If you're anything like me, high school sports were a big part of your teenage years.
Throughout my time playing with and watching my high school teams, there was one guy I looked up to the most as they dominated varsity – my coach.
When I was just discovering my sense of style, seeing that guy dress to impress at every game was one hell of an inspiration to me. Despite the different types of sportswear my sports coach could have worn, he'd always look like a million bucks in a suit or blazer/pants combo.
He knew he needed to represent his team as the pack leader – on or off the pitch, the man always looked the part and inspired an entire team of young men.
So today, I'm passing down his knowledge. We'll be covering:
- History's Iconic Sports Coaches
- How To Build A Sports Coach's Wardrobe
- The Game-Winning Sample Wardrobe
#1. History's Iconic Sports Coaches
Mike Nolan's Game-Changing Suit
When Mike Nolan started wearing a suit on the sidelines, he was a man out of place – overdressed in a world where coaches wore different types of sportswear like tracksuits and sneakers (and where manufacturers had contracts requiring coaches to wear their products).
Following his appearance in a suit and tie (as a tribute to his late father), men's business wear caught on and is now the standard outfit for coaches in many major league sports.
Of course, brightly-colored sportswear still has its place, and conventions can vary widely between sports and cities. However, any athletic coach can be well-served by putting time and thought into building a wardrobe that works on the court and in the boardroom.
None of the different types of sportswear will work in a business-style meeting!
Bill Belichick's Statement Blazer
Belichick will forever be remembered as the man who coached The New England Patriots through 9 Super Bowls. Often, he can be seen on the sidelines dressed in different types of sportswear, but that's not to say he doesn't shine through in one hell of a statement blazer.
So what's so special about this look? It embodies everything a good coach should stand for – power, presence, and class.
Let's start with the color. A dusty-red hue stands out against his light blue shirt and provides him with undeniable presence – an essential trait for any good sports coach.
What's more? Belichick's power blazer features a blue windowpane-check design that only serves to amplify the presence-boosting impact of this garment. It's unsympathetically bold and presents Belichick as a man who isn't afraid to stand out from the crowd.
This combination of bold colors and patterns broadens Belichick's shoulders and makes him look larger – but not in a bad way! This blazer gives him stature and makes him look like the biggest guy on a pitch full of professional NFL athletes.
Bonus: Let's not forget Belichick's dedication to the classic team hoodie. Not every occasion calls for a suit or blazer – sometimes, a man is best served by what he knows best: his team's colors and logo on a traditional sports hoodie.
Tom Landry's Gray Suit And Fedora
Tom Landry was the Dallas Cowboy's first head coach. Under his guidance, they made it to five Super Bowls and took home the Vince Lombardi twice.
But that wasn't the only standout trophy on show at these momentous events. Tom Landry's signature fedora has become an icon for many fans, both young and old. It's come to represent victory for the all-American Dallas Cowboys and demonstrates a sense of style, presence, and class that you don't often see in modern-day sports.
In contrast to Belichick's statement blazer, Landry's style is far more muted and classic. It shows that a man can look just as striking in shades of gray as he can in bright reds and blues.
His suit and fedora are a medium gray, his shirt is cool gray, and his tie is a subtle mix of slate, black and white. Sounds dull, right?
Wrong! Landry's monochrome aesthetic is just as striking as a man wearing color. Combined with the wide lapels of his suit jacket and that iconic fedora, he looks well put together, broad and timeless. And one thing's for sure – in a sea of green grass, white jerseys, and blue seats at the Cowboys Stadium, Landry's monochrome look made one hell of an impact during his time in Dallas.
David Beckham's Inter Miami Suit
Writing an article about style in sport and NOT mentioning David Beckham would be a crime.
The man is an icon in men's fashion, and for a good reason. But he's also a very accomplished sportsman who has shown great talent as both a soccer player and (more recently) co-owner of Inter Miami Soccer Club.
Thanks to brand partnerships with the likes of Tudor, Adidas, and Kent and Curwen – Beckham has secured himself as one of the world's most stylish British icons in classic men's fashion. So is it any surprise to see him looking the part when supporting his team on the sideline?
