CINCINNATI -- Sean Okoli wouldn’t be surprised if FC Cincinnati were among the best-dressed teams in the United Soccer League.
For the standout forward and some of the other guys on the first-year squad, the way they dress and play go hand in hand.
Those fashionable-looking guys walking into Nippert Stadium on game days play as organized as they look. FC Cincinnati, which hosts first-place Louisville at 4 p.m. Saturday, sits in third place in the USL Eastern Conference.
“We play some of the best futbol in the league, so I think we're one of the best-dressed too,” Okoli said. “Look good, play good.”
The club has a “business casual” dress code on game days, and some take that to the next level.
A few are known to enjoy shopping — some even went to Chicago for a shopping trip during an off weekend in May — and even those who don’t still dress pretty sharp, according to several players on the team.
“I would say I always try to look stylish, whether that means sweat pants and t-shirt during the week, and on the weekends I'm in a suit for a game. I think you can always make yourself look presentable,” midfielder Ross Tomaselli said. “The way you dress is a reflection of who you are, so I try to match that.
“I like to think, on the soccer field I'm an organized player and I'm always trying to put things in place, so I like to think my style kind of reflects that, in that I'm always pretty put together. I try to look presentable and keep it consistent.”
Tomaselli and Okoli are considered among the team’s best dressers, along with forward Andrew Wiedeman, midfielders Jimmy McLaughlin and Corben Bone, defender Harrison Delbridge and goalie Mitch Hildebrandt, according to several players.
Each one has a different style, but Tomaselli said the thing that he thinks sets him apart is the bolo tie he inherited from his grandfather. His go-to attire usually features black AG slacks, black Chelsea boots and a nice shirt to match.
“It's something I developed over time,” Tomaselli said of his fashion sense. “I think the beautiful thing about soccer is it's a global sport, so it sparks your interest in places all over the world, and with that, there's a whole culture to soccer. I've been fortunate to travel around the world and see how soccer players and citizens of the world dress and act in different cultures, so I think soccer has really sparked my interest in fashion.
“In a weird way, fashion and soccer go hand in hand. I think soccer in its purest form is an art, and I think fashion, in a sense, is an art, so I think a lot of people that are drawn to soccer are drawn to fashion as well. If you look at the top soccer players in the world, guys like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham, they are all fashion icons.”
Wiedeman, on the other hand, doesn’t think too much about fashion, but does try to “look presentable.”
He learned long ago to approach soccer with a business-like attitude, whether he’s coming to practice or on game days.
“I do not wear hats or sweats into the locker room,” he said. “When I was a rookie, I came in one day dressed in, I think, gym shorts and a hat or something, and a guy on the team pulled me aside and gave me a talking to about how I'm coming in and earning a paycheck and I need to look the part. From that day forward, it's been proper pants, real shoes, and if I want to be casual, I'll change into sweats at home or something. Game day I try to dress up a little more.”
At the beginning of the season the worst-dressed player on the team would receive a fine as part of a joke, Okoli said.
That might have impacted people’s attire; however, Okoli never really had to worry about being fined. He even takes a stylish approach to streetwear.
“I could surprise you with anything,” said Okoli, who enjoys the shopping process. “I could look like a businessman one day and a streetwear type of swag the next day. It depends on how I'm feeling really.”
Okoli is especially known for his love of shoes, though. He has a closet full and even more back home in Seattle — part of a collection he’s been building since high school.
Bone also has a unique style and “pushes the boundaries,” according to Wiedeman, who noted his teammate is “not afraid to wear something different.”
McLaughlin goes for more of a catalog look but sets himself apart with his summer bow ties. He only has a few different ones, and he admits he doesn’t know how to tie them himself, but McLaughlin enjoys breaking out pastel-colored bow ties this time of year.
“I initially just thought it looked different than what everyone else wears,” he said. “I had a suit when I was really young that my grandpa got me a bow tie with, so I guess it started there, but it's mostly a summer thing for me — with nice soft, pastel colors. Other guys I've played with have rocked the bow tie, and I always think it looks nice.”
The idea of looking sharp means different things to different people, but Okoli said the important thing is that the players appear professional on game days and “look presentable” in public.
“Some guys go over the top, but I think everyone looks pretty sharp for the most part,” Okoli said. “Top to bottom, it’s a pretty well-dressed group.”