The Design of Football 2011/12: The Others

posted on October 28th, 2011 by Anthony

I was going to title this part of the shirt odyssey “The Best of the Rest”… but that’s probably not entirely true. It’s mopping some of the other smaller manufacturers that are out there trying to compete with the big four in clothing the professional teams of the world.

First let’s start with an old favourite…

Admiral

You can’t mention Admiral without referencing this…

1982 England shirt

Admiral only had the rights to producing the England shirt for about nine years. They only produced two shirts. That one, above, was voted the greatest of all time. It’s odd because the team of the time were hardly world beaters, and the design is tarred with the relative failure of Espana 82. Also, as a general rule, dicking about with the White Shirt ends in epic failure. That shirt somehow managed to transcend all that.

Admiral, in one form or another, have been around since 1914. During the 70s they were pretty massive and supplied shirts to some of the biggest teams around. You can honestly say the brand has iconic status in the UK.

Which it makes it more odd that no one can seemingly keep the brand in business. Over the past 20 years it has changed hands several times, even being owned by the Swiss at some point. But it’s back again, this time under the stewardship of ‘The Axis Sports Group‘ who seem to be making the right sort of noises. Incidentally Axis also own other blast-from-the-past brands such as Sondico (made great keeper gloves) and Patrick (made cheap boots).

Things are starting slowly mind, with just two teams having kit supplied by the old marque.

Walsall

Walsall 201 2012

Well. You’ve got to start somewhere. They’re hardly iconic shirts. Solid enough, fine for Walsall, but not exactly exciting. I do appreciate a good diagonal on a footy shirt, but it looks a little cluttered on the away shirt – but it’s not a bad attempt..

Club Bolivar

Somewhat bizarrely Admiral’s other contract is with the Bolivian Champions.

Club Bolivar 2012

They love a sponsor in South America. Again it doesn’t set the world on fire… but it does the job.

Hopefully the brand can pick up some more teams and get themselves back on track over the coming years.

Lotto

Lotto are another brand that tickles the reminiscing muscle. They have always flirted with being a major player without ever really getting there.

They were founded in Italy in 1973 mainly making tennis shoes for the Italian market. In the 90s however they strode into football and picked up the contracts to supply the magnificent AC Milan team of the era (Gullit etc) , as well as Juve, Napoli, and the Dutch national team among others.

I was surprised, after a quick look on Wikipedia, to find they actually have dozens of teams wearing their apparel these days – mainly in South America and mainland Europe. They have never really had much of hold in the UK, but they have always flitted around with the odd contract, and their boots.

At the moment they do have one Premier League team…

Queens Park Rangers

Not surprising considering their Italian recent ex-owner.

Airline stewardesses from Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia wearing the new club kit

There is a point to the girls in this shot. They are, apparently, flight attendants from the airlines sponsoring the shirts. The new owner of the club also happens to own said airlines.

Anyway the shirts.

The home shirt is fine. A fairly standard hooped shirt really. I generally associate QPR with thicker hoops, but it works OK. I’m not totally sold on the shoulder region, there’s a lot of negative space created by the way the hoops are arranged. It really accentuates the girl’s long neck. The collar, which seems to feature on all three, is a bit  too timid for my liking.

The orange away shirt isn’t doing an awful lot for me either. There’s something about that mix of  that shade of orange and dark blue I find a bit cheap looking. Oh and I really don’t like the massive Lotto marks on the sleeves. It’s just a bit tacky looking really. Mid 90s Oldham comes to mind. It might not be Oldham… but that’s the overwhelming feeling I get from this shirt.

The third away strip is much more interesting. I do approve of a good quartered shirt, and this one isn’t bad. I can’t quite decide if I like the diagonal slash or hate it. It adds a bit of interest, but ruins the quartered effect. Either way it’s by far the best of the three.

I hope they have more than that one template for their other teams.

Fila

How about another blast from the past? I hadn’t realised Fila was an Italian brand too, and to be honest I thought they’d gone out of business. Well they sort of had, with the brand being bought by a South Korean company in 2007.

They now supply kit for six teams world wide, three of them being English.

