Saturday, 8 August 2015

#1 - West Germany 1988-91 Home Shirt by adidas

After over a year of planning, research, discussion, design and sheer hard work producing hundreds and thousands of words for your reading pleasure, we can now proudly reveal our Greatest Football Shirt Ever:

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This is it - the shirt we believe cannot be beaten on design and sheer beauty, and it belongs to (West) Germany, worn between 1988 and 1991.

Often admired and beautifully executed, this was a shirt that opened our eyes as to what the future of football kit design could be like. Modern-looking, but not liable to get stuck in a time warp a year or two after its launch, this shirt quickly established itself as a classic in so many different ways.

To find out why, and to get some background on why we, the judging panel, placed it at the top of the pile, here are our thoughts on our Number 1 shirt...

[Rich:] I'm sure this may come as a surprise choice to many, but it's one of the few shirts we were all not only unanimous on being included, but also of its place at the top of the pile. While the template has already featured twice in this list, a fact which recognises the greatness of the design, this incarnation of it is head and shoulders above the rest for several reasons.

This shirt made its tournament debut at Euro 88, so it could so easily have been overshadowed by adidas's other offering, as sported by the Netherlands and the USSR, but while they were just the respective nations' colour applied to that particular template, this took the West German shirt to a whole new level. Prior to this landing, West Germany had never made much use of their other flag colours, red and yellow (black had been their standard trim for a long time). Their '86 shirt featured them as trim on the collar and cuffs, but it was so subtle, it was easy to miss from a distance. This, in stark contrast, was visible from space (possibly).

Given almost all of its predecessors - a precession of white shirts trimmed in black in the most staid fashion possible, the impact of this cannot be overstated! Suddenly, the usually straight laced Germans graced the pitch looking the epitome of style. The design was striking without being shocking, It just felt right - like something had been missing all these years.

The shirt cemented its classic status two years later when it was worn as West Germany lifted the World Cup for the very last time as a divided nation. That this shirt lasted not only a lengthy four years, but also continued as the unified nation's home shirt for a year further adds to its iconic status.

Sadly, in typical kit world fashion, the beautiful chest stripes, like the Berlin Wall itself, eventually fell away with their 1992 kit being a shadow of its former self. And then 1994 happened... but not even that can topple this as the Greatest Football Shirt Ever!

[Chris:] As a football kit manufacturer, you have to be very clever indeed to not just create a decent outfit for a team, but also a motif that stands out almost as a brand in its own right. That's effectively what adidas did with their 'ribbon' design which is undoubtedly the stand-out feature of this classic shirt.

So brilliantly original were those three undulating stripes in the colour of the German flag that no other manufacturer could hope to come up with anything remotely similar. If they had, they'd have immediately been accused of mimicking West Germany's 'ribbon'.

Take the ribbon away, however, and you're left with a very simple shirt indeed. First of all, it has a plain, round wrap-over neck that looks perfect (can you imagine this shirt with a v-neck?), plus the ubiquitous adidas stripes in black that are truncated nicely by the ribbon.

Other than the DFB badge and the old adidas logo (pushed higher up the shirt but to no overall detriment), that's it. No contrasting black trim on the cuffs, no intricate shadow patterns... no nothing... and it's all the better off for it.

As Rich said, this shirt design was another that raised the bar in quality and looked cool - uber cool. Interestingly though, where France's great Euro 84 shirt has been recreated and reinvented as a tribute down the years, this one belonging to (West) Germany has not. Out of sheer reverence, perhaps? Why not. It really is in a class of its own and deserves to be held up as a shining example of superb football shirt design.

[John:] Apart from integrating the German national flag into a kit design - a design tactic that at the time was still relatively scarce - the strength of this shirt for me is its pure aesthetic quality. It just looks so damn good.

Of course by the very nature of the German national identity colour scheme and the fact that they have a nice white canvas on which to present them, they do have a considerable advantage. Still, adidas's execution of these various elements is simply exquisite (incidentally what was in the water at adidas's design headquarters in the '80s?! So many great designs!)

The shirt was brazen, bold and confident - a real move on from the country's traditional plain white shirts and a style that still clearly influences kits to this day.

The design was so perfectly suited to the German flag, it makes you wonder now if this masterful triple layered decoration was created originally for Germany and then rolled out throughout the adidas roster? If so, it was a shame that this triple layered colour block motif didn't make it to any British shirts, except for the odd tracksuit.

[Jay:] As we salivate at the thought of British clubs wearing the design element from the '88-91 West Germany shirt, it should be remembered that whilst its application on adidas tracksuits in 1989-90 was a less satisfying spinoff, it's one which enabled it to claim a remarkable treble of English league title (Liverpool), FA Cup (Manchester United) and World Cup (West Germany) that season. And popping up on Michael Knighton's sweatshirt as he jogged around Old Trafford doing keepy-up is an added bonus.

And from such inauspicious beginnings. Worn in the German-hosted Euro 88 tournament, Ronald Koeman treated the design with utter contempt when he - yes - mimed wiping his backside with it in the wake of the Netherlands' victory over their traditional rivals in their own back yard. At that point, that famous 'ribbon' could have been consigned to the dustbin of football kit history, but the Germans - Die Mannschaft and adidas both - elected to persevere with the creation.

We are eternally grateful that they did. I argued hard that the derivative fleeting Away version was included in this collection, and the Cork City descendant too, but I honestly could have made a case for a Boca Juniors Away shirt also qualifying, and a lost Ireland shirt too. Perhaps the discombobulating Ennere Atalanta and Napoli bastardising would have been pushing my luck, but our no.1 shirt's influence is truly staggering.

But this isn't about, primarily, influence; it's about a football shirt being great, on impact and aesthetic levels. This shirt was groundbreakingly striking and has endured. It was also an early retail success story, with several versions (permutations were minor and related to manufacturing techniques) in long- and short-sleeved selling by the bucketload, along with mimicking t-shirts, tracksuits, jackets and travel bags.

Yes, that ribbon, on the famous white of Germany, teamed with the national pride of World Cup glory and unification, was embraced wholeheartedly. It gave us a great shirt. The greatest.



And that, ladies and gentlemen, is it. Our compilation of the 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever is complete. The full list can be viewed here, so all that's left is to thank each and every one of you that's left us a comment on our website, Facebook and Twitter throughout. We really enjoyed hearing your thoughts and opinions on the fifty shirts featured, and we hope the series managed to entertain, enlighten or inform - even if our selections didn't match up with your own!

Finally, our grateful thanks also go to Jay from DesignFootball.com and John Devlin from TrueColoursFootballKits.com, both of whom provided us with all the support, insight, humour and, in John's case, superb illustrations we could ever have asked for! Without them, we simply couldn't have created the 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever to the standards you've seen.


Their contributions, and yours, have made this a truly great project, and we hope you've enjoyed it at as much as we have. Cheers!

Chris and Rich

Friday, 7 August 2015

#2 - England 2009-10 Home Shirt by Umbro

It's time for us to reveal the Second Greatest Football Shirt Ever, but which one will it be? So many iconic designs haven't even been mentioned in our countdown so far, and they can't all occupy the final two spaces of our list... so which shirt takes its place at Number 2? The answer is as follows:

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It's England's home shirt, worn during 2009 and 2010. Look up 'understated' in the dictionary and you'll find the above picture in the definition.

