Design of Football 2011/12: Nike

posted on July 13th, 2011 by Anthony

Nike are relative newcomers to football. They can’t boast the heritage of Umbro (well they can, because they own them… but that’s by the by…), or Adidas. But since they really got interested in soccer – around the time of the 1994 World Cup in America, they have really influenced the kit design world.

In a time when a lot manufacturers and designers where going mental with COLOUR and PATTERNS Nike made themselves known by delivering boldly elegant designs that took shirts back to their 20th century roots. For that we should all be grateful.

As example on the left here you have one of Arsenal’s final Adidas designed away shirt. It’s the kind of horror your mind cannot unsee.

Arsenals away shirts 1992/93 and 1994/5

On the right is Nike’s first away shirt.

Nike have been producing quietly classy kits for the best part of two decades now. Obviously not all hits, but generally very solid. This years shirts follow that similar pattern. There are some real quality designs in their collection. But as we saw with Adidas there are a few worrying trends starting creep in that may suggest that PATTERN and COLOUR are making their way back from the 90s.

But let’s start with the good stuff…


I’m not sure there is a more recognisable shirt in world football. Like the Argentin shirt from Adidas it is very rare you see the gold and green of Brazil messed up, or messed with. Equally the tight formula doesn’t give designers much to work with.

Brasil Home and Away shirts 2011

There’s not a lot to it… but my god it works. It’s everything you want from a Brazil shirt, and that flash of green across the chest is brilliant. I’m not sure why it works so well, but it does. Although it is just essentially a green rectangle, the way it’s positioned on the shirt makes great use of the white space. The two differing textures of material that make it up also help lift it. The matching shade of green for the subtle Nike branding and the suitably starred crest finish it all off.

The away shirt does what an away shirt should do by offering a completely contrasting colour scheme without losing identity. By using the exact same shirt with a subdued blue they carry it off simply and effectively.

As a lot of people reading this will know, pulling off simple is *incredibly* hard. There is no where to hide bits of a design that don’t work, everything needs to be quality. So this is great work from Nike.


France had been with Adidas for years, over 30 years at least, and had some brilliant kits in that time. But in recent times they had been getting a bit dodgy. A bit like the team. So they are starting afresh with Nike this year.

France Home 2011

If you though the Brazil shirt was a lesson in how to do simple gorgeous… well this is next level shizzle. To be fair, they have only taken the same approach to this France shirt that Umbro (who are owned by Nike remember) applied to the England shirt a couple of years ago. So it’s not ground breaking. But damn it’s pretty (even prettier without the collar buttoned and not being pulled skin tight from behind).

The thing I like most about this shirt is the flash of red on the sleeves that you can reveal by rolling them up a bit. A lovely touch. The brand new crest is a nice take on the classic orignal. I love shirts with a proper collar. It’s just a really classy piece of design.

Now the away shirt.

Imagine the most French looking shirt you can think of…

France Away 2011

I’m guessing it looked a lot like that.

All that’s missing is a beret and a string of onions. You could take the badge off and still know it was French.

I personally love this shirt, but I know a lot of people aren’t so keen. I love the fact that it’s so different, so nationalistic, so unfootball like. It even has a name “The Marinière” after the French sailors of old – think those Jean Paul Gaultier adverts.

Quirky, but I like it.

Nike are apparently investing something like £38m a year, for 7 years, in supplying the French football teams kit. So it shouldn’t surprise that they pulled out all the stops. Money well spent I reckon.


I started off this piece looking at Arsenal, so it’s only fair to include their new shirts in this round up.

Arsenal Home and Away 2011/12

It’s Arsenals 125th anniversary so Nike have added a massive commemorative crest. I’m not sure it totally works. It’s a bit too big and looks unbalanced on the shirt.

The shirts themselves are fairly solid. They follow the same minimal ethic as the Barzil and France shirts, yet somehow they don’t seem to hit the same level. The home shirt is the more rounded of the pair, and there’s nothing I particularly dislike… but I just can’t get excited about it. It lacks some of the subtle flourishes of the other kits.

The away shirt does even less for me. It all seems a bit half hearted.

As I said, simple is a tough design nut to crack.


Barca are undoubtedly the best club team in the world right now, probably the best of their generation, and are certainly up there with the best teams of all time.

Nike should be a great match for them.

Barcelona 2011/12


I’ll gloss over the sponsor, and Qatar’s ever creeping influence in football. And the fact with that much money floating around they should really be able to employ someone other than a Sheik’s 10 year old son to produce their charity’s logo.

Instead I’ll focus on this really poor shirt. I hate those broken stripes. They’re also too narrow. The colours also seem a little off for Barcelona. It just doesn’t work.

