The Last Word

The Best of the International playboys

St. George's Day is here once more, and we like to use this time of year to think of all the things that make our home country great, and it always boils down to three things: fashion, football and music.

We've been racking our brains to think of the George who best sums up England's unique take on these three pillars of our society, and in the end, we couldn't look beyond a man born and bred in Belfast. While he may not have pulled on the Three Lions, this man had an effect on English football that most of those who did could only dream of. This man, of course, is George Best.

George Best

After breaking into the Manchester United side aged just 17 in 1963 as a quiet, homesick boy from Northern Ireland, in the space of a year Best transformed himself into the first of a new breed of superstar British footballers, opening the door for the Premier League pretenders of today to walk through.

After a fairly miserable preceding two decades, Best arrived in England at the perfect time. The swinging sixties were just hitting their groove as the country's twentysomethings threw off the shackles their parent's generation had imposed on them and prioritised going out and having a good time over all else.

George Best

The release of Please Please Me – marking the birth of Beatlemania – in that same year showed that this young, impressionable generation were thirsty for role models who didn't act, dress or talk like their dad, and if they came on the telly would make their mum shriek and turn the dial over to something safer.

Nicknamed 'El Beatle' after returning home from a match-winning display at European heavyweights Benfica sporting a sombrero, Best was football's living embodiment of this movement, being the first sports star who would be as likely to hit the front page as the back. Effortlessly stylish, up for a good time and with a playing style unlike anyone who had come before, the term 'every man wants to be him, every woman wants to be with him' should have been invented for Best.

Best was canny with this new found fame too, realising he had an appeal beyond the terraces. Within weeks of hitting the front of the Daily Mirror with his sombrero-sporting shenanigans, he teamed up with Man City's Mike Summerbee to open a male boutique in Greater Manchester, to ensure he had not only the latest threads, but the pick of the girls, too.

George Best

Best used the opening of the boutique to begin his modelling career – leading to a raft of sponsor tie-ins in the following years - and was photographed sporting the latest Mod stock taken by the store including button-down shirts teamed with classic Prince of Wales checked waistcoat and trousers. It goes without saying that all of the above were cleared from the shelves within days. Later in his life, Best would team up with Ben Sherman, a favoured brand of his youth, to create a one-off collection of shirts and trainers, showing once more his love of fashion.

George Best

Best always strived for the new, and played a huge role in moving England away from the stiffness of the 50s into the technicolour and individuality of the 60s.

He was a fashion icon before anyone knew what a fashion icon was, and the media circus that followed his every move made him one of the most famous men in the country.

While the effects this level of fame had on Best are much publicised, the way his footballing career and later years ended utterly regrettable, his influence on English culture, at a time when every other aspect of society was rebelling against what had gone before, cannot be argued with.

Mercurial, engaging, talented and rough around the edges, while he may not have been born in England, Best is still our ultimate George.

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