A great football shirt can be defined in many ways; complexity of detail, use of colour, acknowledgement of tradition, originality of design, sheer modernity... but this one has its own clearly defined qualities. Here are our comments to hopefully explain why our second best shirt is really all-white...

[John:] So many shirts in our countdown have had their place earned due to their game-changing and innovative design direction, but none have ripped up the rule book and raised the bar (and any other similar cliche you'd like to throw in) as this superlative Umbro England shirt.

To say this was the most important kit in decades is no understatement and to anyone who dares to criticise the magnificent Umbro must have very short memories or know nothing about kit design to not appreciate the impact this shirt has had on the football world.

At the time, kits seemed to be going in one direction of ever increasing complexity, brash multi-coloured panels and tired, over-thought design – typical 'average' sportswear. In fact a purported 'leak' of the new England kit just before the unveiling of the real one followed all these tired stylistic references and caused murmurings of discontent.

The relief, closely accompanied by sheer wonderment when Umbro finally launched this shirt, was incredible.

Plain, simple, decent collar, decent cut (which spearheaded the ground-breaking 'Tailored by Umbro' concept where all players' kits were made to measure, yes even Peter Crouch's) was a welcome breath of fresh air amongst the cul de sac that kit design was heading in. It went back to basics and totally reinvented the concept of what a football shirt could and should be.

There was subtle details, and elegance throughout. You got the feeling that every stitch had meaning.

Yes, the unbelievers simply called it a 'polo shirt' but they totally missed the point and failed to see the impact this strip would have, and in fact still has, as many kits even today are still following its design direction.

For me, the shirt will always be at the pinnacle of what eventually proved to be a difficult time for Umbro, who under Nike's ownership eventually headed for a rapid downward turn in fortune. Perhaps their wings were burnt by this England kit? Could they ever hope to better it?

Some would say that perhaps never did.

[Jay:] This shirt, and the preceding template (used on number 49 in our countdown) are two sides of the same coin. The combination of a loosely cut garment, with needless knobs and whistles aplenty - and a-glaring - with its antidote, its antithesis, of a pared down, entirely function-driven, fitted and tailored piece of sartorial greatness is what me must express gratitude towards for every measured - in every sense - shirt we have today.

We do have to check ourselves, that we haven't bought into the hype too much. Umbro threw a lot of marketing into making us believe that 'Tailored By' was the solution to a problem not all of us realised we had, and it wouldn't be the first time that those dastardly ad men had seduced us. Well I've checked myself: an interview with Umbro designer of the time, David Blanch, seems more genuine and to make more sense - in senses both pragmatic and idealistic - even in hindsight, than most of today's publicity guff. There was a problem, and the England '09 shirt was the solution.

Part of the beauty of this release - and its accompanying range - was the recognition that not only were football shirts essentially being dipped in sprinkles at the time, but, in the case of international teams, numbers, names, competition patches and match-specific script were to be added too. It was all too much, so a minimalist shirt, on the face of it, allowed for the further embellishment (and required it on replica versions?) The reality is that the new England shirt had the accoutrements, but they were in the form of darts and cleverly curved side seams, both improving cut and effect.

Excess fabric was ditched to provide a contemporary slimmer fit, the collar - despite lacking a top button - was suitably neat and tidy, even if it provoked lazy Homer Simpson comparisons, and the crest, oh my God, the crest, was beefed up and textured in brightly coloured embroidery. Just as it always should have been.

For this shirt, and its influence, we will always bow down to Umbro's brilliance.

[Chris:] After years of gorging itself on gaudy designs and dubious colour combinations, every team needs some metaphoric sorbet to cleanse the palate. To put it another way, every team needs to release a shirt design that's plain and basic before returning to the world of the bizarre and ridiculous. What Umbro created in 2009 was the sweetest sorbet ever. Far from basic and plain in the best way you could imagine, this was a shirt that rolled back all those years of coloured panels, needless flashes and pretentious detail.

'Smart' doesn't do it justice. The styling and sharpness of the lines this shirt possesses takes it beyond that. It was a statement of intent on the part of the manufacturers as if to say to their competitors "Is that the best you can do?"

Much more than that, I cannot say because it's already been said above. It is in a distinct class of its own and by redefining 'less is more', it is easily deserving of a place in our Top 3.

[Rich:] There's very little I could say that hasn't already been covered above, but my personal take on this shirt is that it was an instant classic as soon as it was revealed. It's no secret I was not a fan of the previous shirt, having described it as someone holding a bag of shapes over a shirt, then sneezing into said bag then just sticking down whatever landed on the shirt. Therefore, it's no surprise I welcomed such a minimalist shirt, but even I was taken aback at just how minimal it all was. Aside from it being an all white kit, the shirt itself was a masterpiece of understated cool.

As every possible angle has already been talked about, I'll just add that the subsequent demise of Umbro was a bit of a double edged sword. Had they bowed out before this, the world may not have been so irked, but after this, the feeling the company had finally hit a rich vein of form only to be cut down in its prime not only hurt deeply, but also stoked discontent when Nike revealed their first shirt for the national team, despite it actually being a pretty solid design.

Looking back, the problem with an instant icon is it makes following it an almost impossible feat...and Umbro's final two England shirts were pale shadows of this great, somewhat diluting its lasting impact. Despite this, this remains one of the best England shirts of all time and indeed, the second greatest football shirt ever!



This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

#3 - Netherlands 1988 Home Shirt by adidas

Forty-seven shirts down, and now just three to go in our 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever countdown. Today, it's time to find out who has won our metaphorical bronze medal in our self-appointed valhalla of shirt design, and it's this...
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...the Netherlands home shirt that made as big an impact as the team wearing it during the Euro 88 tournament in West Germany. Worn by the Dutch in only their five games of that campaign, this was proof positive that adidas were truly breaking new ground back in the 1980's... but what specifically catches the eye of the 50GFSE panel?

Here's our thoughts on what makes this shirt Total Genius...

[Jay:] Whilst this geometric pattern was seen elsewhere in the adidas stable - notably carried by the USSR and West Germany - for whatever reason it is the Netherlands version which is both most recognisable and satisfying. This may be in part due to the Dutch success associated with the shirt, but the colour combination (orange, white and black) also seems to create a perfect balance.

Whilst complex sublimation had been seen before - see Denmark in 1986 - this really was a proto-1990's release. In fact, the precise, symmetrical employment of the pattern, rather than gratuitous plastering, even suggests thoughtful restraint the like of which became en vogue decades later.

The tastefully trimmed overlapping V-neck contrast collar, and the adidas logo and iconic KNVB crest in black (surely for reasons of clarity) facilitated the background pattern's purpose as a focal point whilst ensuring it wasn't an overbearing attention drain. The Dutch looked remarkable on their way to glory, but they still looked, first and foremost, Dutch.

[John:] If ever a kit defined a tournament it was this one as the sublime Dutch side clinched the 1988 European Championship with style and grace – qualities perfectly reflected in this beautiful jersey.