I haven’t mentioned shirt templates in regards to Nike yet. If you look up you will see the same base shirt used on every single shirt bar France’s home. But you don;t really notice. That’s because Nike have used a simple template, without lots of flashy panels. This has given them much more flexibility and variety than we’ve seen from Adidas.

They’ve still managed to balls this one up though. Alas those broken stripes seem to be becoming a Nike signature, as we’ll see in a bit.

Crystal Palace

First, in the style of Bullseye, let’s see what Barca could have won.

Crystal Palace 2011/12

OK, they stripes are still a little bit broken. And this really irks me. The blurring effect also makes it 10 times worse. But, it is sooo much better than Barcelonas shirt. It uses the same ingredients, just interpreted properly.

If Nike are going to persist with this broken stripe business I hope to God it’s more like this.

Barca have been short changed.


Stripes seem to be Nike’s achilles heel.

Juventus Home 2011/12

I’m assuming from a distance this has the effect of a watercolour painting. Close up it makes you feel as though you’ve been on a 10 hour lager session. Seriously what’s that about? There. Is. No. Need. For. Cocking. About. With. Stripes.

The away kit, however, is so mad it’s brilliant.

Juventus Away 2011

I have no problem with pink in football shirts, but it’s only the Italians that can pull it off. The massive star is a nice mental cherry on the madness cake. It’s certainly a statement shirt.


So Celtic’s ‘International’ away shirt…

Celtic Away 2011

Oh dear god. Broken stipes gone mad. Awful awful awful. There is not one, single, piece of this shirt that is redeemable.

But then for away kit (possibly this is apprently a ‘leaked image’) they produce this…

Celtic Away Strip 11-12

Which is a cracking shirt. No broken stipes for a start. The colours are great. Though quite how this is an alternative contrast to Celtic’s already green and white hooped home shirt is anybodies guess.

Werder Bremen

This, I fear, is Nike’s vision of the near future.

Bremen Home and Away 2011/12

I get the horrible feeling that we are going to be seeing more and more of these horribly overdesigned shirts over the next few years. There’s just too much. That orange to dark green fadey liney thing is just plain awful. It looks like that tangerine that you forget at he bottom of the Christmas fruit bowl.

Manchester United

Before I sign off there is a big United shaped elephant in the room. Nike don’t just make United’s kit, they run the whole show for that side of things. Producing all the other associated clothing and apparel that the club makes money from. The current deal cost Nike £303m back in 2000, that deal runs out in 2015. They are in negotiations for continuing the partnership for even more dosh over the coming years. It’s a big deal in every sense of the word.

I’ll state now that I’m well biased against United. I just can’t help it. It’s natural as a Liverpool fan. I’ll try and be objective. Honest.

I can’t really remember a stick out United strip over that time. Good or bad. But I’m biased.

I’ll stick to this years.

Manchester United 2011/12

They are not bad shirts. The home is a solid United shirt. I’m not sold on the collar, it jars a bit against the simplicity. It’s that simplicity, again, that doesn’t quite work. Like the Arsenal shirts there doesn’t seem to be enough quality in the design to fully pull off the minimal look to it’s full potential. There are no subtle flourishes, nothing to get excited about.

It’s the same for the away shirt. Which is fine, but they’ve still managed to dick about with the stripes. Less annoyingly so in this case. Overall though, it’s another meh.

But I’m biased, maybe some United fans could tell me otherwise. (Though I have point out Liverpool have barely had a shirt worth writing about in 20 years either, so it’s not all blind hatred).


If you look back at Adidas’ range you can see that very obvious use of shirt templates. There is an overly obvious ‘look’ about all there shirts. A lot of them come across as paint by number kits, like the clubs have designed them using the companies application rather than designer sitting down and considering the history and importance of the club and it’s fans.

You can’t say that about Nike. It’s not that they don’t have shirt templates, they do. Look back up the page and I can spot maybe two different shirt templates (barring collar changes) used to produce something like 15 shirts. The only comletely different one is the France home shirt.

Despite using the same shirt the Nike designers seem to use it as a canvas to express themselves, rather than a system to constrict. Each shirt brings something different and unique, other than just purely colour. That’s how football shirts should be designed. Every club is as unique as the next, and with the money washing around the game these days it’s the least a fanbase deserves.

Admittedly I don’t like the direction some of Nikes team seem to be taking. Their A team have been set to work on the France and Brazil shirts – I love both of those shirts.

Then you have the broken stripe design team. I don’t think I need to state again home much I loath those stripes.

Then we have the Werder Bremen Mouldy Tangerine Team… 90s designs are coming back, and I don’t like it….

Speaking of 90s designs, next up I’ll have a look at Umbro. During the 90s Umbro produced some of the most heinous football shirt crimes ever committed to 100% polyester. In recent times they have been a completely reformed character, it should be interesting.