In the late sixties, Dick Nolan (above) brought Don Draper levels of cool the sidelines of 49er games. Nothing better illustrates the subsequent decline in standards than the case of Nolan’s son Mike, who had to petition the NFL for permission to wear a suit on the sidelines in San Francisco. (Regrettably, the case of Nolan fils is one instance where looking good didn’t translate to a winning record. After three years Nolan lost his job to the fiery—and underdressed—former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary.)
He ruled the Golden Domers of Notre Dame like a god—winning a title in ’24—and looked a little like a mob boss doing it.
Strangely, for the coach at one of the most expensive universities in America from 1960-1975, John McKay’s look was strictly middle management—clean cut and crisply pressed with short sleeves and businesslike skinny neckwear. His record, though, was anything but middling, as he led the Trojans to four national titles during his tenure.
The founder and player-coach of the Chicago Bears did everything from selling tickets to drawing up plays in the dirt and designing the uniforms. When, after his retirement as a player in 1930, he traded the pads for a suit he looked (and, yes, coached) pretty damn good.
The Kansas City coach, seen here after his team trounced the Vikings in the Super Bowl, even managed to make a team color-crimson cardigan look stylish.
Paul “Bear” Bryant
No assessment of sideline style is complete without Bear Bryant, whose career at Alabama, rife with wins and controversy, was as checkered as his famous wardrobe.
The man whose name is on the Super Bowl champs’ trophy famously brought the sturm und drang as coach of the Green Bay Packers. He also cut an iconic figure trolling the sidelines at Lambeau in his trench, tie bar and fashionable-again Poindexter specs.
The great University of Oklahoma coach won back-to-back titles in ’55 and ’56 (and three over all), and looked pretty snappy next to Mr. Snappy himself.
The Pittsburgh Steelers coach has what passes for style in today’s league. Even within the schlubby strictures of contemporary sideline attire (embodied by Tomlin’s predecessor Bill Cowher), Tomlin regularly keeps it tailored and crisp. (If only someone would tell him how to do up that suit coat—middle button only, coach.)