A forerunner of the crazy times to come and a real trendsetter, the heavily decorated fabric was hard to take in at first, so outrageous did it seem as it discarded the long-established solid colour approach to kits. But the blend of gradients and geometry created a classic.

The template popped up in a few national kit bags at the time but no other side wore it quite as well as Holland.

[Rich:] If you're ever wondering how a shirt becomes not only an icon, but also a design classic, look no further than the Netherlands shirt of 1988. While plenty of iconic shirts achieved their status due to the occasion they were seen in - several World Cup winning shirts are regarded as classics but in terms of design, are nothing special - Holland 88 staked its claim very loudly and from the instant it seared into our retinas.

Worn for only one tournament, albeit for every single one of their matches (USSR, who had the same design, but in red, wore their white away kit in both the group stage meeting and in the Final), it arrived out of nowhere, smacked us all upside the head and left us all reeling. Sure, as Jay mentioned, plenty of other teams wore the same template (there are so many different colour versions of this shirt), and some are just as fondly remembered - West Germany's away is also regarded as a stunner - but it's the Dutch one that retains the fame....or infamy.

Why? Maybe because it was worn in all matches and so was consistently available in high profile outings; maybe because they won in it then never wore it again, creating a punch-to-the-face impact that was never allowed to fade; maybe because it adorned the backs of Van Basten, Gullit et al?  Or maybe just because it was orange?  Take a crazy design and apply it to a standard footballing colour and it lessens the impact. Render it in something a bit more out there and you have something that goes nuclear on your senses. Imagine a pink version this? Or maybe lime green? Instant notoriety!

And so it follows that, despite being nothing more than a vastly overused adidas template, the Netherlands shirts of 1988 rightly sits amongst the very best shirts ever!

[Chris:] As John mentioned earlier, any move away from a strong solid colour for any team is likely to be controversial, but this one was so imaginative as to be breathtaking. Like a window shattered into a hundred or more pieces, each one retained its gradient-filled lightness in a way that had never been seen before.

For me, the sight of this shirt during Euro 88 was one of those 'I was there' moments when you realise you're witnessing something ground-breaking. At a stroke, it rendered almost every other kit old-fashioned, so revolutionary was its design.

Yet for all its geometric interest and delicately coloured beauty, one very minor detail helps to make it a classic - namely the thin grey outline that each of those angular segments possesses. It may not seem like much, but it helps to define the make-up of why this shirt is so special. Without it, the whole thing looks like a wishy-washy load of faded bits. Brilliant execution and brilliantly conceived.



This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

#4 - Denmark 1986-87 Home Shirt by Hummel

Stick out your thumb and hitch a ride, everybody - we're heading for Classic Shirt Territory with the latest entry in our 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever countdown.

Today we bring you the brilliant red home shirt worn by Denmark in 1986 and 1987.

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First worn in the Danes' final World Cup warm-up match against Poland in May of that year, it immediately made an impact with its creative use of pinstripes and contrasting halves, accompanied by the traditional Hummel chevrons running along the sleeves.

But what makes this a superb example of football shirt design rather than garish monstrosity? The 50GFSE panel give you their thoughts...

[Chris:] If any shirt can be symbolised by the word 'flair', it's this one. With its pinstripes, halved sections and chevrons on the sleeves, it has all the ingredients to be a complete dog's dinner, yet remarkably it combines into a stunning whole.

I can remember seeing this for the first time during the 1986 World Cup and being amazed at its brilliant, modern-looking appearance. It just oozed class, as did the players that wore it. The brilliant part, however, was that it used less of Denmark's traditional red colour by distracting you with all the pinstripes and other details. Heck, even the navy blue piping along the collar and across the shoulders was wonderful to behold.

The smaller proportion of red soon became apparent when Denmark changed their shirt design again in 1987. A return to solid colour was inevitable, and it was only then that you realised how clever the two-tone shading of this shirt really was.

For me, this is exactly what football shirt design should be about: interesting detail, a good use of colour and original in its styling.

[Rich:] The insanity of late-80's / early-90's shirt design is usually regarded as starting with the Holland '88 shirt, but the seeds were sown two years before with the shirt Denmark worn at Mexico '86.

While this template has already been seen in the Top 50, this is the original (and still the best as some would say). While shirt technology at the time meant more and more intricate detailing was finding its way onto kits, the designs themselves were still relatively safe. Then along came Hummel and just blew everything else out of the water!

It's worth noting that the original shorts that went with this top were also halved, but with the blocks reversed, culminating in a design only a sociopathic harlequin would wear. Even today it's a design that would divide opinion, which after 30 years, surely says something about its impact. It may have been a template that got used over and over, but the Denmark incarnation is a bona fide classic... as demonstrated by the price they now fetch on eBay!

[John:] The only thing I really knew about the Danish side in the 80's was the presence of Jan Molby and Jesper Olsen in the side and the fact they always had superb kits, which were of course back then always supplied by their fellow countrymen, Hummel.

Back in the decade that style forgot (although interestingly as our line up reveals, this didn't apply on the football pitch) this ground-breaking design divided opinion almost as neatly as it divided the red and white on the shirt.

Thankfully now good sense prevails and this jaw dropping outfit is rightly regarded as a classic.



This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

#5 - Liverpool 1985-87 Home Shirt by adidas

Our 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever countdown has reached the last five - the best five shirts, according to the beliefs of the judging panel. For that reason and that reason alone, we thought we'd share all of our comments for each of the last five shirts, rather than letting one of us divulge our thoughts as a representative for the panel.

With that in mind, we enter the home straight beginning with Shirt No.5 - the Liverpool home shirt worn between 1985 and 1987.

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Directly following the ground-breaking pinstriped design introduced in 1982, this adidas offering might have struggled to match the success of its predecessor, and yet it proved more than popular. So what were its redeeming features and why is it deserving of such high praise in our countdown? Here's what we thought...

[Rich:] The first ever football match I watched on TV was the 85/86 FA Cup Final, where the team, supported by half my family, lifted the trophy in this excellent shirt, To me it is the ultimate 80's football shirt - a classic V-neck with multi-coloured trim, super shiny fabric, a detailed shadow print, vibrant colour and finally a memorable, but not super-corporate, solid British sponsor. As if it wasn't perfect enough, adidas had their famous three stripes adorning only the shoulders, rather than running all the way down the sleeves... and once more were outlined in yellow, rather than just plain white. This shirt saw Liverpool do the double, though for the following season (after I'd abandoned them for Coventry... probably a coincidence), the blue half of Merseyside took the league title and some plucky upstarts won the FA Cup. The 80s... crazy times and super shirts!

[Chris:] I'll be honest. This isn't my favourite Liverpool shirt ever. That would be the one that preceded this - the famous 'pinstripes' kit created by Umbro. When this one arrived in 1985, however, it was like an acknowledgement that football kit design had reached full maturity. After the extravagant flair of the 70's and the tentative styles of the early 80's, adidas showed with this shirt that it was finally time to get serious about looking good on the field.

Everything about this shirt says 'grown up'. The shadow pattern, the detailed trim, the use of yellow as a generous nod to the Umbro away kit used between 1982 and 1985... it all embodied a big leap forward to leave behind those 'so yesterday' pinstripes. A fine shirt and one of Liverpool's greats.

