Making a Fashion Statement: Poker Styles Through History
Poker has seen a huge evolution in fashion trends over the years. From hoodies, gaudy t-shirts and old-school cowboy hats to tracksuits, baseball caps, polos and walking billboards, poker has always had a chequered relationship with fashion.
Join us as we take a trip down memory lane, revisiting the styles that made you cringe, the ones that continue to look cool (well, relatively) and the ugly attires that make you wonder if someone lost a prop bet before they wore that.
The Cowboy Hat
Popular Years: N/A (Cowboy hats are, and will always be, awesome.)
Main Players: Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, Bret Maverick and the grizzled veteran in any poker movie ever made.
Cool Factor: 5 (out of 5)
Texas Hold'em began to gain popularity in the Lone Star state in the early 1900s and before you sat down at the table you had to have three things with you; your stake money, eyes in the back of your head and a cowboy hat that even the 'Duke' himself, John Wayne, would be proud to wear.
Las Vegas caught the Texas Hold'em bug in the 1960s and the early superstars of the game - Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson and co - would not be seen dead without a cowboy hat on their head.
These men were certainly of their time - it's tough to imagine Amarillo Slim playing free poker online in that outfit! - but fast-forward to today and, while cowboy hats are not as ubiquitous as they once were, you will still find the occasional player rocking away to Desperado from the Eagles as they wear a cowboy hat and evoke the memories of years gone by.
The Sports Jersey
Popular Years: 2004-2008
Main Players: Daniel Negreanu and the entire stable of former Full Tilt Red Pros
Cool Factor: 4 (we're being generous)
The jersey, a show of affection for your favorite team, became a major trend in the poker world in the 2000s. Whether the players actually had an affinity for the teams or not is debatable, but these baggy fanboy outfits were all the rage. Just ask Daniel Negreanu.
"Hockey jerseys had their place but they don't actually fit very well, especially on my skinny frame back then!" Negreanu said. "They were comfortable, but I think once you hit 30, like the great Charles Barkley said, 'It's time to hang up the jerseys.'"
The Fighting T-shirt
Popular Years: 2005-2010
Main Players: Every online qualifier during the late 2000s, and every poker player who goes to the gym
Cool Factor: 2
In the United States Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) - especially the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) and Pride Fighting Championships - rose from near-obscurity in the early 2000s to mainstream popularity by 2006. This had one unexpected knock-on effect in the world of poker; suddenly the world's best players started dressing like their MMA heroes Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Fedor Emelianenko.
Brands such as Affliction, Ed Hardy and TapOut, with loud, garish and often gothic designs, started to dominate the poker room as much as they did the Octagon. Some players - such as Michael 'The Grinder' Mizrachi, pictured - could just about pull off the look whereas, for others, they were drawing dead from the start.
For better or worse, this look has tapped out in recent years, with many top pros now sporting a more professional, plain-looking v-neck to battle it out on the felt.
Popular Years: 2006-present
Main Players: Dario Minieri, George Danzer, hyper-aggressive European online poker wizards
Cool Factor: 3
A scarf is primarily an outdoor accessory used to keep your upper body warm in cold climates. It's worth reiterating that because, in the mid-2000s a craze emerged that lead to the humble scarf moving indoors and into poker rooms across Europe.
Italian high roller Dario Minieri was the trendsetter, sporting an AS Roma scarf on multiple legs of the European Poker Tour. Now, poker rooms can be a little chilly - especially in the United States where air conditioning is cranked up to the max - but there was a second reason for scarf-wearing at the table too; to hide any physical tells.
Whatever the reason for bringing a scarf to the table, there are worse fashion crimes out there. We're going to let this one go...
The Poker Billboard
Popular Years: 2007-2011
Main Players: Every sponsored player from 2007-2011
Coolness Factor: 1
Getting sponsored used to mean that the sponsors did everything but tattoo a logo on the player for good measure. Players would have up to ten different logos on their shirts, jackets and hats. It was the poker player equivalent of staying in a nice hotel and grabbing all the freebies you could from the bathroom. Not classy, but very cost-effective.
2008 WSOP November Niner Scott Montgomery is keeping it low-key in this photo by only sporting five visible logos at one time. The trend for 'patching up' final table players at big tournaments around the world certainly had its purpose, though, as a precious few minutes of TV time or photos in a magazine were important marketing tools for both player and sponsor alike. It's difficult to say this practice was ever 'cool' but it was a valuable tactic in raising the game's profile.
Popular Years: 2007-present
Main Players: Phil Laak and hundreds of others we can't identify due to the effectiveness of said hoodies
Cool Factor: 2
The hoodie became a classic look at the poker tables in the late 2000s when the new breed of online poker players began to regularly play live. Unlike many poker fashions, the hoodie has, so far, stood the test of time and is still found on poker tables around the world.
This humble clothing item works perfectly for poker players because not only is it comfortable, but a hoodie can also cover the face to help avoid any physical tells. Of course, some players take that to the extreme, especially Phil Laak, who has been known to pull his hoodie so tight that only his eyes remain visible!
"I noticed when I just started [playing live] people would mostly go for jeans with shirts and it was all pretty standard early 90s clothing," Team PokerStars Pro Lex Veldhuis said. "Then the internet wave came and people pretty much wanted to sit at the table as they did at home. Even though this might not be very appealing to the eye, I do understand people want to be as comfortable as they can be."
Popular Years: 2010-present
Main Players: Tony Dunst, Anthony Zinno, Daniel Negreanu, James Bond
Cool Factor: 5
While a suit at a final table is still a rarity, this dapper trend has been springing up more often lately.
Daniel Negreanu pulled off the look en route to his heartbreaking November Nine bubble in 2015 and other slick dressers including Tony Dunst, Marcel Luske and Ben Roberts have helped to raise the level of the dress code at the table too.
Lex Veldhuis recognizes that poker fashions are getting a little smarter these days and says that the styles of today's great players goes hand-in-hand with a new focus on healthy eating and living.
"If you sit 12 hours a day at a table, you might as well be comfortable. However, it seems that with the health trends in poker, clothing [has] changed a bit too. Everybody started watching their food, working out a bit, minding sleep schedule etc." Veldhuis said. "It's a lot easier to play your best game when you are healthy. With this, clothing changed a bit too to being more presentable. [It's] kind of funny [that] clothes and food went through the same trend when you think about it."
Are there any classic poker fashion looks that we've missed? Let us know @PokerStarsBlog on Twitter!