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.