With tight tops, team colours and flashy accessories commanding the attention of a stadium, the sporting style of WAGs is finally being taken seriously
Until this week, I had never written the word WAG, much less used it in a sentence. But, from my home base in the UK, the wives and girlfriends of sports stars have been (as the tabloids used to say) setting tongues wagging.
To start, the new Beckham football documentary, charting the rapid rise of David Beckham, quickly focuses on his wife, Victoria, and her experience from the sidelines. The former footballer and former Spice Girl wed in 1999, and in 2002 The Telegraph coined the not-so-affectionate nickname for the wives and girlfriends of sports stars, WAGs.
In 2006, when Victoria, Cheryl Cole and Coleen Rooney sat together to watch the World Cup they made the newspapers’ front pages before their team. Victoria, the unofficial captain, wore a low-cut red singlet, white denim short shorts and an oversized Hermès Birkin. For the rest of the trip, the media kept the score of the WAGs’ shopping sprees as much as the games.
Now, such reporting is seen as a sexist reaction to working-class women (well, not Victoria, it turns out) who were swept up in the excitement of the game and fame. Yet just last year, Coleen, wife of Wayne, made the front page again – for a fall-out with another WAG. (You can read up on the many, many articles online, or perhaps watch a filming of the play Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial currently touring in the UK.)
What we are interested in is Coleen’s fashion transformation. She was just 20 years old when she made her sensational World Cup debut – and known for wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits and bright yellow Moon Boots to keep warm on the sidelines. (She regrets the hot pink Chanel bag she paired with, but has kept the Moon Boots.)
While Coleen tried to keep a low profile when she had her four sons, she was back in the spotlight in the midst of the recent WAG courtroom drama. While her outfits were no stylised Anna-Delvey-moment, they still attracted attention – notably when her husband carried her document-sized leather Fendi tote from car to court as a show of support.
In August 2023, Coleen had an image makeover for a profile in Vogue, donning a Dior trench coat, Givenchy silk dress, and Christian Louboutin heels. In Style magazine, she wore the outfit of a champion – a Balmain blazer and Saint Laurent sunnies. As a spectator who has become a spectacle, she is working on a new autobiography to reclaim her story – and Disney+ has just released Coleen Rooney: The Real Wagatha Story. As Vogue duly noted: “Fashion and lifestyle brands, get your offers ready.”
Accomplished women who have a winning strategy? This is a WAGs’ comeback tour. Added to the line-up, of course, is Taylor Swift. After selling out the stadiums for her concerts, she’s now there to cheer on her new boyfriend and all-American footballer Travis Kelce. Swift is sticking to her classic aesthetic – a Kansas City Chief’s windbreaker looks great with a bold red lip.
Dare we add – supermodel Gisele Bündchen has only gone from strength to strength since divorcing former quarterback Tom Brady, gracing magazine covers again and walking the Met Gala carpet in a vintage Chanel gown.
As many realise the unfair pressure put on supporting women in the 90s and early 2000s, their fashion is being reclaimed – much like the term WAG. While Victoria has her refined luxury fashion and beauty brand for those who have retired from game-day fashion, there are still plenty of stores that are celebrating a winner-takes-it-all approach to dressing.
Sexy tanks – including those from Idae and Loclaire – are crowd pleases, while Zambesi takes the look to another league with a single-striped tank dress. For a hint of nostalgic team colours, look to Dominique Healy’s multi-linen Cami. Or, if your team is going for gold, Knuefermann’s cami will win you points.
If you’re after minis, Seletti Concept Store is your match. Ellis Label also has some great minis, including a Posh-meets-Sporty Spice little black dress. Meanwhile, Beckham-esque tight-fitting leather jackets can be found at Miaou and Free People (this time faux). Pair with oversized sunglasses and you are all but invincible.
While many of the team New Zealand WAGs have chosen to keep their life private, some have turned the fame game on itself, and in incredible style. Sally Ridge – interior designer, real estate boss and the ex-wife of former rugby union and rugby league footballer, Matthew – was on the front page of the tabloids at the same time as the international WAGs, and gave us many iconic fashion moments both at the front row of New Zealand Fashion Week and in reality TV series, The Ridges. Her daughter Jaime, who starred beside her Mum in the peak 2012 show, now runs a members-only global product sourcing and personal curation service for fashion and interior connoisseurs, Sausse – with a distinctly updated style for 2023.
Social media is a direct way for WAGs (and now their lineage) to connect with fans and grow their own community, whether they are followers of sport or not.
Fatima Savea, owner of handbag rental business Style Lounge and wife to New Zealand rugby union player Julian, has often spoken about her love of fashion as well as speaking out about causes that are close to her – an absolute all-rounder. While she has a love of international labels, she also sports Ruby, Paris Georgia and Caitlin Crisp.
While Hannah Barrett, a qualified chartered accountant and wife of Beauden Barrett, will be wearing All Black jerseys at rugby games for the foreseeable, she often forms partnerships with more colourful New Zealand labels. While following the Rugby World Cup in France she’s packed Maggie Marilyn jeans, a Laing vest and Mi PIaci heels with her. After all, life is not a spectator sport.
Image source: Getty Images, Zambesi, Knuefermann, Ellis Label, Miaou.