[John:] As a young Liverpool fan when the news came out that the club had signed a deal with adidas, I could almost not comprehend that Umbro, who had accompanied the Reds throughout their glory days, would not be producing the team kit.

The anticipation to see what adidas would do with the famous red was almost too much to bear. When I first saw the strip though, unveiled via a double page-poster in Match magazine, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was a stunner. And the away and third kits that also appeared on the poster were pretty decent too.

Style personified - with the merest touch of yellow bringing to life the trim and the innovative Liver Bird and adidas trefoil logo shadow pattern, it was truly magnificent and, at least in my eyes, it was better than the Umbro kits that preceded it.

The task facing adidas in 1985 was huge but they passed with flying colours.

[Jay:] Aside from seconding the words of my esteemed colleagues, there's not a whole lot I can say about this shirt. adidas just simply got it right in the 1980s, and the subtle combination of white and yellow trim, along with definitive versions of the adidas logo and simple Liver bird ("L.F.C.") crest, with hindsight, propels this offering into the stratosphere of shirt design. adidas knew this, and added a - we'll assume knowingly - inaccurate recreation of this release to their Originals range a few years ago. That was disappointing, as I wouldn't want to change a single stitch on this masterpiece.



This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Monday, 3 August 2015

#6 - Juventus 1985 Home Shirt by Kappa

When anyone mentions this shirt, it immediately conjures up several names: Platini, Laudrup, Ariston, Tardelli... and er... Rush... maybe...

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There's no doubt this is an iconic shirt, a stone cold classic, but this Top 50 isn't necessarily about iconic shirts - it's about the greatest designs ever, so can it still hold its own on that front?  The answer is OF COURSE IT DAMN WELL CAN!!!!  Just look at the bloody thing!!!! It's beautiful! How dare you even question it?!?! GO TO YOUR ROOM!!!!

Let's put some context around this... and this is where the line between iconic and great start to blur, so forgive me if I occasionally stray into iconography.

This shirt is from an era when the world was a huge place, where 'foreign' football was a strange and mysterious beast, only occasionally glimpsed in a football weekly when a famous Brit went abroad (see Ian Rush) or at the end of a season when a televised European Final involved a British team.

Back then, overseas teams had strange sounding names and wore weird looking kits made by companies with odd names. Kappa? Diadora? Ennerre (NR)? Part of what made this kit so great was its uniqueness to our British eyes. It just oozed foreign flair and could only have existed overseas. Yes, the top flight in Blighty may have been awash with V-necks, but none plunged so deep as this and ended in a flat wrapover. It was all just so... so foreign! So yes, sometimes it's near impossible to separate a shirt from its iconic status, but in design terms alone, it deserves its place.

The overall design is simple with black and white stripes all over - no contrasting sleeve design, no cut out for numbers on the back, just solid black and white everywhere. And oh those stripes! Personally, and probably due to this shirt, I prefer Juventus in thin stripes. It's again something that made this shirt different as most stripes in the UK at the time were of the thicker variety and even now, the thinner stripe is a rarity, helping to make this stand out from the crowd even more.

The shirt was finished, as mentioned, with a very deep V-neck, topped off with a neat collar. The depth of the neckline caused the shirt to pull apart quite wide when worn, further adding to the strange look. Those fancy foreigners, looking all stylish, showing off their toned chests... the cheek of it!

One final detail which, though not strictly part of the shirt design, undeniably indelibly linked with this period, is the name mentioned at the beginning. Not Platini, nor Laudrup, but Ariston. The white goods manufacturer whose name, similarly with Candy I suspect, would not have been anywhere near as well known over here had it not been for the exposure gained by adorning the shirts of Notts County B.

And so, with its affirmation as one of the Greatest Football Shirts Ever here, Juventus' 85 shirt's appeal goes on... and on and on and on...


 
Written by Rich Johnson (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

#7 - France 1984-86 Home Shirt by adidas

It's not often you can say that a football shirt is so good that it prompts a number of later tributes to be released, but that's what we have here. France's home shirt, most commonly associated with their winning Euro 84 campaign, was rubber-stamped as a classic when its national team finally staked its claim to be one of the best in the world, and with good reason.
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This was unquestionably one of those moments when you wondered why a shirt with just a few simple elements hadn't been thought of before. It is, at the end of the day, just a blue shirt with one broad red stripe, three thinner white ones below it and three more along the sleeves (as seen on all adidas shirts at the time). So why is it such a beautiful thing?

Perhaps it's that red stripe - the first time red had ever been used on a France shirt as a bold feature in its own right (save for a bit of trim on the collar in the late-'60s/early-'70s). Perhaps it was the three white stripes below - sweeping away the pinstripes of previous shirts with a simplified, bolder look, rotated through 90 degrees. More likely, it seems, it was the sheer fact that the twin-colour twin-thickness nature of the stripes had never been tried before, let alone designed with such panache.

French football was undoubtedly on the rebound in 1984. The national side was growing with stature as, from the late 1970's, an increasing number of talented players emerged and coalesced into a team capable of playing exceptionally beautiful football. In the 1982 World Cup, France reached the semi-finals, but in the European Championships they hosted two years later, they won the competition outright. They did so playing the same brand of elegant football, and this time, wearing a shirt that was the envy of every other team.

With a small winged collar in blue and the classic FFF badge proudly sat on the red stripe, this was a design that reinforced the bleu-blanc-rouge national colours at the perfect moment in time. Even on the white away shirt (where the main stripe was blue above thinner red stripes below), no sense of elegance was lost - in fact one wonders why many other teams didn't apply their own colours to such a strong template. It's not illogical to suggest this must have been a bespoke design created specifically for France by adidas, and if that's true, you'd have to say the exclusivity was worth every franc.

Such was the synonymity with greatness that this shirt had, it was no real surprise that someone somewhere used nostalgia to bring it back to life several years later. It finally happened in 1998 when France hosted the World Cup, and incredibly even this adidas homage was forged with glory as the likes of Blanc, Deschamps and Zidane lifted the trophy for the first time in the country's history.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, adidas retained the classic red stripe from the '84 shirt and used it again and again. It appeared in a stylised, reinvented form on the France shirt for Euro 2000 (another win), Euro 2004, Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 (the last adidas shirt before Nike replaced them in 2011). Notable these days by its absence, it became almost an essential element of many France shirts over a 25-year period.

The irony, however, is that the original classic version from Euro 84 was only ever worn in just 14 matches. It didn't even last two full years of service - a scandalous waste for a shirt that's as recognisable as any other in our 50 Greatest Football Shirts countdown. As PT Barnum once said, though, 'always leave them wanting more'... and when it comes to quality design like this, we can never really hope to get enough.


 
Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

#8 - Newcastle United 1995-97 Home Shirt by adidas

It’s not uncommon to associate certain football shirts with a winning period in a team’s history – Argentina in 1986 or Manchester United in 1993, for instance – but association with a particular player is an overlooked phenomenon that happens almost as often. In the case of Newcastle United’s home shirt for 1993-1995, it will always (for me at least) be associated with one player and one player alone – Alan Shearer.