You can see Beckham sporting a signature Inter Miami suit jacket and trouser combo. Designed by Ralph Lauren, this well-tailored two-piece perfectly embodies the Beckham's two passions – impeccable men's style and commitment to the sport.
What's more, the pink and black tripe tie and pink shirt combo act as a subtle nod to Inter Miami's team colors. Finish with a pair of dark shades, and you've got yourself one well-dressed sports personality.
Lloyd Pierce's Stipes
There's been some controversy surrounding Pierce since he was fired from his role as Head Coach at the Atlanta Hawks back in 2021. However, that isn't to say the man isn't incredibly well dressed and deserving of a place on my list of stylish coaches.
His use of stripes and color in this outfit clearly demonstrates that he's a man who knows how to dress well.
At first glance, there isn't anything extraordinary about Pierce's navy blue suit. It's not until you look at the finer details that you see the true genius of this outfit's construction.
Firstly, the navy suit and navy tie match up almost perfectly. In this case, a wall of navy makes Pierce appear broad in the chest and shoulders. Secondly, Pierce's use of stripes further compliments his figure. The lines of the pinstripe shirt and broad-striped tie all lead downwards, creating a slimming silhouette as the eye moves towards the waistline.
Not every man can pull off an all navy and pinstriped outfit. But for a sports coach who needs a presence on the courtside, I'd say this is the perfect combination to grab the attention of teammates and fans.
Anthony La Russa's Team Spirit
We can't talk about sports coaches without mentioning Baseball's legendary Anthony La Russa. Whether it be in his early career playing for White Sox or his late-career coaching for them, La Russa has never been a man not to show team spirit on the side of the pitch.
I thought I might show him wearing a suit or well-put-together blazer and trousers combo. However, I decided to settle for something more true to life in the end. In the image above, you can see La Russa dressed head to toe in White Sox sportswear – which I'd say is the most natural-looking outfit of any of the coaches I've mentioned in today's article.
It's a classic aesthetic that will never go out of style: a man wearing the branded sportswear of his team to show support and commitment to them.
Okay – a well-tailored suit and shirt might let you stand out from the rest of the athletes you coach, but nothing will show your passion for your team more than looking like one of the team.
Sometimes it's better to save the suit for the press conference. When you're out there with the guys, and they're looking to you for guidance, who do they want to see:
- A suited and booted coach who looks like their boss
- A coach dressed like them who's one of the team
I'll let you decide for yourselves.
#2. How To Build A Sports Coach's Wardrobe
Being noticed and heard is a significant part of a coach's job.
Whether you prefer a full suit or an unmatched jacket, trousers, and dress shirt –striking garments that catch the eye and project authority are essential.
Think about your colors:
- A firetruck-red tie catches the eye when worn with a navy suit
- A pink shirt with a gray suit makes a bold statement
- A white shirt with black trousers creates an attention-grabbing contrast
I know – it's not always that simple. But color can be a great starting point. For the finer details, let's dive into individual garments and how you can leverage them to create that classic coach aesthetic without wearing any type of sportswear.
Suits, Jackets, and Trousers
A good coach is more than a screaming figure on the side of the court; he is an icon and a representative of his team. The men (or women) on the field have to play as effectively as possible, so they wear many different types of sportswear that allow them to reach peak performance.
A coach's job is to inspire as effectively as possible, so he must wear clothing that displays confidence and dependability.
Nothing will do this better than a classic men's suit.
Simplicity helps more than it hurts – so opt for a simple, single-breasted suit in a solid color to make yourself a recognizable pillar of authority.
If the formality of a matched suit seems inappropriate for your team or league, a blazer and light-colored slacks can be a suitable alternative. This combo is evocative of classic sporting styles (consider the origin of the term “sports coat!”) and sharp without being too formal.
A navy blazer and slacks can provide a great dress-down look, while gray flannel trousers and a necktie sit just below the formality of a full suit. The blazer gives you the flexibility that a full suit lacks and may help you stand out from other coaches who have embraced the dark suit as their courtside presence.
