If you care about who wore it best more than who scored the most, this is the Rugby World Cup ranking for you.
There is nothing quite as fun as dressing to match your friends, especially if you have 32 friends who are probably contractually obliged to do it. For sports teams, it’s usually a simple fit – shorts and a short-sleeved top – but on special occasions, like a Rugby World Cup welcome ceremony, the suits come out. Some look like they’re straight off the rack and others look like a tailor got to express their purest artistic vision.
If the World Cup is judged by play on the field, then the winner will be one of Argentina, New Zealand, England or South Africa. But if you care about who wore it best more than who scored the most, here are the winners (and losers) – with additional comments from an actual menswear expert, Murray Bevan from Showroom 22 and Fashion NZ.
Gold: ‘Ikale Tahi (Tonga)
Are they outfit repeating? Yes. Does it still look good? Also yes. The Tongan team have been wearing these fits since at least 2015. Jandals have always been the shoe of choice. The lavalava sidesteps what seems to be a common issue when it comes to rugby players and pants: an unflattering fit.
In their formal dress, the Tongan side have managed to hold onto who they are – instead of presenting some tidy, acceptable nothingness, like a plain black suit, we have a dressed-up ‘Ikale Tahi.
Expert opinion: “It’s giving candy cane. Excellent choice of colour (they stuck to the script) but can’t help but be triggered back to the coloured suits of Hugh Wrights circa 1996. 5/10.”
Silver: The Wallabies (Australia)
I detest giving silver to our frenemies across the ditch, but this is unbiased fashion/sports journalism. It’s a little “private school boy”, but the colour combinations and selection of details is quite refined. I also like the colour purple. The embroidered shield is too big by a smidge, but there are no glaring colours, and it’s got enough going on to know it’s not straight off the rack.
Expert opinion: “Definitely not off the peg, so the lads get a tick for that. But the schoolboy theme is strong in this one, and I can’t help but think we’ll see this theme repeated throughout the other teams. 6/10.”
Bronze: Manu Samoa (Samoa)
Manu Samoa have had lavalava tailored to match their jackets, and are looking very sleek. The lavalava look comfy, the unbuttoned shirts breathable, and the blazers … fine (no complaints and no compliments). They wear ‘ulafala made from segments of pandanus fruits, marking them as important people and special guests (correct). What is letting them down a little are the mismatched shoes.
Expert opinion: “Culturally authentic lavalava but modern without a neck tie. Any man looks dignified and strong in a deep navy blue suit jacket. Not hating the mixed footwear, and the chap on the left gets a special mention for those hard-to-find Birkenstock Bostons. 9/10.”
Most improved: The Flying Fijians (Fiji)
In 2015, the Flying Fijians wore green jeans with black blazers. It wasn’t great and it got them called “jolly green-trousered giants”. Now they are wearing well-tailored blazers with matching pants in a woven fabric, which is giving a luxe, relaxed elegance. The relaxed fit and length of the blazers provide a touch of vintage glamour, like the well-kept suits of a retired high-flyer.
Expert opinion: “Couldn’t agree more with Fiji’s glow-up compared to 2015. The 2023 look is simple and elegant, but they’d be greatly improved with an interesting tie. 7/10.”
Someone more impressionable than me might say that only the French can pull off white sneakers with suits. I’m gonna go ahead and say that the French are not fooling me with their snail and frog eating – their taste is off. Here we have a legion of very plain suits which don’t fit very well. The trousers taper in, possibly to better show off the shoes. I hate it.
The Scots have fallen to the influence of the French and they look pleased about it. With their white shoes and undone top buttons they look like really rich people on a chartered yacht who are about to get very unruly.
Los Condores from Chile also fell victim to the French and wore white sneakers. I would rather see them dressed up like birds.
Expert opinion: “I’m going to be that person that says the French can and have pulled off their white sneakers with suits, a la Justin Timberlake circa 2002. Not much wrong here. Scotland too – no notes.”
Empty your pockets
Italy at least has the sense to wear black leather shoes. The pants are not doing their figures any favours, made worse by the fact their pockets are stuffed, probably with the dark sunglasses they chose to arrive in. The jackets seem a little small in the arms, though this could be purposeful for a hulk effect.
