Fashion penetrates every walk of life, from the High Street to the catwalk.
You can see people’s changing fashion simply by walking down the street or in bars and nightclubs. You can see it these days on Instagram and social media, platforms that have become the younger generation’s fashion portals. Twenty years ago, the pages of glossy magazines oozed the latest designs, but today they’re on your mobile phone.
One place where you can see a trend and changing fashion is around the poker tables. Poker, in the context of pop culture, is a strange phenomenon. To many, it is still the card game played by dubious characters around darkened backrooms in the US. Its depiction in digital media drives that image, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the United States, poker is often played in bright and breezy casinos, it features in television shows, and the World Series of Poker is beamed into millions of homes. There’s no surprise people take fashion cues from the top players with such reach. Looking back over the decades, there’s clearly a developing trend among players.
The Seventies and Eighties
The World Series of Poker began in the seventies, and as expected, the fashions reflect the era. Players like Johnny Moss and Walter ‘Puggy’ Pearson could have stepped out of a Smokey and the Bandit movie with their dated attire, whilst Thomas Preston, known as Amarillo Slim and winner in 1972, sported a cowboy hat and tie. Doyle Brunson, a poker legend, also wore the cowboy hat, whilst 1986 champion Berry Johnson was similarly understated in a cardigan and shirt. The World Series of Poker felt like a middle-aged man’s game through the first twenty years, and their fashion reflected that.
As we entered the nineties, everything changed. Rap culture was becoming popular, and younger players found their way to the tables. They included the Poker Brat, Phil Hellmuth, still one of the world’s best players. He won the World Series of Poker in 1989 and was the first significant player to bring the relaxed style to the tables. He liked a hoodie, often branded, but his attire wouldn’t have been out of place on the street corners of New York and The Bronx, where rap culture was emanating from. Huck Seed was another winner who liked the relaxed look; he often wore branded sweatshirts like hockey jerseys. There was a changing of the guard n the nineties, with younger players beginning to take over at the top and fashions reflecting that.
The modern-day players have developed Hellmuth’s early style, and very few these days wear a tie or cowboy hat. Chris Ferguson, the winner in 2000, was one of the last notable World Series of Poker winners to feel like he bridged the gap between old and new. Today, top players like Alex Foxen can be seen in track tops and loose-fitting clothes by popular fashion brands. Some still wear promotional gear; Jerry Yang had a jacket emblazoned with logos, not unlike that of a motorcycle rider. These days, players tend to tailor their fashion to their play; there are lots of dark glasses around the felt, hoodies worn with the hood up, and baseball caps pulled down over their eyes. Poker has become less of a bluffing game and more of a math challenge. That means everyone is looking for the marginal gains, hiding as much of the real them as possible.