Blackpool

Blackpool home 2012

You know what? That’s a really good shirt that. We’ll ignore the massive Fila Fs that try to ruin everything and focus on the positives. A classic polo style shirt, with the correct amount of Blackpool tangerine and classy white accents. It’s a nice looking cut, appears to be made of decent material and basically looks great. Even the blue sponsor works well.

If it wasn’t for the sponsor badges it would be pretty perfect.

I won’t subject you to another picture of the slightly scary looking Bojan Djordjic wearing the away kit…

Blackpool away 2011 2012

So here’s an alternative model who is a little softer on the eyes. Sensibly Fila have have just reversed the home kit. Again it looks brilliant, with the added bonus of the sponsor matching the colour scheme perfectly.

Also check out that rather tasty light blue keepers shirt hanging in the background.

Fila I’m Fila-ing your work.

I can’t apologise enough for that. They also do Bournemouth and Notts County’s shirts.

Macron

This was a shock to me, but Macron are also an Italian brand. Another shock was that they have been around since 1971. I honestly thought they were a relatively new manufacturer from the Midlands. It must be that awful name.

I certainly only became aware of their work over the past four or five seasons, especially with teams in the lower levels of English football. In fact they supply kits to over 100 teams world wide, including 22 in England. Admittedly that includes luminaries such as Droylsden, Hastings United and the mighty Lincoln Ladies… but it’s still quite impressive. They apparently also the official supplier to the Football League, but I’m not sure what that means…

They are picking up better teams, however. Leeds United, West Ham United, Sheffield United are all respected, historical clubs that have their kits made my Macron. Further afield they also supply the likes of Monaco, Napoli, Boavista, Mallorca, and Colwyn Bay.

Napoli

The first image that always comes into my head when I think of Napoli is that of Maradonna clothed in the their sky blue, emblazoned with the Mars logo. Iconic is the word, it summed up the money explosion in Italian football in the late 80s, early 90s. Here’s Macron’s take.

Napoli shirts 2011/12
First impressions are good, except the blue is much darker than I would expect for Napoli. It’s nice though. The home shirt in particular has an almost Fred Perry polo feel about it, which is no bad thing. The amount of sponsorship is a distraction, but that isn’t Macron’s fault. Though the club crest is looking a little squashed up there on the right. Almost like it’s running for it’s life from the corporate onslaught. It’s a good solid template. I’m not a fan of the shoulders featuring the Macron icon (it must be an Italian thing?), though the home shirt makes them more subtle.

Although the other shirts use the same template I don’t mind this so much for one team. It gives a nice feel of cohesion, though I prefer the more monochrome treatment of the home shirt. But overall I like them.

West Ham

Claret and blue is one of the great classic colour combinations in football shirts. There’s something just right about it.

West Ham 2011/12
Macron managed not to totally cock it up. There is however a distinctly dated feel about the shirt. Not cool retro, just a feeling they are a few seasons out of fashion. The piping on the shoulder, the round collar, the cuffs – it all feels a bit early to mid 00s. In fact it reminds me of the 2001/03 Derby County Shirt (not sure why that stuck in my memory!). That’s too recent to be retro in my book.

The home shirt just stirs up too many of those memories for me to like it. It’s not an awful design, just a bit old fashioned, and a touch boring. And the Macron shoulder embellishment is even worse when it’s on just one shoulder.

The away shirt is a lot better. I love the horizontal hoops across the middle – that’s a retro effect worth bringing back. The collars and cuffs work much better as one solid colour which make it look a bit more contemporary. Definitely the better shirt.

Carbrini

Another Italian make? Surely?

Er no, Carbrini is apparently part of the JD (nee Sports) empire. I think they should trade names with Macron.

I put Carbrini in the same sort of bracket as Macron, as they both came to attention in about the same timeframe. Again they started small picking up lower league teams and building up a portfolio of teams.

They currently supply seven English teams and St Mirren in Scotland.

Luton Town

Luto are interesting case. They got themselves into an awful financial mess, went into administration, got docked about 327 points, got relegated about 3 divisions, got bought out by Nick ‘TV AM’ Owen, got another 212 point deduction, fought bravely against relegation, failed, ended up in the Conference National. (Some of that might not be 100% factually correct).

