Once-and-future Canadian national team standout, and eventual Vancouver Whitecaps captain, Russell Teibert has always had the distinctive fashion sense that has gone along with his outstanding play and gentlemanly demeanour. Even as the Whitecaps were mired in their worst Canada-hating spells there was Teibert, looking brilliant both off and on the field, promising better days without a word. (I am a Russell Teibert fan of the old school; perhaps you can tell.)
With MLS bringing in flashy foreigners every year no home-grown soccer player can stand still. Teibert certainly has not. In his professional career he has gone from a dazzling number 10 to a workmanlike defensive midfielder. He is not only the last Vancouver Whitecap remaining from their pre-MLS era but has almost a year’s seniority on the next-longest servant, Jordan Harvey. He has worn the armband for his club. He has quarreled, and made up, with national team coaches. He has played defense, central midfield, and wing. He has survived many players who supposedly were going to do him out of a job. He is still only 24 years old, barely aged out of NCAA and the MLS SuperDraft.
More importantly, his haircuts have moved with him, up and down, and I mean that literally. Like his own career they have been a roller-coaster of promise and nightmare, but they have always been interesting. Let us recap the most important thing we can talk about in the world today: Russell Teibert’s hairstyles.
2009: bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
Bloody hell! This kid looks like bad news! Scowling, hair long and messily swept back, striding down some artificial turf like any CFL lines had better get out of his way. He probably spent this whole training camp calling the coach “bozo” and launching passes to his striker’s left foot rather than his preferred right. He’s a rebel! He doesn’t play by your rules! The only hope is that he’ll find a nice USL First Division team that will teach him there’s more to life than skateboarding and smoking behind the bike sheds.
Okay, by all accounts, 2009 Russell Teibert was not Canadian Soccer Judd Nelson, but this picture still tells a story. At the time Canadian Soccer Jesus was an all-flash-and-dazzle attacking midfielder who needed to shoot more but specialized in launching attacks that led to great excitement. If you looked at this picture, and were told “eight years later he’d be a hard-working, 100%-guts defensive midfielder type who played a bit of left back and earned his bones by never giving up,” you’d… well, you’d believe it a lot more readily than a guy who just watched his highlight videos. And you’d have been right. Anyway, by the standards of a 16-year-old in the late 2000s this was fine. Kid needs a trim, he looks like one of them beatniks, but that’s about it. 6/10.
2011: ordinary human being
Just seeing this photo is like a long waltz down memory lane, if for some reason you waltz down lanes. You go “holy crap, Empire Field!” and “is that Jacob Peterson?” and “is it just me, or does Russell’s hair really not have anything going on in this shot?” It’s not just you. When Teibert started the 2011 MLS season, he had 45 minutes of professional soccer under his belt. He wasn’t about to draw too much attention to himself. Éric Hassli was there, covering his torso in tattoos and buying hamburgers. Davide Chiumiento and his Swiss-Italian perms dabbled in Latin dangles. This was no place for a rookie to puff his chest out and say “yo, look at me.” You had to earn respect first, and that is what this haircut does.
Remember how good Teibert was in 2011? I do. (Of course I do.) But he kept his haircut under control. When he sent a BB of a cross in to Terry Dunfield to win a Voyageurs Cup leg late in Montreal, he could have gone for the full Marge Simpson, but he knew he had more to prove. He kept his head down, did the work, plugged away, hairwise. Then Teitur Thordarson got sacked and Tom Soehn came in and he was jealous of all hair but it was a solid few months. His workmanlike style was the right counterpoint. 5.5/10.
2012: nice young man
Russell Teibert had a great 2011 so I guess he felt he could go flashier, including that designer stubble that would exemplify the next few years of anno Canadian Soccer Domini. This was also that weird era when Getty Images’ photo guys kept confusing him with Camilo because they were both little, one wore #31, and the other wore #37, though in no other respect were they anything alike.
