I’ve had a football shirt design post lurking in my mind for years. I’ve been fascinated by kits for as long as I can remember. The Liverpool 1986 double winning strip being one of the first to stick in my mind.
I’ve been trying for a while to think of a way to link current shirt design to design principles/trends on the web. I’ve never come up with anything that wasn’t a little bit tenuous for a full post. So this year I’ve decided to just go through some of the designs that are coming through this year, a look at different designers ideas and the general direction things seem to be going.
I’ll try and relate at lease some elements back to web design in some way.
I’ve already mentioned that Liverpool’s 86 strip as being one of my favourites (look at big Jan and those teeny tiny shorts!), another that always springs to mind is Germany’s outfit from 1990 World Cup (I love the geometric flag stripe). Both of these were produced by Adidas, they’re a company that have consistently been at the forefront of football apparel for over half a century.
Being at the forefront doesn’t always mean great design. Among some of the genuinely iconics designs they have produced, the three striped brand has also had it’s fair share of misses.
That can certainly be said of this years crop of shirts. Let’s start with what they have done right this year…
It’s a shame Argentina are… well Argentina. Rarely is their cracking blue and white home shirt cocked up. It’s such a classic combination. This years take from Adidas is a bit special, more than befitting the genius of Mr Messi.
Big, bold stripes. A subtle use of the 3 stripes branding. A nice positioning of the crest (which is well balanced with the squad number). This is all held together with a cracking proper polo-esque collar which is seeing a strong revival this year. It’s a great shirt… but being Argentina it’s always one that’s hard for English men to wear.
The away shirt is pretty solid too. I’m not a fan of the collar on this one so much, but the horizontal contrast stripe across the dark blue colour works fairly well.
Adidas are big users of templates for shirts. To be fair all manufacturers are. It makes sense to resuse the basic elements for keeping manufacturing costs down. So you often see different ‘riffs’ of the same basic shirt templates from manufactures. So Marseille’s new home shirt is basically a re-coloured version of Argentina’s home shirt.
All the panels are the same, the collar, arm stripes etc. Despite that, with the addition of the fine diagonal striping, they’ve managed to add to some individual personality to the shirt. And Marseille have a recent history of some ‘characterful’ designs. The base template shirt has a real look of quality about it, but for some reason Adidas don’t seem to be using it very much.
Marseille’s away shirt uses a different template. The panels are different, and obviously the collar has lost it’s wings. Marseille like to be a bit different in their away shirt designs. It’s nice to see a club insist on some personality in their shirts. This particular one is actually fairly understated, and features much less Argyle than normal, but if you look at in the right light you can still see a very individual weave in the fabric. Marseille can some how get away with this sort of thing.
My team. Adidas have been our supplier for the past few seasons, and they’ve provided us with some solid – if unspectacular – strips in that time. Some of the shirts have been very close to classics… but there has always been something that just holds them back from being great.
This is Adidas’ last season with us, as the club have signed a contract going forward to be supplied by a manufacturer that has never mad a football shirt before. That will be interesting. As their parting gift Adidas have left us with a smart all black affair, and this third away shirt…
It’s a bold move putting blue on a Liverpool shirt. No matter how light the shade. The colour, if I’m being honest, doesn’t really bother me. It’s not an offensive shade of blue. But the shirt, as a whole, feels a bit lopsided. That stripe that extends from the collar just does nothing for me. As we’ve seen from the previous two shirts above, blue and white is classic combination… but it just doesn’t work very well here.
Stoke, WBA and Hull
They seem to like that asymmetric stripe from the collar this season. You can see it in full effect on their main template for this season.
All three striped kits are based on the same template. To me they just look a bit wrong. I don’t like the way the stripes stop abruptly. I don’t like that useless diagonal strip from the collar, which somehow looks even more out of place than the one on Liverpool’s shirt. It looks identikit cheap, and a bit dated. Certainly not quite right for teams plying their trade in the richest league in the world. They are a world away from the classy Argentina shirt which deals so well with the vertical stripes… (Although Hull fans are safe in the knowledge it could never be their worst kit).
Talking of vertical stripes, Milan gets a much more bespoke approach to deal with their classic vertical black and red colourway. This time moving away from the classic broad stripes to an almost pinstripe affair.
They almost pull it off, but it’s ruined by far too intrusive use of the 3 stripe branding, and from forcing the white colour in places it doesn’t need. It gives the impression that everything has been scaled down to fit inside the shirt template. It looks very cramped. Again I’d be looking at the Argentina treatment and asking questions.
This looks to be the same template as the Milan shirt. Same collar, same panels. There’s a lot less jammed into this one, and that helps, but that jarring forcing of the 3 stripes is there again. The massive white shoulder panels just seem completely unnecessary. The only thing I can think of for a reason to choose it is to make it markedly different to last years shirt. I do, however, quite like the subtle hoops in the fabric weave .
If their home shirt is so-so, the away effort is abysmal.
This shirt marks a return to some god awful 90s trends that seem to be creeping into pieces of design in football. Namely stuffing a lot of noisy stuff on to a shirt because you can. I suppose it’s like -webkit extensions. As I carry on this series of posts you’ll see some more evidence of this sort of thing coming back in to vogue.
A bit of a mixed bag from Adidas really. The quality of the Argentina and Marseille shirts are pretty clear. The base shirt template used on those two is really solid – yet for some reason totally unexploited by the rest of the Adidas collection.
The stock striped template used for the British clubs is particularly uninspiring. The choice for Liverpool’s third away shirt a little baffling, and the rest feel a little forced. Worse of all is that Chelsea away kit which recalls all that was bad about shirt design from the previous 15 years.
As I will show in the next installments they aren’t the only big hitter showing this worrying trend. Nike in particular seem to have taken a shine to the “throw everything on to a shirt and see what sticks” method of design.