From the tan and tangled tresses Victoria Beckham sported in Baden-Baden to the Insta-glam looks of Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne and Perrie – here are some highlights
In 2019, we sat with bated breath as Coleen Rooney’s extended ellipsis fuelled the biggest Twitter feud of all time. WAGatha Christie propelled us back to the golden age of 2006 when an inconspicuous German spa town played host to a team of winners. Not the England football team who had travelled there in the hope of snagging the World Cup, but their better halves. Baden-Baden, so good they named it twice, became the backdrop for a plethora of paparazzi images that will be forever etched into our shared consciousness.
Football, the beautiful game, is ingrained in England’s cultural DNA. We’re a nation of fanatics, celebrating players like royalty which extends to their wives and girlfriends. After birthing the WAG movement in 2006, Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole, Coleen Mcloughlin and Abbey Clancy graced Vogue covers, launched perfume collections, secured book deals and wrote weekly magazine columns. Not too shabby for women who were mocked for wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits with rollers in their hair.
Comfortably nestled between the unobtainable high-end and mainstream high-street, these women, often from working-class backgrounds, became not only aspirational but crucially, relatable too. A 2009 survey by More magazine revealed that 60 per cent of 21-25 year old women wanted to become a WAG. Synonymised by boob jobs and Birkins bags thanks to their large disposable incomes, the tans and tresses could be mimicked simply by popping to Boots.
Reaching peak WAG hysteria, this fledgling girl-gang garnered more column inches for their “debaucherous” behaviour and spending sprees than their partners. As they were branded stupid and golddigging the public remained obsessed. We may never relive an era of WAG supremacy again but let’s delve into the striking looks of these opinion-dividing tastemakers.
CHERYL TWEEDY, ALEX CURRAN, COLEEN MCLOUGHLIN, ELEN RIVAS, ABBEY CLANCY, CARLY ZUCKER (2006)
Labelled “hooligans with Visa cards” by a Spanish newspaper, the Baden-Baden posse and their glam squads arrived in droves as their hair extensions and fake tans notoriously cemented them as style leaders. Their bodies, whilst undeniably nipped and tucked in places, were closer to everyday normality than the waif-like, “heroin-chic” models that dominated the catwalks of the mid to late 00s. All one truly needed was a few Lancôme Juicy Tubes, copious amounts of bronzer and a hair quiff.
As for the demise of the WAG? Blame then England manager Fabio Capello. The party-pooper limited the wives visits in the 2010 World Cup to reduce a media frenzy, resulting in less candid paparazzi shots and alas, fewer new trends for us to copy.
VICTORIA BECKHAM (1999-)
All hail the Queen of WAGs, earning her throne as she segued from spicing up our lives and dabbling with Dane Bowers to becoming a luxury brand mogul after marrying David “Goldenballs” Beckham.
Beckham helped propel the archetypal WAG image – big hair, big bag, even bigger sunglasses and tiny shorts. As years passed, the bottle of St.Tropez was subbed, the hair extensions got shorter and the breast implants were removed as we witnessed a fully-fledged VB renaissance before our very eyes.
Vicky’s hair catalogue spawned countless imitations. From short and spiky in the Spice Girls, to the long golden locks at the pinnacle of her WAG reign and the POB (both blonde and brunette) that came after. Her transition to fashion power player took years but she claimed her stake and earned an OBE for services to the fashion industry while doing so. Her current look traverses both high-fashion and high glamour with only a subtle soupçon to her old WAG ways (the nude lip has stayed). Do we think this latest rendition is her last? As the song goes, you’re out of your mind.
MAJDA SAKHO (2012-)
With a husband who sports iconic hair of his own, Crystal Palace FC defender Mamadou Sakho, Majda represents the digital era of WAGdom. Firmly in “soft glam” territory, Majda is the epitome of an effortless, yet polished look that has become a mainstay for beauty influencers and her 137,000 followers. Nuanced by her WAG predecessors, we see a beauty shift that is altogether more muted. As digital dominates and The Sun is usurped by Instagram stories and swipe ups, Majda’s tutorials are the simplest way to get the new WAG look.
She’s not alone either as Naomi Genes (fiancée of Blackburn Rovers player Derrick Williams) has amassed 673,000 Instagram followers, inspiring an army on how to perfect eyeliner flicks via IGTV. They’ve democratised WAG beauty by sharing their latest hacks and hauls with questions being asked by a simple DM.
MEGAN RAPINOE AND SUE BIRD (2016-)
Essentially WAG², Megan led the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) to World Cup victory in 2019 and Sue is a professional basketball player. No hair extensions or faint whiff of biscuit-scented skin here, Bird’s typical look is “no make-up” make-up in the truest sense of the term. She is unapologetically natural, contrasting the typical hetero-sexy, hyper-feminine WAG look, acting as a pertinent reminder that, just like us mere civilians, women cannot and will not be defined by a single beauty standard. From platinum blonde to pink, purple and electric blue, Megan’s ever-evolving hair colour has scored her countless fans, a Loewe AW20 campaign, and inspired Charlize Theron to make the big chop.
The Glossier-wearing, power couple have taken on Trump, challenged pay inequality for female athletes and became the first gay couple to pose nude for ESPN’s body issue in 2018. Athletic activists that make us wish we took PE more seriously in school.
PERRIE EDWARDS AND LEIGH-ANNE PINNOCK FROM LITTLE MIX (2016-)
50 per cent of Little Mix are WAGs, reincarnating the well-loved 90s partnership of pop princess and football player. With Perrie dating Liverpool player Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Leigh-Anne with Watford star Andre Gray, the notable difference from other WAGS is that the girls are the bigger stars in their romantic duos, meaning they've managed to eschew the tabloid slurs that many of the earlier WAGS were unprotected from.
Much like the WAGs of yesteryear, the tans and extensions are out in full force but in a far more modern interpretation. Constant chameleons, showcasing every beauty trend, whether it be bushy brows, neon liner or pastel-coloured hair. We see their MUA magic but also their off-duty looks, using their social platforms to discuss self-image as Perrie has spoken about embracing her freckles after years of masking them and Leigh-Anne has discussed the importance of loving one’s natural hair.
TANYA TURNER (2002-2006)
It couldn’t be a true exploration into WAG beauty behemoths without referencing cult classic TV show Footballers Wives. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery then who knows what a full-scale parody amounts to.
As protagonists Tanya, Chardonnay et al. took to our screens in 2002, we were gripped by the insurmountable drama cloaked in unprecedented glamour. We devoured plots such as baby swapping, flammable breasts and Viagra-induced heart attacks without a French manicure or meticulously symmetrical highlight out of place. As the real WAGs hit the headlines, their fictional counterparts became the UK’s guilty pleasure. The TV show solidified its greatness with cameos from further beauty icons Joan Collins and Katie Price – could it have gotten any better? In the raspy-toned voice of Tanya herself: “I don’t think so, darling.”