I like football shirts because they are techy, fun and exotic.
Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Kappa, Puma. Since the 1980’s football shirts (kit, jersey) have been at the vanguard of sports product design. Fast drying fabrics, materials that you can’t grab a hold of or that stretch and snap back (Italian defenders take note,) cooling features. It's techwear, isn’t it?
Crazy prints, avant guard colour pallets, angular “go fast” patterns, organic “natural flair”. There is a huge amount of psychological thought in the process.
Club crests and body colour pallets are part of the history and tradition of the teams, often reflecting cultural motifs which originate in the actual or mythological foundations of the communities they represent.
During the 1980’s I, like every other scally (casuals outside of my home in Liverpool) bought football shirts when on holiday in Europe. It was the age of the package holiday and we didn’t have to go to the Isle of Man any more! In 1982 we went abroad for the first time. Spain were hosting the World Cup and me and me Dad watched [his team] Northern Ireland beat them 0-1. All I remember from that holiday was that night, buying my first Spain shirt and first pair of red Kickers (I guess that will be a future bog post).
I think that the excitement of foreign holidays combined with a football culture which saw only 3 teams qualify for Europe each year and also play against fewer teams lead to a glamour and mystique which, when mixed with a working class desire to show off that you’d “been away” that year created a movement. This can clearly be seen in the big companies investment into that market in the 90’s and onwards. Also the distribution of shirts to retailers away from the home cities.
I now have a refined collection of over 20 shirts. My 7 year old son has almost as many. My most sought after shirt is a 98/99 Gabriel Batistuta, long sleeve Fiorentina shirt. My best shirt is my new Palermo 04/05 shirt.
I'll never forget a guy I worked with in the 90’s had a Valencia shirt with Roberto Ayala on the back. Dope.
ATIKA always has boss football shirts, because I pick them myself.
Footnote: musical accompaniment by Half Man Half Biscuit with “All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit.”
Words by John Howlin