Beli-chic: Is Bill Belichick Quietly the NFL’s Best Dressed Coach?
It's been a rough half-decade for Bill Belichick. In 2007, a video-taping scandal tarnished the silver on his three Lombardi trophies. In 2008, a devastating Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants robbed him of a perfect season. His two most recent campaigns have ended with playoff losses at Gillette Stadium, where his Patriots had once been virtually unbeatable.
Despite these setbacks, however, Belichick enters Super Bowl XLVI with one distinction unchallenged: He is the National Football League's best-dressed coach. Here, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady—who knows a thing or two about fashion—looks on in admiration at his coach’s seemingly effortless style. This photograph was taken as the Patriots prepared for a crucial late-season game against Green Bay in 2010. Notice how Belichick has tailored his outfit to the affair: The black undershirt and matching headband bring a touch of elegance befitting an evening engagement, yet the rolled-up sleeves signal that this is a man at work. Is Belichick intimidated by his opponent? The insouciantly uneven drawstrings of his signature gray hooded sweatshirt suggest not. The Patriots would go on to win, 31-27.
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A common misconception holds that Belichick’s sweatshirt chose him more so than he chose it. The Patriots play the majority of their games either in frigid Foxboro or on the similarly frost-bitten home fields of division rivals like the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, where a thick sweatshirt provides needed warmth at no cost to his range of motion. But this photograph—taken during training camp in late July—demonstrates Belichick’s year-round commitment to cotton/polyester blends. A student of the material, Belichick knows that what is warm in the winter wicks in the summer. For this coach, both form and function matter, a philosophy captured nicely by the black Velcro low-tops he dons to complete this summer look.
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Of course, the hooded sweatshirt does provide particular benefit in the winter months. And look at that silhouette.
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Form and function, form and function. For the Patriots’ divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos this January, Belichick paired his gray hoodie with a black neck gaiter. The combination kept him toasty, to be sure, but it also allowed Belichick to conjure an intimidating look, one that drew attention to his all-seeing eyes. Belichick understands that sideline fashion isn’t just for the benefit of the fans at home. This disconcerting ensemble surely had an effect on Denver’s still-green quarterback, Tim Tebow, who had one of his worst career outings that evening. The gaiter also allowed Belichick to communicate with players and staff without hiding his face behind the veil of a laminated play chart, the unbecoming gesture favored by coaches who lack Belichick’s taste for adventurous neckwear.
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Let’s take a closer look at the gray hooded sweatshirt that is the essence of Beli-chic. The sleeves are cut-off with the studied informality that is a hallmark of his style. Note, too, how the “New England Patriots” lettering is beginning to peel. NFL coaches have virtually unlimited access to team apparel, and most walk the sidelines in gear that looks as if it’s never before been worn. Belichick’s sweatshirts, by contrast, are lovingly broken-in, evoking the rugged sex appeal of a top gun’s weathered bomber or Marky Ramone’s black leather jacket. Such a style befits the face of the Patriots, who hail from flinty New England, where clothing is valued as much for its longevity as for its fit.
In another nod to his home region, Belichick sports a monogrammed “BB” on his sweatshirt, a detail that feels appropriate for the man who represents L.L. Bean country. Belichick comes by such preppy touches honestly: Last summer, he was inducted into the athletics hall of honor at Phillips Academy, Andover, where he was a student. Like the practical outdoorsmen who trust the Bean brand, Belichick also makes good use of the sweatshirt’s marsupial pocket: “I carry my stuff in my pouch,” he enthused to reporters this week.
The gray sweatshirt is a versatile item, the little black dress of the sideline set. It can be dressed down, with a pair of slimming windpants …
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… or dressed up with a pair of pleated slacks …
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… or even matched with a playful accessory, like the pom-pom hat Belichick wore during the Patriots’ 2010 playoff match-up against the Baltimore Ravens—a sartorial surprise appropriate for a Wild Card game.
Belichick isn’t just a great coach, he’s also a great mentor. During his tenure as the Patriots coach, his acolytes have frequently earned head coaching jobs of their own. Josh McDaniels, for one, went on to coach the Denver Broncos before rejoining the Patriots at the end of this season. As this photograph shows, he’s learned about more than just gridiron strategy from the master. And McDaniels isn’t the only one flattering Belichick by imitating him: In 2009, the Boston Globereported that roughly 50 percent of all the NFL-branded gray hoodies sold bear a Patriots logo.
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Belichick is famously taciturn, rarely offering more than grunts and platitudes during press conferences. He prefers to make his statements on the field, by winning football games. As such, it’s unlikely he would ever admit to this final rationale for his commitment to sweatgear: It’s ultra-absorbent and machine washable. For Belichick, a successful season is one in which his team brings the Vince Lombardi trophy home to the Hub. Nothing short of a championship—and the attendant Gatorade bath—will do. Here, in the wake of the Patriots’ victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, Belichick’s signature sweatshirt wears the sweet stain of victory. After seven long years of spin cycles, that stain has long since been washed away. Soon, however, a sports drink may once again dampen the soft fabric of the NFL’s most stylish coach.