate Jermaine Jones, who has Chief Keef-like dreads, attends his family dinners topless, and just hosted a post-World-Cup party on Hollywood Boulevard with vodka by Ciroc and “table service recommended”

    @KYLEBECKERMAN

    @KYLEBECKERMAN

  • Bacary Sagna

    English football fans are all too familiar with Bakary Sagna’s hair but it’s still strikingly beautiful: blond braids, little ponytail and wide centre-parting. He’s just joined the millionaires at Manchester City, but actually looks like he’d be more at home in Yung Lean’s entourage.

    @therealbac

    @therealbac

  • Paul Pogba

    Nicknamed Il Polpo Paul (“Paul the Octopus”) for his long legs and languid wanderings, Pogba’s haircut is an ever-changing, abstract configuration of clippered and highlighted forms, like a Russian Constructivist painting really. There’s lots of unusual lines in this summer’s World Cup cuts, and Il Polpo’s signature is a pair of parallel blond streaks that evoke emo kids, or Daphne Guinness, or Anna from Frozen indeed. It’s as if he’s been struck by lightning. At his most striking when shopping with his girlfriend in Milan in an all-black hooded leather tracksuit  like Blade, he would make a brilliant vampire-stalking nightclub assassin. I love him. But Mamadou Sakho might well have an even better variation of this style, in all its maze-like detailing; it might make sense in a still image, but when he’s running about the pitch it appears frustratingly and endlessly complex. Sakho, Sagna and Pogba are all French; why in hell are French haircuts so amazing?!

    @paulpogba_6

    @paulpogba_6

  • Raheem Sterling

    But of course England win the haircut World Cup, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Most professional footballers sport a grotesque and phantasmagorical perversion of the punk mohawk these days – no idea why – but Raheem’s is unparalleled. With his poodle-permed up-do he looks phenomenal: like he has a bubble anemone on his head; like he’s keeping JLS up all night with hair-anxiety nightmares; like he’ll sweep your girlfriend out of your arms and ride away into the sunset on a flying purple motorcycle. He looks like Prince, and he’s amazing at football too. The maddest thing is though, this isn’t even close to his best haircut: just look at his classic Louis XV curls! So let’s celebrate the young Sun King of Liverpool, he’s all we have left in this green-and-pleasant land where once we invented football and (sort of) mohicans.

    @31sterling

    @31sterling