Luton Town 2011/12

Oh yes! More lovely 80s retro stylings. Seriously I love that, Great 80s collar, great 80s stripe, a good strong ORANGE, with dark blue accents that actually work (unlike QPRs). Great stuff. A cracking little kit for a Conference side.

St Mirren

St Mirren
The first thing you notice here is the bizarre fact that the shirt is sponsored by a rival company of the actual shirt manufacturer. That’s probably something to do with distribution of Fila products in Scotland… but still weird. The other interesting fact with this shirt is the clubs press release on announcing the deal with Carbrini:

As part of this new relationship there are several exciting developments … In recent seasons the kit design has been based on standard templates that are adapted for the Club. However, for this coming season Carbrini are able to provide St Mirren Football Club with a totally bespoke design which will see us returning to a fully black and white striped kit … no panel on the back! As a result we will also see the return of red numbering on the kit.

That is great work by JD and Carbrini, and if I was the chairman of a smaller club that’s the exact service I would be looking for. It certainly makes Carbrini a much more positive proposition in my eyes. The fact they can also produce a decent strip is also a bonus.

Major plus marks for them there, it’s really changed my perception of their shirts.

Xtep

One thing Admiral and all the other manufacturers and designers mentioned here are going to have to worry about is the rise of the Chinese market. One of these Chinese suppliers, Xtep, are taking things seriously.

Trading since 1999, and floated publicly on the Chinese stock exchange in 2008, Xtep are starting to go hard for the European market, and have signed deals with two fairly major teams.

Birmingham City

Xtep paid £7m to supply Birmingham’s shirts. This probably looked a snip when the Blues snatched that Carling Cup from Arsenal. A few months later it probably looked a bit silly as the team were relegated to the Championship. At least they’re still in the Europa thing.

Birmingham home and away 2011 2012

Birmingham third 2011 2012

Despite that disappointment they’ve still provided some very nice looking kits.

The home shirt especially is a very bang-on-trend (shoot me for that phrase) shirt. OK there’s very little hiding from the fact that they’ve used the current England shirt as inspiration… but it’s a very smart shirt. The slightly muted blue works well.

I have never seen the point of having an away kit that heavily employs the first choice colour. I’m not sure when Birmingham will actually use that one. It’s a classic looking shirt… it just strikes me as being a bit redundant.

Which is why there is the third shirt I suppose. Obviously based on the same template as the away shirt (the same collars and cuffs etc) it again uses a safe classic recipe of pin stripes that a lot of other suppliers are using. This one seems inspired by Liverpool’s current black away shirt from Adidas.

Villarreal

Villarreal 2011 2012 Home Away

I have to say I love the colour of both these shirts.

I also have to say the blue away shirt is very obviously the Birmingham/England shirt. Again it looks great.

The home shirt looks familiar too, it looks very Umbro. Or maybe I’m looking too hard?

One thing that does strike me from this photograph is that both have that Umbro look of weighty quality about them. They are obviously not the cheap, shiny polyester you would perhaps expect from an unknown Chinese manufacturer.

Li-Ning

Another Chinese supplier who are trying to make in roads into other markets is Li-Ning. Li-Ning are a bit further down the road, already having a US headquarters and also fingers in many sports pies.

This year though they have aggressively entered the Spanish market and supply shirts to 3 of the country’s most successful sides (outside of Real and Barcelona).

Sevilla

Sevilla Home 2011 2012It’s hard to draw many conclusions from this home shirt shot (I’ve had trouble sourcing good images for this one). It’s a very simple shirt, from this picture the quality (like the Xtep shirts) seems to be good. I like the slightly shaped collar. I like the general balance of the shirt, and the way red is used to accent small elements throughout. It’s a good effort, it quite Umbroesque again.

They have also produced a special edition of the shirts for Sevilla’s Europa league matches.

Sevilla Europa Home 2011 2012It’s essentially the same shirt, but with a sort of 80s vibe pasted on to the front. The Spanish flag is a nice touch. Overall it’s not hideous, but I do question why it exists…

Sevilla Europa Away 2011 2012The away shirt is hideous. The same trick doesn’t really work. It’s a bit too Tony Tiger, and that flag element just goes missing.