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Not that a single player can elevate a shirt to greatness single-handedly. It just so happens that this one came completely out of the blue and was unlike so many others in its design. What sealed its place in the memories of so many, however, was when it appeared on the wiry frame of the world’s most expensive player when presented to Newcastle fans in 1996.

But let’s put Alan Shearer to one side for a moment (or as long as I can stretch this article out for, at the very least). This shirt, produced by adidas in 1995, was a vision of sublime simplicity. Its main feature was a white grandad collar which, without the aid of any other complementary elements, was enough to get the football kit design fraternity into something of a tizz.

To put this into perspective, hardly any other shirt before it had dared to implement a grandad collar in the entire history of British football. The only other one that springs to mind was also made by adidas and also appeared in 1995 in the form of Liverpool’s green and white quartered away shirt.

Newcastle United’s version had a long hem containing three buttons up to the neckline, and again it’s worth mentioning that, along with the collar, it was white. That’s because all of Newcastle’s shirts since the late-1960’s had featured a collar that was either completely black or had some form of black trim. This one was all the better for being completely colourless and set the tone for understated style that permeated the rest of the garment.

The black and white stripes were also on show, as you’d expect, and the width of those stripes were absolutely spot on in my view. They were wide enough to frame not only the Newcastle badge – still just seven years on from its introduction – but also the manufacturer’s logo in name form only, set on its own black strip. As a final flourish, the iconic three stripes of adidas also made an appearance, but in reverence to the club and its history, they started and finished only on the arms rather than extending to the shoulders and neck.

Throw in an all-new Newcastle Breweries logo to replace the old blue star from previous seasons and you have an excellent shirt that took pride of place among many other great alternatives for the St James’ Park club during the 1990’s. Looking every bit as smart on Alan Shearer’s back as it did on your own, this was another great example of how ingenuity at the design stage can make for a truly stand-out football shirt.


 
Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Friday, 31 July 2015

#9 - Africa Unity 2010-11 Third Shirt by Puma

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This is one of those shirts that frequently finds itself on those lazy 'worst football kits' lists that get trotted out by the papers every season when one club or another releases something different.

In addition to this, it's whole concept could be described as at the extreme of superfluousness, so why is it not only in the Top 50, but also in the Top 10 Greatest Football Shirts Ever?

Two predominant reasons...

One: Purely on aesthetics / design - Coming in the form of the standard Puma template for all the African teams at the time, it's rendered in sky blue, fading down into brown. Now, aside from these both being quality colours (check out the Attic logo), I'm a sucker for a fade effect. The colours aren't just a matter of whatever the designer fancied that day, they actually have meaning - the sky blue representing the African sky and the brown the African soil. A nice touch and one with some actual thought behind it.

Two: The concept. No I don't mean the sky / soil thing. The idea behind this kit's existence was peace and unity. As the title suggests, this was an African kit - Africa, of course, being a continent and not a single nation. The shirt was therefore designed to be worn by ANY African country* as a third shirt and indeed, the replica versions came with iron-on crests for all African nations*.

Alongside each individual country's badge, there was an Africa Unity crest on the left of the shirt. Replica versions also all came pre-printed with the number 10 and the word 'Africa' where the player's name would usually be,

(* supplied by Puma)

As it turns out, the shirt saw hardly any action, being used in only a handful of games, usually friendlies, so when it came to the ideal world stage of the 2010 World Cup, the first ever held in Africa, the kit, and with it the grand ideal of African unity, was nowhere to be seen.


 
Written by Rich Johnson (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

#10 - England 1980-83 Home Shirt by Admiral

There's no written rule that says football shirts have to reflect the fashion trends of the era in which they're born, and yet many do. Think of the football shirts of the 1960's: basic, functional, unshowy... Until Twiggy started wearing spangly mini-skirts, the word 'flair' hadn't even been invented.

Then when the 1970's arrived, colour flooded into everything from TV programmes to home décor as creativity and imagination underpinned art, architecture, clothing and much more besides.

And after that, the 1980's came along, where fashions became... well... 'sensible.' But you know what? By the early 1980's, we all needed a bit of sensible. It was time to take stock of what had gone before and forge ahead with understated design that was modern and sleek without being ostentatious.

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This was the very essence of how England's 1982 World Cup shirt came to be. Thanks to Admiral Sportswear, the England team had moved from basic unambiguity to tentative boldness with their 1974 kit, but six years down the track, it was time embrace a new decade. Out went the old-fashioned stripes down the sleeves and in came silky polyester, a continental-style collar and bold shoulder panels.

Naturally enough, it rubbed a few people up the wrong way. BBC TV commentator Barry Davies, upon seeing England wearing the new kit for the first time against Argentina in 1980 said "England wearing their new kit today... although why it has to have all the colours of the Union Jack is beyond me." Truth be told, the previous kit had also featured the same red, white and blue, but the shirt was predominantly white. Now... well... this.

The thing is, half the world's football teams seemed to be wearing the three stripes of Adidas on their shirts by this point, and very stylish they looked too. Adidas had become THE football brand to wear, whereas Admiral... well, to put it politely, their day had been and gone. Their iconic designs of the 1970's reflected the decade perfectly but were suddenly out of step with the 1980's. Even this new shirt that would go on to be worn at the 1980 European Championships and the 1982 World Cup somehow didn't have the allure that Adidas could provide.

And yet, we all missed the point and still do. At the start of the 1980's, fashion trends were becoming more modest, more muted, more... 'M&S'. Shirts didn't need wide collars, fiddly detail and wacky colours. This was a new era where 'modern' and 'smart' were the watchwords, and the new England shirt embodied those values perfectly.

Finally, let it not be forgotten that you, our knowledgeable Football Attic audience, have already declared this your favourite England shirt of the last 50 years - a considerable achievement given its attachment to a fairly ho-hum period in English football history. What it does attach itself to, and perhaps why it's already proven to be so popular, is its forward-looking modernity symbolising hope for a bright new future. Yes, football shirt design was capable of being technically better or more exciting, but this was the right shirt at the right time, and executed with great discretion to boot.

So there we have it: a shirt whose greatness has been earned through its imperfection, you might say. Not as stylish as Adidas with all their fancy pinstripes, but a neat 'of its era' shirt worn with pride by dozens of players from John Barnes to Kevin Keegan - and there can be no doubt: they all looked absolutely bloody great in it.



Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

#11 - Wales 1976-79 Home Shirt by Admiral

It's time once again for us to welcome a guest writer into the 50GFSE fold, namely Simon Shakeshaft - Welsh football fan and an esteemed authority on the many and varied shirts worn by the national team. Here he is to discuss a classic vision in red, gold and green...

On this countdown the ‘template’ word has already appeared on a number of occasions. This Admiral shirt design is another one of those, a template. No disrespect to Eintracht Frankfurt, Dundee, Saudi Arabia, Vancouver Whitecaps or even Coventry City who actually had it first (even in their infamous shade of russet), but this is probably the most recognisable.
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The FAW joined the pioneering shirt designer’s revolution in 1976, just as the replica shirt market started to really take off, donning the same iconic Admiral ‘tramlines’ design until the end of the decade.

