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The Art Form of Football Shirts

The Art Form of Football Shirts

Football shirts represent more than just who you support. They are identity, nostalgia, and lifelong memories all packed into one cut-out of polyester mesh. There is pride and hopefulness when you walk those famous footsteps up to the stadium, when you make your way through the turnstiles, when you cheer your team on throughout the ninety, wearing that same strip as the players you love.

It is identity; donning the colours of your club represents who you belong to. It is where your second home is located, and when playing away, it is that special feeling of being in that loud and proud minority. The memories attached to certain kits from previous years make all fans reminisce of happy times, such as when THAT goal was scored, or THAT trophy was won. And often remakes are made to cherish those memories and remind the faithful that the impossible is in fact possible. 

In the modern day, football kits have become fashionable, this due to popular culture and globalisation. The pink Juventus 2015/16 shirt became immensely popular because of rapper, Drake, who flaunted the shirt in an Instagram post that was seen by millions. The fluorescent design captivated the attention of the world, and led to an influx in orders of the jersey. In addition to its sleek design, the Old Lady dominated Italy at the time, and had a team full of stars that everyone began to love. Paulo Dybala burst onto the scene and had a wonderful campaign, alongside showman, Paul Pogba, who made his mark in fashion at the same time as the buzz around the pink kit. 

Another example being Nigeria’s 2018 World Cup shirt, in which the Super Eagles’ shirt sold out after it was pre-ordered three million times. The shirt was designed by Nike, who utilised the famous green and white of Nigeria to produce an uncommon zig-zag design, which its uniqueness was adored by football fans not just in Nigeria. Fans liked the underdog story of Nigeria, who had a very slim chance of winning the competition. The shirt was worn by another rapper, Skepta, who added to the hype circulating the top. But it was the retro and nostalgic feel of the shirt that pushed it to becoming the highest earning shirt of the year. Inspired by Nigeria’s iconic shirt from the 1994 World Cup in the states, it immediately reminded fans of the tournament where the Super Eagles made it to the round of sixteen, losing 2-1 to Italy. 

Beyond the aesthetic aspect of the shirt, was a much deeper insight into the African country. The collection was named: ‘For Naija’, and signified the next generation of Nigerian footballers whilst commemorating 50 years of independence. Swapping the nation’s memories of corruption and mismanagement for today’s optimism and pride. The cultural nod the strip gives to the homeland of the green and white was a big hit with fans, who wanted to show off their identity and ethnicity. 

It has become more common to reference historic kits and remake them using the less traditional materials to put a modern spin on them. Many clubs now have a retro range, and make exponential profits off them due to fans affiliation with the club and those years in particular. Despite a very strong start to the season, Arsenal have not reached the heights they once did for a long time. Once Invincibles and Champions League finalists, Arsenal now find themselves in a race for the top four season upon season. Due to the difference in performances and glory between a large amount of time, the Gunners often create more modern remakes of past shirts. Fans of the North London outfit will never forget the legacies of legends such as Ian Wright and Tony Adams. And the club capitalise on this by releasing kits such as the ‘bruised banana’ shirt we saw in the 2019/20 campaign. 

The colours assigned to a team are incredibly important too, along with the design of the kit. When you hear ‘The Reds’ you think about Liverpool, Manchester United, and Nottingham Forest to name a few; with ‘The Blues’ being likened to Chelsea, Birmingham City, and Manchester City. It is a huge part of the club’s identity, with fans sticking to their colours for the rest of their lives. Although it is not just colours that makes a football shirt. There could be stripes, hoops, and many more factors that decide a club’s identity. Chants are formed just because of the kits. Often you hear chants based off of the club’s kits, with songs like “Oh when the stripes go marching in”, and Birmingham City’s famous ‘Keep Right On’ mentioning “the boys in royal blue”. 

Even sponsors form memories of the kits from years before. Who could forget Arsenal’s O2 kit? Manchester United’s AIG years? And Barcelona’s UNICEF days? Every club has a kit with a recognisable sponsor, no matter who you support. 

Football shirts are not just a top, they are so much more.


Twitter: @RossHughessj

Instagram: @RossCapuano

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