This haircut has a bit of zip. It’s not aggressive but you wouldn’t turn your back on it in the dark. It’s a little bit above the ordinary, like the young player who wore it. You might not appreciate it. Indeed, it is calling for your attention, and you might develop an irrational prejudice against it for just that reason. But the call is not the loud, braying roar of the unsophisticate. This version of Russell Teibert is unafraid to put himself forward, willing to stand out in a crowd, but absolutely refusing to go against it. He may be on a level of his own but he’s still one of the boys, and it would take a stubborn, pig-headed churl of a man not to appreciate him. Incidentally 2012 was the first year Martin Rennie coached the Vancouver Whitecaps. Russell Teibert played one hundred and seventeen minutes.
I liked this haircut. 9.5/10.
2013: Sonic the Hedgehog
We will never speak of this again. 1/10.
2013: short back and sides
A personal favourite. Weaker than its close 2012 relative, in my opinion, not as much individualism, the lack of length up top hurts disproportionately. But these had been a tough few months for Russell Teibert and he needed to rebuild. Conservatism is understandable, perhaps even laudable, under the circumstances. When you’re fighting for playing time and moving increasingly far from the picture even when not on the shelf with weird flip-flop-bicycle injuries, you have better things to do with spare half-hours than carefully styling your hair into a wedge sharp enough to cut through bread, if not opposing defenses. 7/10.
And then it all went wrong. This is an atrocity. The man-bun is not acceptable. There are no known exceptions to this rule. Now I know I am a sour old bastard with the fashion sense of a particularly rumpled professor forced into homelessness by chronic alcoholism and a nasty crack habit, but this was not okay.
These were some of my darkest days half-following the Whitecaps. I told people it was because the team never played any Canadians, or because MLS is wicked and unsupportable, but actually it was because Russell Teibert, on those rare days he got on the field, had a man-bun. When Teibert was hurt I felt sad, and when Teibert was there I felt even worse. The close-shaved sides were somehow an added insult, like Russell was defiantly commanding us to look at his prim-schoolmarm haircut to the exclusion of all else. The single and solitary consolation was that things could not possibly get worse. 0/10.
2015: bleached man-bun
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? -1/10.
Short. That’s the word for 2016. First, because the Vancouver Whitecaps failed to make the MLS playoffs (whoops). Second, perhaps because fellow Canadian international Marcel de Jong had taken up the “incredibly unnecessary man-bun” mantle, Teibert decided he didn’t want hair anymore. The photo we have here is relatively moderate; at times he went full American History X. Your opinion on this will depend entirely on how you feel about Russell Teibert’s skull shape. It’s not a matter I’d given much thought to personally but I guess it’s fine? It’s not a man-bun, that’s got to be an automatic pass. 5/10.
2017: Tommy Heinemann
Teibert’s old hairstyles were so peacockish that the most well-wishing of witnesses could only cringe and try not to look too hard. But like the Thermidorian reaction, the Robespierre of the man-bun has been guillotined and replaced with something that goes too far the other way. Perhaps it is simply Teibert haircutting his way into shape during preseason, perhaps it comes from Russell’s Rocky IV montage-esque offseason training scheme, but the Teibert we saw in Wales, thanks to Michael McColl’s camera, looks like a sasquatch, or (to borrow another great Canadian from a tweeter) Wolverine.
My instinct was hate. But on review it grows on me, grows on me like that patchy post-puberty beard. For one thing the weather was terrible and no haircut looks good in those conditions. In the rain the normally-flamboyant Lianne Sanderson looks like she has diseases. Also Michael’s camera appears to be a squirrel with a pencil in a Bovril tin. We’re not seeing him at his best.
There’s no denying the casual, mountain-man scruffiness, so unlike the Russell we’ve known. But look at the message it sends. When a hero in a movie gets serious, he grows a thick beard so everybody knows it’s on. Teibert may be resting on his aesthetic laurels, but not his athletic ones. If we ran into a bear Russell would convince the bear he was one of them, lure him in close, kill him with his bare hands and use the skin as artificial turf. The Whitecaps could use a little of that. 6/10.