SAY what you like about Gareth Southgate, but he is incredibly loyal.

To his waistcoat.

He seems determined to single-handedly, and single-breastedly, make the waistcoat fashionable once again. In the future, his name will be written alongside that of King Charles II in the annals of waistcoat history.

It was the newly-restored Charles who, according to diarist Samuel Pepys, declared in October 1666 “his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how”.

Charles was impressed with the Persian fashion for wearing a brightly coloured and highly ornate vest beneath a jacket. It was for peacock-like show, with the viewer catching tantalising glimpses of the vest’s silky magnificence through gaps in the top jacket.

However, the French Revolution caused the death of dandyism and the waistcoat became subdued, and the Industrial Revolution made it functional. In pre-central heating days, it kept the wearer warm; it covered his braces, which never should be seen in public, and it provided somewhere safe to which he could chain his pocketwatch.

By the middle of the 20th Century, all of those reasons had evaporated, and the waistcoat disappeared from the nation’s waistlines.

Mr Southgate, though, is bringing it back, adding a Southgatian twist: it is slightly too close-fitting, but that only emphasises how well ripped the wearer is.

Exclusive in-depth analysis for this column of The Northern Echo’s photo-archive shows that, just as Mr Southgate’s coaching techniques were honed while he was Middlesbrough manager between 2006 and 2009, so were his sartorial skills.

Our research (ie: I’ve looked at a couple of pictures) shows that in his early days, Mr Southgate just wore an ungainly grey suit with a red-and-white Boro club tie flapping about all over the place.

As the Teesside winters bit, he began pulling on a grey pullover underneath his suit jacket.

By 2008 that had evolved into a dark blue chunky-knit cardigan with large shiny buttons. It was irredeemably naff. It was the sort of item of apparel that, as a schoolboy, you would only wear under sufferance because your nan knitted it.

Now, though, we can see its true place in history. It was the beginning of the thought processes that changed Mr Southgate from ill dressed mummy’s boy into a trend-setting fashion icon which mirrors his transformation from a mid-table club manager into a World Cup winning tactical genius. Little wonder that in years to come, in the way that people talk of losing their cardigan or their mackintosh, or the colours of their bloomers or their stetson, or that they’ve got a hole in their wellington, so they will say “cor, my southgate’s getting a bit tight…”

MANY thanks for the words of comfort following last week’s column about my bout of gout. At the weekend, I stood in the chill, clear, whiffy waters that gurgle out of the ground at Croft-on-Tees, pulling out vegetation so that people who join me for a guided walk on Sunday will be able to see the spring that launched the spa trade in 1669.

Miraculously, the swelling on my gouty ankle has subsided – the Naproxen anti-inflammatory tablets may have had something to do with that – and the walk to the waters will begin at 1pm from the village hall.