The colour combination of all red with the two arched ‘tramlines’ stripes in yellow and green, from the shoulders vertically down each side of the shirt’s front, was perfect for a Wales shirt. What separated this one from others in this template was the Welsh dragon crest placed centrally on the chest. The Admiral logo had to be moved onto the winged collar, meaning they could use two, and this appeared to give the shirt more of a balanced look.

Remember the tramlines were even more enhanced by the fact they continued down the front of the matching red shorts. A great colour combination for a Wales shirt, although I'm not quite sure about Admiral’s marketing explanation for the colours. ‘Red for the dragon’, yes... ‘yellow, for the daffodil - Wales’ national flower’, yes ok... ‘green for the leek, the national vegetable’... Seriously!!!  Not totally necessary justification for an 11-year-old - after all, Wales away colours were traditionally yellow with a green trim and I don’t think Umbro use of those colours’ would have been explained in quite the same way in 1949. The away kit of this design was another beauty, a reverse of home in the traditional daffodil yellow with tramlines in red and green.

By the mid-Seventies, the Welsh national football team were enjoying a bit of a purple patch, the only one of the home nations to qualify for the quarter finals of the 1976 European Championships and a controversial failure to qualify for Argentina ’78 World Cup due to the hand of Jordan.

It was a great time to wear your replica Admiral Wales shirt with pride, although it was also a time when it was deemed semi-acceptable to see non-Welsh kids wearing the shirt, such was its appeal. In the late Seventies - and early Eighties, if you’re English - Admiral replica shirts carried the same status that, later, a pair of Jordan Air Max did.

You weren't really fazed by the scratchy, itchy, small electric shock of the nylon material or the fact that your previously shiny vinyl crest and logos cracked and peeled after Mum washed it for the umpteenth time. Wind forward 25 years from when I first held a cotton player’s shirt in my hand and imagine my joy in finding out these also came in an aertex perforated hole variety... it was nearly too much to take! The cloth crest, logos and numbers stitched to the shirt were a work of art and that buzz, even today, is still the same.

If you missed the Seventies replica shirt boom, you probably don’t really get all the fuss made about Admiral Sportswear, but for those that were there, many are now iconic classic shirt designs. For me and many other Welshmen, the Wigston factory in Leicestershire produced the finest Wales shirt of all time.



Our grateful thanks to Simon 'Shakey' Shakeshaft. He can be followed on Twitter here and his website, Wales Match Shirts, contains everything you need to immerse yourself in the wearable history of Yorath, Giggs, Southall and many, many more.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

#12 - Boca Juniors 1981 Home Shirt by adidas

I must confess to not being much of an expert on South American domestic club kits. I guess the relatively low profile many of the sides have in Britain (or certainly had during my kit awakening in the late '70s) is the reason. In fact probably the only fact I seem to have retained about shirts south of Mexico way is that at some point or other they all seem to have been sponsored by Coca Cola.
However, one South American shirt design has always stuck in my head for its originality, freshness and simple downright coolness,  and that’s the iconic blue and yellow home strip worn by Boca Juniors - arguably Argentina’s most famous club.

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With so many wonderful interpretations of the big and bold design to choose from, its this early-'80s adidas incarnation that just edges it for me. It has a higher-than-usual profile, no doubt aided and abetted by the fact that it was worn by football legend Diego Maradona when he signed for the club in 1981. Proof that a world class footballer can really help get your kit seen and noted around the globe.

Of course all Boca home shirts are dominated by the in-your-face yellow band stretching across the chest. Its a remarkably simple but remarkably effective piece of design and one that has influenced many contemporary kits where large colour blocks are used to dramatic and dynamic effect. None, however, wear them with as much as panache as Boca. Perhaps it's the fact that the chest band often seems to appear just a little deeper than would be obvious?

The shirt was way ahead of its time in terms of fit and style and was beautifully put together with a thin and rather low-slung wrapover crew neck accompanied by the always stylish version of the adidas trefoil logo, minus the text and of course their trademark three-stripe trim. Interestingly for the era, there are no cuffs on the shirt; a decision perhaps prompted by the high South American temperature.

The kit was actually first worn in 1978 but it wasn't until 1980 that the final small (but very important) finishing touch was added in the shape of the four-star Boca Juniors badge. Each star houses the letters ‘C A B J’ which, of course, stands for Club Atlético Boca Juniors.

Its always puzzled me why this stunning strip design hasn't been ‘borrowed’ by more clubs, and in fact the combination of blue and yellow in this way is also relatively scarce. Legend has it that the distinctive colour scheme was apparently inspired in rather curious circumstances.

The story goes that another Argentinian side, Nottingham de Almagro, wore a similar kit to Boca and so in 1906 a one-off match was played to decide who could keep the colours as their own. Boca lost and decided to wear the national colours of the first boat to sail into port at La Boca the following day. It turned out to be a Swedish boat, Drottning Sophia, and so the classic blue and yellow colour scheme was born.

I can’t help but think Boca clearly eventually came out as winners in the fashion stakes, though.


 
Written by John Devlin, founder and illustrator of TrueColoursFootballKits.com.

John can be found on Twitter and True Colours is also on Facebook.

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Monday, 27 July 2015

#13 - Manchester United 1992-94 Third Shirt by Umbro

We should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, and boy is the background to Manchester United's 1992-94 Third shirt a good story. If you're sitting comfortably, then I shall begin...

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Actually, let's just cut to the chase. The legend goes that Man United's forebear, the Newton Heath (Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway) Cricket & Football Club, were presented with cashmere shirts in green and gold in their second season in existence. In fact, reports of such an item existing are scarce, and it may be not beyond the realms of possibility that until Umbro came up with this supposedly retrospective design to add to their new United Home and blue Away shirts, neither the Red Devils nor their progenitor ever wore green and yellow/gold halves.

But no one knew that in the early 1990s, we have to believe, and black and white photographs from one hundred odd years previous, along with isolated reports, somehow suggested this palette - the colours of the L&YR - though there is far more evidence for the wearing of a suspiciously similar outfit in red and white in subsequent seasons. So along came this ostensibly historically sensitive shirt, complete with the lace-up collar seen on the Home version and complex jacquard watermark, dispensing with the alternate-coloured sleeves and embellished with tasteful black trim, not to mention unveiled in hilarious fashion - with Eric Cantona stealing the show not for the last time.

And it was brilliant. The connotations worked fantastically - we doffed our caps, 1879 style - whilst the adding of more modern stylings - that watermark, the Umbro logo, the sponsor - seemed to act as the anachronism's membership card to the present, like The Terminator's clothes, boots and motorcycle. Truly, has a footballer ever looked sexier than when Andrei Kanchelskis digested his expulsion from the 1994 League Cup final whilst wearing this shirt, long-sleeved and untucked?

It may be that revisionism was at play to provide us with this masterpiece - or maybe it's at play in this article - but the colours have since, entirely owing to this release, been adopted by the anti-Glazer factions amongst United's current support. Consequently, a whole mini-industry of green and gold wares exists with a raison d'être of protestation, due not to the origins of the club - oh, you poor innocent - but to the unashamed glorious commercialising of said origins in 1992.

