Ruby Beales: Fashion Buyer and Norwich City fan
Walking into Ruby’s living room, you’re instantly drawn to the print her friend illustrator Will Broome made her. The birds (canaries) have yellow and green eyes- Norwich City FC colours- a reference lost to the untrained eye. Unless a lucky replica shirt is needed, support follows style for the blonde fashion buyer and equally diehard Fleetwood Mac fan. Norwich were newly promoted when we met near the beginning of the 15/16 season. As we went through her incredible memorabilia, it was clear that football holds a proud and profound place in Ruby’s heart.
Is supporting Norwich FC a family tradition?
All of my family support the Canaries (except my late Grandfather who weirdly decided to support Derby County) so it was natural for me to. I’ve had a season ticket over 20 years, despite moving to London. I first visited Carrow Road on a Wednesday night to watch Norwich beat Millwall 2-1. I was around 11 years old and looking back, it was an unusual after-school activity considering I went to an all girl’s convent school. I persuaded my Dad to take us to more live games after going to see local team Diss Town win the FA Vase at Wembley aged 14. To this day, that game is easily in my top 10. It was at that point I was officially ‘hooked'. My dad started taking me and my sister and I remember one of us had a yellow pair of DM boots, the other had a green pair and we were the same size feet. We wore one yellow and one green Dr Martens each.
When did you get into fashion?
I was always interested in fashion and football. There’s a big connection with the casuals in the 1980s and Stone Island wearing ‘dressy lads’ at Norwich. I was actually supposed to study nursing at university but changed paths. I studied Fashion with Marketing at Nottingham Trent and began working in PR at Burberry then Net-a-Porter. However I really wanted to get into buying and was given an amazing opportunity at Net-a-Porter when the then Head of Buying let me cover somebody’s maternity leave. That six months went really well and I haven’t looked back. I stayed at Net-a-porter for a further three years before moving to Avenue 32 and now Very Exclusive.
So you're not a typical fashion girl or football fan...
It’s easy for people to jump on the football bandwagon, and on girls who follow the football and say they don’t know the rules or what offside is. But I know what offside is, don’t you worry about that! It’s funny how the perception of football fans has changed. When hooliganism was at its peak in the 80s, can you imagine anybody admitting to being a football fan? Football exploded in the 90s and I suppose Italia 1990, the dawn of the Premier League and all the Sky money helped. Those elements alongside ‘Britpop’ and ‘Cool Britannia’ worked together and suddenly football was ‘cool’ too.
How do you show your support?
I don’t think that I do apart from wearing my Norwich scarf to winter games. I got the [silk] scarf that Delia Smith always wears for Christmas and used to wear it in denim shorts while it’s still hot at the start of the season. It’s a bit lady and it’s hard because I’m quite tomboyish in what I wear. I’m a jeans and trainers girl. My season ticket isn’t covered [by the roof] so you get rained on and I’ve been captured on Sky at games in [my yellow Aubin & Wills jacket]. I bought it for the football and thought it would be nice, a bit of a statement. It seems lucky and there’s a lot of history in it.
Who do you go to matches with?
I think my Dad prefers to go to Carrow Road with me because then he gets to eat a pie at halftime without getting told off by Mum! I like that all my family are into football and I really believe that going with Dad over the years has made us closer. He's lucky, I am the son he never had! Our season tickets are right by the home dugout. I’m three seats across and three rows back so you can hear everything that’s going on. Delia [Smith] sits eight rows back in the posh seats with Stephen Fry in an enclosure. Where we sit, if they take a picture of the manager or players are taking throw ins and it’s on Sky, we’re often [in it]. My friend texted me from Australia. He was like ‘Are you at the game today? Because you’ve just been on telly’. He took a picture of the telly with me in my yellow jacket and sent it to me.
Are there many highs and lows following the canaries?
We have been called a ‘yo-yo club’ for years but you need the darkness to appreciate the light. I look forward to the Ipsh*t derby and beating them in the playoff semi-final last season was delightful. The actual playoff final at Wembley was out of this world. The celebrations ended in a pub in Islington with the game being shown on repeat and everyone doing the conga. I lost my voice and made friends with some really great Norwich fans. Selling Darren Eadie to Leicester City, anything involving Fulham, having Glenn Roeder as our manager and of course the relegations are low points.
What qualities do Norwich fans share?
I think football fans have a sense of humour about their team. You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself. With Norwich you get a lot of inbred jokes because we’re from farming country. There’s us and Ipswich In East Anglia and let’s face it: who wants to be an Ipswich fan? Someone once said to me that Norwich is everyone else’s second team and I think there’s quite a lot of love for Norwich. We’re known as a team that plays good football and I think our fans are extremely loyal. I’ve got in with the Capital Canaries now. It’s a Norwich supporting London based [group] and they’re a funny bunch. They befriended me on the second leg of the playoff semi-final. If you travel with them from the Norwich games you get cheap travel and they’re always at the pub beforehand.
Are you superstitious about what you wear to games?
I would go through the motions of doing something if I thought it was lucky. On playoff final day I remember thinking ‘got to put some promotion pants on.’ I have three old Norwich shirts. My favourite is my 1989 Asics home shirt. There’s a Norwich pub in Angel- The Old Red Lion. People were offering to buy it from me and I was like ‘No! Mate you have to find one yourself.’ I've also got a signed shirt from 1996 season and the home shirt from 1994 which I wore to the play-off final. It’s not really my thing to wear a strip and I only ever buy a yellow or green toothbrush.
How do you think the team performed in 2015?
Neil Adams should have been sacked but I don't have anything against him. I'm just glad we didn't leave it too late. Alex Neil has been a great appointment so far, it will be interesting to see what he does for us in the Premier League. My crystal ball tells me we will finish 13th. My dad has already said to me that Norwich is going down now we’ve got rid of Bradley Johnson. He’s so pessimistic but Norwich always start slow so I’m not worried. We shouldn’t have gone down last time. Mum turned around and said ‘I dunno if I want us to be promoted. I just like winning every week. If we go up we’re not gonna win every week.’ I was like ‘why are you coming then?‘I know they’re not in the same league as us but I will never ever go back to Fulham. It’s not good for Norwich fans because we were relegated there and they put five goals past us a few seasons ago.
You've met a lot of players over the years, what was your favourite time?
It would have to be the one time I met Darren Eadie. I was at the Royal Norfolk Show and queued for about an hour to meet my hero. He’s very small though, shorter than me. When I went to see Norwich play and he was playing, I always thought something good was going to happen if he got the ball. He was one of those players, just so exciting. I was absolutely devastated when we sold him. I have a few [players] that I have a soft spot for: Adam Drury and Wesley Hoolahan.
Name a priority on your football bucket list?
I’ve done quite a lot of things when you look at it and it would be amazing to see Norwich play in a European country. I’ve never been to see Norwich play in Manchester either so that’s something I should probably do this season. I love Manchester and I’ve got lots of friends up there.
Now that 25% of fans attending Premier League games are women, could your fandom be considered feminist?
I wouldn't say it's feminist no, I'm just a football fan. I guess there's more female fans at games now because the facilities are much more modern and the grounds more welcoming. Where I sit, I'm surrounded by women. We all know each other because we've all had season tickets in the same area for so long. We have a little gossip before the game but when it starts we're all the same. Football fans who have come to watch their team.
Words Felicia Pennant
Photography Alina Negoita