Espanyol and Celta Vigo

Espanyol 2011 2012

Celta Vigo 2011 2012

It actually seems that Li-Ning only have the one template. All of the shirts are basically the same.

The Espanyol shirts shows that they can handle stripes well. The Celta shirt shows an interesting bit of flair with the integrated script. They seem to be very functional shirts.

It would be very easy to write both of these Chinese manufactures off as cheap knock off merchants, and there is an element of that. There certainly isn’t much evidence of genuine design flair. They do, however, seem to have the basic shirt nailed, and that is more than you can say for some of the bigger names in the business.

They are companies to keep an eye on, if they can make strides forward in the design/fashion elements of their shirts then they could be a serious force to reckon with.

COPA

COPA are actually a small dutch company that mainly produce reproduction cotton shirts from the past. Like TOFFS etc in the UK. They make just one actual, real football kit.

Tibet

The Tibet national football team was founded in 2001 and is made up of exiles from the Nation. They are not recognised by FIFA or any other governing body so they are not allowed to play in any official tournaments. This is the aim of the the Tibetan FA.

They did play in the FIFI World Cup – the Federation of International Football Independents – in Germany in 2006. Organised by the German side St Pauli (a cracking club from Hamburg) it featured the likes of Greenland (part of Denmark, but not), North Cyprus, Zanzibar, and Gibraltar. Tibet lost every match, including a 10-0 thrashing by Cyprus.

COPA have made this kit for the team because they love football.

Tibet HomeTibet AwayAnd by God are they just flipping lovely. Seriously. That home shirt is my favourite out of all of this years crop. With such a young nation, with no history, they had the chance to establish the foundation of a national strip – and they nailed it.

Seriously I want this shirt. Not enough to pay £60 for it. But I want it.

Look. Here is the Dalai Flipping Lama with it.

The Dalai Flipping Lama

Lovely story. Lovely shirt.

If the Tibetan FA would like some similar help with their website I’d love to help. Seriously. (I would have posted a link, but it’s toally broken and just downloads a file every time I try to access it).

The rest of the rest

I seriously have to wrap this lot up now, and there are still a few manufacturers of note I haven’t covered. So very quickly here are some others.

Errea

Blimey yet another make I had no idea were Italian. Errea seemingly make lot’s of shirts, for lots of teams worldwide. They’ve flirted with the big time, but have never really cracked a massive team, or done enough design wise to suggest they will. This years Norwich City kit hardly set the world on fire.

Norwich 2012

Sorry Delia.

Reebok

All but out of the game these days. A long way away from the period they made Liverpool’s kit. They were never great, and now Bolton are lumbered with them forever due to the stadium naming rights. Every season they unleash crap kit, after crap kit. Harsh, but true.

Bolton. Le Sigh

See. Eugh.

I know it’s difficult with a team that plays in white, but they get is so, so wrong every season.

Mi-Fit

Mi-Fit is DW Sports (ex Mr JJB man) own brand. Unsurprisingly Wigan, who are owned by Mr DW, have their kit made for them.

Wigan 2011/12

Very quickly, left to right: Meh, Hmmm, Love it.

Le Coq Sportif

Everton. I’m not going to mention the fact the Everton have actually had quite a nice crop of shirts from Le Coq recently. Now they’ve got past the pink period they’re doing quite nicely. The current home shirt is quite classy.

All that good work is totally over shadowed by this:

Camouflage Everton. Bleugh.

Why?

There are some many thing wrong with this I’m not even going to bother to list them.

It’s not as bad as the England one mind.

That’s it. That’s your lot.

Well I say that, I am planning to do another separate round up post, but that may be a while away. I’ve written something like 11,000 word as it is!

This particular post in the series has turned out much longer than I expected, mainly because it turned up some really interesting stories. I hope the length of the post doesn’t mean they got lost.

Anyway that’s the round up of this years kit done. Having said that some teams, like Brazil, have already released new shirts since I started. I’ve massively enjoyed writing this series, and getting the idea out of my system. I ‘ve had some good feedback about them, so I’m glad it’s not just me.

I’m sure I’ll do it again. Just maybe a little less epic next time.

So to recap here are all the articles.