Someone really should have told Ireland to empty their pockets. I don’t think they consulted a tailor, as the pants are pooling around their feet. It is a problem that is easy to fix with the slightest of know-how.
Expert opinion: “Just like the quarter final loss, Ireland give it all away in the last quarter. Couldn’t agree more about the pant pool down the bottom. Love the emerald ties, but the whole look would have been sharper with a crisp taper and cuff on those pantaloons.”
Colour contrasts can be painful
South Africa’s suit has been described as a “jacket-heavy” design, which is true. There is something about the satin trim which is reminiscent of a fancy bathrobe, and the whole thing might have been sleeker with less yellow. It is garish, and I am undecided whether this is better than being boring. When applied to 3am, the person dancing on the table is having much more fun than the person who went home early to go to bed, but when applied to 9am, the table dancer is not doing so well.
The Romanian Oaks (these particular players are Pacific) have very charming smiles, but the bright white piping is distracting me from this. There is something very schoolboy about it. It would be a good idea to just draw over it with a Vivid.
Does anyone else think that the Wales team look like flight attendants? Specifically because their tie is too bright? Worse, they’re definitely going to jam the food trolley on your elbow and say “no” when you ask for an extra packet of chips.
Expert opinion: “The schoolboys are back. Just like the Aussies, whoever designed these jackets just can’t stop looking at their grandad’s classroom rugby team photos from 1935. I know this isn’t supposed to be a fashion show but come on. The simplicity of the Wales suit is what makes it so chic and palatable. Also matching brown dress shoes: tick. Welsh pride is alive here.”
Plain suits with striped ties
I’m gathering from this wine label that teros are a bird, distinguished by the little tuft on top of their head. Sadly, the Uruguayan rugby team, named after the bird, is indistinguishable from other teams in another plain suit with a striped tie.
The Namibian team is named after Welwitschia mirabilis, a plant endemic to the Namib Desert. When Austrian botanist Fredrich Welwitsch came across it for the first time, he “could do nothing but kneel down and gaze at it, half in fear lest a touch should prove it a figment of the imagination.” I do not think this has been the case for people coming across the Welwitschias in their plain suits, white shoes and striped ties.
Expert opinion: “If they lost the caps these Uruguayan gents could visit any Bayleys auction and start taking bids. As for Namibia, starting with the back row, it was all going so well. Even the middle row, buttons done up, nailing it. Then we get to the front row and oh my days – what happened?! Short ties, open jackets, white trainers… The wheels have fallen off.”
The Portuguese team look so proud, which is sad considering what they are wearing.
The English team’s stylist is going through a blue phase. I am very excited for when they discover cubism.
The Japanese Brave Blossoms’ suits are quite plain, and disappointingly, bear no sign of any blossom. To their credit, they have at least tied their ties in the most chunky way: the triple Windsor.
Los Pumas once sported many sexy mullets. I am sad they seem to have cleaned up their hairstyles.
Expert opinion: “1995 called, Portugal. It wants its suits back. Please send to Frank Casey on Albert Street, Auckland Central. Men, a word of advice: if the jacket has two buttons, DON’T TOUCH the bottom button. Not mad at England or Japan. Argentina, simple and classic.”
At least the All Blacks were sunsmart
New Zealanders know about sunburn and we send our finest away with adequate protections. Still, you can only lead your horse to water. The All Blacks seem to have a penchant for jewellery. All are proudly displaying pounamu, and most a chunky watch, too. That’s posh.
The suit itself is trying to hide how plain it is with an inelegant embroidery and it’s not working. They look too tight, and uncomfortable, which is the worst thing clothes can be. They might not be suffering from sunburn, but they are suffering all the same.
Expert opinion: “This simple black and white ensemble has not been executed anywhere near as perfectly as Beauden’s cross-field kick. Reiko’s Doc Marten’s and white socks: no. Brodie’s dress shoes, and Beauden and Sam’s R.M.Williams: yes. But the jackets have really let them down here, and the hats are an abomination. Dane looks about as comfortable in a suit as I would be running into him head-on. BUT all will be forgiven when we lift the Webb Ellis trophy.”