And you can buy a retro Newton Heath shirt - some have the colours flipped, layering confusion on confusion - but the root of the green and gold phenomenon may be found late in the last century. We'll never really know, and perhaps Umbro have created an alternate, paradoxical backstory to one of the world's biggest clubs. Perhaps. What is certain is that Umbro created a wonderful shirt that becomes rarer and exponentially more valuable as time passes. Those rail workers wouldn't want it any other way.


 
Written by Jay, resident blogger on DesignFootball.com.

Jay can be found on Twitter and DesignFootball.com are on Facebook and Twitter.

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

#14 - Italy 2000-01 Home Shirt by Kappa

When a football kit manufacturer decides to rip up the rule book and completely reinvent what's gone before, it has several options to help it achieve its objectives. It can add an eye-catching motif to the shirt here or there - a stripe or a block of colour, perhaps. It can add extra detail or interest to make the shirt more complex in its make-up. Or, as with Kappa's approach to the Italy shirt of 2000-01, it can go in the opposite direction by simplifying things in a brilliantly innovative way. This is the masterpiece that came about from that little exercise:

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There's no other way to describe this shirt: it was quite simply a game-changer. Before 2000, shirts worn by the Italian national team all generally followed the same rules. They had to be royal blue in colour, many had a proper 'flappy' collar and many had a dash of green, white and red as borrowed from Italy's national flag. After a couple of years of towing the line, however, Kappa decided to break free from the conventions of yore.

Their first idea was to change the tone of blue - a potentially controversial move, but one based on precedent as the Italy shirts of the 1950's had a similar hue. If you go back to the 1930's, you'll see that the shade of blue is even lighter, but I digress. Though a little jarring when first seen 15 years ago, it undoubtedly has a softer quality than the deep, rich blue we've come to associate with the Italian team.

Next, Kappa did away with the collar, opting instead for a simple round neckline in the same colour as the rest of the shirt. After that, they moved their own logo to the sleeves of the shirt to leave the body decorated only by the traditional 'shield' badge of the Italian Football Federation.

The final change, however, was a master-stroke. To compensate for an apparent lack of detail, Kappa used decorative stitch-work in a darker shade of blue to create a feature in its own right. Providing a border around the neckline, under the arms and down the sides of the shirt, this was a genius move that added to the overall look without spoiling the simplicity that had already been implemented elsewhere.

If anything, the addition of a white squad number in the middle of the chest (as seen during Euro 2000) made the shirt even more complete, but it was by no means necessary. Even the slightly slimmer fit provided an extra distinction that separated it from most other shirts seen around the same time.

All in all, this was a glorious symphony of subtlety and style that did much to boost not only the Italian national team but also Kappa themselves. Proving that less can most certainly be more, Italy's greatest football stars have rarely looked better on the international stage.


 
Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

#15 - Hull City 1992-93 Home Shirt by Matchwinner

It's fair to say we all had a soft spot for this oft-criticised shirt, but to give it the proper tribute it deserved, we thought we'd hand over the writing duties to Hull City kit expert Les Motherby. Here he his to tell the story of a football shirt with stripes of a truly different kind...

For a kit to become ingrained in the collective consciousness usually requires a team to perform laudable exploits while wearing it; win a major trophy, secure promotion, or at least embark upon a plucky cup run. Not so with Hull City’s 1992/93 home kit, worn during a season of abject failure: The Tigers narrowly escaped relegation from the third tier of English football, exited the League Cup at the first hurdle, and bested only Darlington in the FA Cup before going out in the Second Round.

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It is purely the design that secured this kit’s enduring infamy, which is an impressive feat considering the era, when outrageous designs were legion. Clubs had cottoned on to the money-making potential of polyester replicas released annually rather that every two years, suppliers were pushing design boundaries to show off new printing techniques and a rash of small kit-making firms were keen to make a name for themselves, culminating in an imperfect storm regarding kit design. But whereas most of the, ahem, attention-arresting designs released during that period were used for away kits, it was Hull City’s home kit that would be quite literally wild.

Scottish brand Matchwinner looked to the club’s nickname for inspiration, producing a lurid tiger stripe print shirt, paired with black shorts and socks with amber trim. Near universally mocked outside of East Yorkshire, this shirt is fondly recalled by many Hull City fans, who revel in the kitsch value and remember the media hoopla generated as a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak decade.

Those who claim this to be among the worst kits ever are seemingly ignorant of its successor, which was essentially a knock-off. The five-year relationship between Hull City and Matchwinner came to a sudden and acrimonious end in the summer of 1993, giving replacement supplier Pelada no time to design a non-copyright violating approximation of the tiger-skin print shirt.

So The Tigers began 1993/94 with the previous season’s shirt and shorts (Pelada supplied new socks) with Matchwinner’s logos patched over, it wasn't until the November when City wore Pelada-made home shirts for the first time.

Only the ‘tiger skin’ looked more like a leopard print, and featured such a tightly compacted design that from a distance the shirt looked a rusty hue, rather than our usual distinctive and bright amber. Indeed when Oxford visited Boothferry Park they were permitted to wear their yellow primary shirt, deeming it not a clash with our supposedly amber and black shirt. It was so bad that even fans who loathed the original tiger print shirt will have pined for it after seeing the shockingly bad substitute.

The original might have been ill advised (and the concept is certainly best left in the past), but it was fun and generated more publicity than a side ranked 20th in Division Two of the Barclays League warranted. To this day it remains memorable and iconic.



Our grateful thanks to Les. He can be followed on Twitter here and his website, HullCityKits.co.uk, has much more in the way of kit imagery and information for those of you interested in what The Tigers wore in days gone by.

Friday, 24 July 2015

#16 - Ipswich Town 1982-84 Home Shirt by adidas

Earlier in this series we saw how adidas’ instigation of pinstripes in 1980 kick-started a continental influence on kit design. A year later the fashion finally made it to the UK with one of the best examples of the genre - the Ipswich Town shirt worn in the halcyon days of Bobby Robson’s management, sported by stars such as Paul Mariner, Arnold Muhren and Terry Butcher.

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There were (and in fact still are!) plenty of pinstripes around in football, but when they form part of a shirt featuring non-contrasting neck and cuffs they do seem to exude that little extra ‘je ne sais quoi.’ I guess its the perverse nature of stripping away contrasting colour from the functional elements of the design before then adding it again, purely as decoration, elsewhere on the shirt. It's confident (or arrogant?) and extravagant in the extreme, but actually is precisely what you need when you’re dressing a football team when their confidence is paramount to performance.

As if to prove a point, this is yet another example of a superb kit accompanying a superb team (for those who may not remember, the early 1980's found the Tractor Boys’ stock much higher than it is today) although to be fair, their peak had arguably just passed when these pinstriped beauties were called into action.

The shirt is also memorable for the inclusion of Ipswich’s first ever sponsor, electronics company Pioneer. The early versions of these shirts (as worn in pre-season photos) featured the firm’s solid but relatively squat logo. Clearly there were concerns about legibility and brand awareness as soon into the season these jerseys were replaced by new ones that featured, in a move to make all graphic designers wince, a condensed but much larger rendering of the Pioneer logo.

