It is already regarded by fans as a good luck charm for the England team’s continued success in Russia, leading to an unexpected spike in sales back home.
Now – as England prepare to face Croatia for a place in Sunday’s World Cup final – the waistcoat worn by team manager Gareth Southgate has been declared an item of cultural significance by historians.
And that has even led to a battle between two of country’s leading museums over its future ownership.
The Museum of London kicked things off yesterday, saying it wanted to acquire Southgate’s navy blue waistcoat for their extensive collection of historical items.
Shortly after the National Football Museum in Manchester pitched in, declaring the £65 waistcoat rightfully theirs, as it would be a perfect fit for their display of the sport’s memorabilia.
The Museum of London said it wanted to display the waistcoat alongside its permanent collection of historic clothing.
Beatrice Behlen, the museum’s Senior Fashion Curator, said: “Waistcoats were born in London in 1666, promoted by King Charles II. Now Watford-born Gareth Southgate is reviving that London tradition and bringing waistcoats home to the forefront of fashion.
“The Museum of London has a large fashion collection, with garments ranging from the 16th century to the present. Our earliest waistcoat dates from the late 17th century, our most recent from 2014. This acquisition would be a fantastic addition to our holdings.”
But the National Football Museum said that with a collection of 2,500 items of football memorabilia on public display, and another 140,000 in its archives, it would provide a far more suitable home for Southgate’s waistcoat.
A spokesman for the Manchester based museum said: „It would certainly be an item we’d be interested in acquiring. We’ve got quite a few quirkier items from football’s history, including Pele’s passport, and Southgate’s waistcoat would fit in perfectly.
„There’s been a lot of interest in the waistcoat among football fans and it’s become a real talking point among people back home, which nobody can have expected to happen.“
The National Football Museum even suggested a traditional footballing way of settling the matter:
“We propose a shootout for it at our place. What say you, @MuseumofLondon?” it stated on Twitter
The rivalry over who should acquire Southgate’s waistcoat comes on what has been called ‘Waistcoat Wednesday’, during which thousands of office workers are expected to wear one to show their support for the England team and raise money for good causes.
Southgate’s decision to sport a waistcoat during matches has led to a spike in sales from M&S, which supplies the team’s official World Cup suit, with the retailer rapidly running out of stock.
Such has been the impact of the England manager’ choice of apparel that even the Moscow branch of M&S has run out of most sizes of the waistcoat.
Ivan Novikov, 25, a Moscow tax consultant, spent 3,999 Roubles(£50) on one last week after watching Southgate on Russian television.
“I saw him at England versus Colombia and I thought: ‘he looks good,” said Mr Novikov, “I don’t even know his name.”
The waistcoat even has its own spoof Twitter account, with the slogan “Fashion’s Coming Home”.
In Red Square yesterday, Neil Rowe, a BA pilot and Gareth Southgate lookalike, caused mayhem when he donned the item in the shadow of the Kremlin.
„As soon as I put the waistcoat on, it is going to go nuts,“ predicted Mr Rowe. He was correct, with dozens immediately crowding around to have photographs taken with him.
Mr Rowe had been due to leave Russia on Tuesday because he was on a BA roster to fly to Bangalore. But the airline found a substitute pilot, allowing Mr Rowe to attend Wednesday’s semi-final.
Southgate himself has confessed to being rather puzzled by his sudden elevation to the status of fashion icon and cultural signifier.
„I’m slightly concerned, because as a centre-half who took a lot of knocks to the head I’m not normally synonymous with being a fashion icon,“ he joked. „I’m no David Beckham. I was not a renowned fashion icon throughout my career and it is rather strange to feel that way now.“
A brief history of the waistcoat; from King Charles II to Waistcoat Wednesday
* 1666: King Charles II is recorded by the diarist Samuel Pepys as wearing a ‘vest’. Pepys writes: “He The King hath yesterday in council declared a resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how.”
In what is now recognised as the first known appearance of what would become the waistcoat, Charles sparks a centuries long fashion trend.
* 1750s: Waistcoats start to be worn without sleeves
* 1790s: The length of waistcoats is reduced from roughly hip height to the length we know today.
*1800s: Men’s clothing sees the birth of what we would now recognise as a three piece suit.
*1850s: The rise in Dandyism leads to waistcoats being worn in a tighter style, with less ornate detailing
*1940s: Sales of three piece suits slump, in part as a result of a shortage of material, austerity and the popularity of service uniforms.
*1960s: The three piece suit starts to fall out of fashion in favour of more informal, relaxed ‘hippy’ and ‘flower power’ styles
*2018: Gareth Southgate, England manager, wears a waistcoat during his team’s games at the World Cup in Russia, leading to a spike in sales, culminating in ‘Waistcoat Wednesday’ as England play Croatia for a place in the final.