Shirts and Ties: Bold Clothing on the Court
A good suit or jacket conveys authority; a bold shirt and tie demand attention. Ideally, you'll use both, sending a visual message that says, “Look at me and listen to what I say.”
For coach style, you might want to avoid anything light or pastel-colored for your shirt. Choose deep, vibrant hues instead – take the time to find out what colors look best with your skin and hair (or, of course, you can always sport the team colors – no one can blame you for showing spirit!)
Be careful of synthetic fibers in your shirts; while they can make glossier and brighter colors, these plastic fibers are often less breathable and cause sweat to build up quickly. Stick to natural cotton for anything you're going to be running up and down the court in.
Ties for coaches should contrast sharply with your shirt to help draw attention. The color doesn't have to be loud or bright so long as it stands out against the shirt fabric.
Detailed or subtle patterns will be lost in the hustle, so opt for solid colors or simple, bold designs like thick diagonal striping.
To finish, tie your tie with a wide knot – like a full Windsor. A few extra turns of the fabric can make a much stronger knot that helps give your visual impact some extra solidity.
Only half the job takes place on the field, so you'll want to have a few more sober outfits set aside for the administrative side of coaching.
The classic grey suit works well here (made from lightweight wool, it can serve as courtside wear), but pair it with a deeply-colored shirt and a bright tie (red works well) to remind people of your athletic role.
A closer fit (but not so close that it pinches or bunches up in places) will also project a more athletic image, particularly if you've stayed in good physical shape.
If your chest is particularly broad, a wider “V” in the front of the suit and larger lapels can help you look both powerful and balanced.
Having a single white shirt set aside for the most formal occasions is a good idea – just don't try wearing it on the court (it will sweat-stain quickly).
The Importance Of Color
When putting together an outfit, color is one of the most significant aspects of style you need to consider. Get this wrong, and you'll go from a bold coach to badly-dressed in seconds.
I don't want that for you guys – so I've done you a favor and included a visual breakdown of color here:
Now I know this looks complicated, so let me explain.
Mixing colors is an essential skill for any man who hopes to dress well – but it can create two contrasting effects: harmony or disorganization. When we mix colors in an outfit, the aim is to create an appearance that's pleasant to look at, not a mash of colors that looks chaotic.
You can learn about the many different color schemes in my guide to combining colors in your wardrobe. For this article, we will focus on complementing colors.
Complementary colors sit directly opposite one another on the color wheel (see above). They create a bright, noticeable contrast and often get used on different types of sportswear, as we associate them with celebration and pride.
An outfit that contrasts complementary colors is suitable for people looking to appear bold and outgoing – like a sports coach! But that doesn't mean you should wear a lemon yellow suit with a purple shirt … that might be going a bit overboard.
Instead, stick to subtle accents when using complementary colors in your outfit. For example, orange and navy work great together. Own a burnt orange blazer? Pair it with a navy pocket square or tie.
In short, it's all about creating bold contrasts that are pleasing to the eye. You want to stand out and draw attention without looking like you've just stepped out of the circus tent. Use the color wheel to help avoid this!
#3. The Game-Winning Sample Wardrobe
Your team's conventions, league, and location will determine which articles of clothing you buy more of and which you only need a few of. However, athletic coaches of any stripe should keep a few basics on hand:
- 1 suit (ideally in a light, breathable wool)
- 1+ pairs of dress shoes (black Oxfords for the first pair)
- 2+ pairs of comfortable court shoes, preferably black
- 2-3 belts to match each pair of shoes
- 5-10 dress shirts
- 3-5 ties
- 1+ sport coats
- 5+ pairs of colored dress trousers (including both light and dark options)
- 3+ sets of athletic wear – tracksuits, etc.
- 2-3 solid-color polo shirts or short-sleeve dress shirts (more if you live in a hot climate)
- 5 v-neck undershirts
- 7 pairs of comfortable undershorts
- 5 pairs of dress socks (matched to the color of your pants)
- 1 simple dress watch with a leather or metal band
The takeaway? Different types of sportswear suit different players. The coach? Stick to a suit or sports jacket and show them who's boss.