The European flavour of this shirt is clear to see (quite apt given the club’s success in the UEFA Cup the previous season) and for my money produced, along with its white away and red third counterparts, one of the classiest and most stylish sets of kits of the decade.


 
Written by John Devlin, founder and illustrator of TrueColoursFootballKits.com.

John can be found on Twitter and True Colours is also on Facebook.

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

#17 - Celtic 2012/13 125th Anniversary Third Shirt by Nike

There are many ways to commemorate an anniversary with shirts; some good, some bad. Celtic's last major anniversary was their centenary in the 1987/88 season, which they celebrated in the typical fashion of the time - adding some wording under or around the crest. Celtic went one better and reverted to their original crest for the season, but that was it. No special shirt, no great pomp and ceremony, or marketing BS... Just a classy shirt with some wording and it worked perfectly. It was classy at the time and even today looks fantastic.

So, 25 years later and with the next major milestone looming, what to do?  The world had changed and with special edition shirts being released almost every day celebrating such mundane things as when some bloke off a student's t-shirt dropped by your place 50 years ago, the big question was how to mark the occasion?

Celtic's answer? Create one of the classiest special edition shirts ever!

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For a start, they replicated the centenary shirt by having a special crest for the home shirt, but this time round they created a special Third shirt as well. What they came up with was a replica of what they wore the first time they played their Auld Firm rivals, Rangers, from May 1888. The kit as a whole was beautiful, with black shorts and green and black hooped socks, but this isn't about the kit as a whole, this is just about shirts... So could the jersey stand on its own? By god yes!

The shirt itself was all white, topped off with a small, black collar so we're starting with a minimalist cool look already, but what really makes this shirt special are two subtle details. As with the 87/88 shirt, they changed their badge to their original Celtic cross, albeit in updated form, but it's what's beneath the crest that tops this shirt off nicely.

Sponsors logos are a touchy subject on shirts these days, so when it comes to an anniversary edition, how would such a classy, retro looking shirt look with 'Tennents' sprawled across it?

This problem was solved beautifully by the lager manufacturer allowing their logo to be rendered in white, subtly outlined in grey, and in a small version, just below the badge. This was a classy move by Tennents, which showed smart thinking. They didn't ruin the shirt and would no doubt have won people over by not doing so,  Nike followed suit and the swoosh also appeared in white, leaving what appeared to be a retro-styled shirt bereft of logos of any kind. I don't think there's been a classier anniversary shirt.

As a side note, Rangers, themselves sponsored by Tennents, also had the sponsor logo in the same size and placing, so as not to create any imbalance across the divide.



Written by Rich Johnson (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

#18 - Aberdeen 1976-79 Home Shirt by Admiral

You know, the more I study football kit history the more I appreciate just how big and far-reaching the effects of the Admiral mid-70's kit revolution were. The kit they produced for Aberdeen back then, worn just as the club were beginning a golden era under the managerial reign of a certain Alex Ferguson, is a fine example.

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Prior to 1976, The Dons had enjoyed a succession of relatively plain and simple red kits. Nothing wrong with that of course, but Admiral’s bold approach, born from a need to produce copyrightable designs that could be subsequently sold as replicas and inspired by the ever increasing role of colour TV in the football world, lifted the ordinary Aberdeen kit into something extraordinary.

It was the simple addition of five (or occasionally four as, in true Admiral fashion, the finer details did vary) thin vertical stripes all grouped together on the left hand side that really made the kit stand out. The fact that these stripes then continued on the shorts raised its kudos even higher.

And that was it. That was all the kit required. No concepts, no symbolism - just the beauty of pure aesthetics. Hell, it was so good, it didn't even need a club badge! But whether it was being worn in a football stadium or the local rec, it was unmistakably Aberdeen, no doubt about that.

A few other clubs also sported this design but none of them wore it quite as well as The Dons and is fondly remembered by Aberdeen fans of a certain age.

The fact it was donned (ahem) in a couple of vital and formative cup finals en route to Fergie’s prime at Pittodrie seems only fitting.


 
Written by John Devlin, founder and illustrator of TrueColoursFootballKits.com.

John can be found on Twitter and True Colours is also on Facebook.

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

#19 - Argentina 1986 Home Shirt by Le Coq Sportif

Just after the 1986 World Cup had finished, I purchased my first ever Shoot! magazine with a World Cup review in it. On the front cover was Maradona cradling the World Cup trophy, wearing the gorgeous blue and white striped shirt that would beguile me to this day.

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The two things (and this demonstrates how incredibly obsessive I am about this stuff) that hooked me were the fact the central stripe was white and not blue - a rarity for Argentina - and that it was made from an Airtex material. Yes. I really do love a shirt due to the inclusion of holes.

In addition to the holes, it just looked gorgeous in the Mexico sun, especially when contrasting with their black shorts and white socks.  It also never looked better than in the Final against a West Germany team in their vibrant green shirts.

The shirt itself is a very simple affair, being nothing other than white- and blue-striped Airtex material with a standard round neck, but to me that's part of its appeal. I don't think a shirt would be made like this any more. Yes, we've had the whole retro-looking 'Tailored By' range from Umbro, but aside from those (and even then there were few striped shirts where the sleeves were just the same exact style as the body), you just don't get shirts where the sleeves just continue the main style with no additions or changes in style whatsoever.

To me, this shirt is proof that at times, a design doesn't have to be anything other than what it needs to be, while still being unique. Though it may be simple in nature, the change of central stripe to white and the Airtex material raise this from plain shirt to design classic.


 
Written by Rich Johnson (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Monday, 20 July 2015

#20 - Olympique Lyonnais 2010-11 Away Shirt by adidas

As with the previously mentioned Marseille shirt, this was from the period where adidas were providing French teams with what some regard as strikingly unique and extravagant designs and other, less educated/cultured folk regard as abominations. I am clearly in the former camp, hence this shirt's initial nomination and, due to the others on this project being of a similar ilk (though not cultured enough to appreciate the aforementioned Marseille shirt), subsequent inclusion in the chart.
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Flouncing in in a deep burgundy, the front is adorned with what appears to be a pattern inspired by a Las Vegas casino carpet and given all the trim is in gold, one could be forgiven for thinking the whole ensemble was conceived somewhere on the Strip.

And this is where that difference of opinion come in. While some think the result is gaudy, tacky or just plain awful, I, and my esteemed colleagues, all deem this to be a masterpiece of design and style.

The print is a triumph of gorgeously indulgent, swirling symmetricality (yeah I know the word is symmetry, but that doesn't sound half as good!) in a darker burgundy than the rest of the shirt. From a distance, it resembles a Rorschach ink blot test, which makes you wonder what the designer saw when he looked at his creation... Maybe his mother scolding him for not having a sensible job... and why isn't he wearing a coat, it's cold outside, you'll catch your death Martin!!!!

Again, similarly to the Marseille shirt, the trim is all gold and while some say it jarred against the blue, here it just adds to the luxury feel (or the tackiness, if you're a berk).

One final detail is something that only those who purchased a certain version of the replica shirt would have seen. The numbers on the back, as well as being available in boring old block fonts, were also available inset with the same pattern as on the front of the shirt, but in gold. Damn that's some good detailing right there!



Written by Rich Johnson (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.