The football shirt. Once the preserve of angry middle aged men, eight pints deep and looking for something to punch. Now, well very much still that, but so, so, so much more. From music festivals to Milan runways, a Premier League replica kit is now more than a mere receptacle for Asian bookmakers to advertise their wares. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking fashion here. And yes, apparently they’re letting me judge that. Here’s what we’ve got so far:
30. Newcastle United, third
We’re not going to delve too deeply into the waters of third kits — that’s simply too many embedded tweets for one webpage to bear, but we have to give a special mention to this particular monstrosity. To paraphrase Community’s Britta Perry, I can excuse sportswashing, but I draw the line at it being done so badly. Come on Newcastle, Castore, PIF and Fun88.
We all know you want to use a 129 year old institution to improve the standing of the Saudi regime, but could you be a bit more subtle than adorning your new club in the Saudi national team kit? Minus a million points for this one.
29. Everton, away
Oh Hummel. Why heeded ye not the words of Coco Chanel before letting this carbuncle leave the factory? Before releasing a kit, take one design feature off. The diamonds with their horizontal lines might have just slipped into the “bit much, but a fun bit of nonsense” category were it not for the three pink vertical lines that slice through them. The arrows on the shorts are a classic design feature of the Danish manufacturer but after last season Everton supporters really do not need to see any arrows pointing downwards.
28. Chelsea, home
The collar, whose squiggles supposedly represent the lion rampant that Ted Drake introduced to the club 70 years ago, is both a bit much and not quite enough. It’s a tentative experiment that goes no further than the buttons, and there are a lot of buttons this year. Really though, the ginormous issue with this kit is the huge whale that has emerged from the impossibility of space, Hitchhiker’s Guide style, to occupy a prime position on Mason Mount’s left arm.
And why does this majestic prince of the sea look like he’s just been told that he’s going on his seventh loan move in as many years and that actually Vitesse Arnhem will be really good for his development?
27. Tottenham, away
If we can channel our inner Michelle Visages here, don’t tell us you’re going to “dare to do bold” and then fail to do so. The only person who might consider this daring is Courage the Cowardly Dog. You’ve just stuck some fluorescent green on a blue and black shirt and stuck the badge in the middle. You’re hardly challenging our preconceived notions of what a football kit might be.
26. Manchester United, away
The black shield around the club crest? No thanks. It just adds to the sense that what is fundamentally a white t-shirt is getting very loud.
25. Aston Villa, home
Chevrons aside, Castore really have delivered Aston Villa home kit v1.0 here, haven’t they? Now no one wants to see unnecessary experimentation for the sake of it, but the Villains have a rich history of jazzy shirts, from their iconic angular 1990 effort to the blue stripes that adorned their kit when they won the Coca Cola Cup.
You know what else Villa had in the 90s? Top tier sponsors. I’m talking LDV Vans, AST Computers, Muller yoghurts. Much as I respect the little car-shaped A that Cazoo have delivered, I can help but want more.
24. Arsenal, home
Aside from the French national team, the whole polo shirt thing just don’t work on football kits. It gives golf — the least stylish of all the sports — energy. The lightning bolts jagging along the collar don’t improve the situation either. Instead it looks like an overactive child with a pair of craft scissors has been given free rein in the Emirates Stadium dressing room.
23. Newcastle, home
Usually, when discussing one of the grand old shirts of English football, you’d say something like, “you can’t really ruin Newcastle’s kit.” But you can. Black and white is a kit designer’s headache, creating all sorts of problems when it comes to the numbering on the back, something that was only truly solved between 1997 and 1999 when Adidas stuck a whopping great black shield on which Alan Shearer’s No.9 could be stuck.
Anyway this is ok enough aside from the extremely loud FUN88 sponsor logo, an aggressive exhortation to merrymaking down at the bookmakers that looks ripped straight from your favorite dystopian vision of the future.
22. Manchester City, away
The fizzing yellow of the sponsors’ logos and City badge pare very nicely with the black and gold, but… you’ve got an iconic template to work with in this callback to the 1969 shirts and all you’ve done is rotate it 45 degrees? It’s enough of a deviation from the classic to mildly annoy without being anything like the sort of bold step that makes this more than more peddling of retro.
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21. Manchester United, home
Adidas”http://www.cbssports.com/”ribbed polo collar with button closure” hasn’t really landed right in 22-23 but if any club can be forgiven these collars it is Manchester United. Sweepstakes on who is going to do a Cantona first? Bruno Fernandes is the early favorite, Harry Maguire the long shot we all want to see.
20. Tottenham, home
After last year’s solid, plain, utterly inoffensive home effort, Tottenham have really let themselves go wild on the design front. Not for them a nice white shirt with the big red logo of Hong Kong insurance firm AIA — who could do them an almighty solid by letting them just rejig the color to anything other than very Arsenalish red — slapped across the chest. No siree. Introducing… some nice blue trim.
19. Leeds, home
Blue and yellow trim? In you go.
18. West Ham, away
Possibly the finest example of Premier League footballer struggling to feign enthusiasm over a new shirt came when Mr. West Ham himself Mark Noble described the club’s 2017-18 third kit as, “a shirt you can wear both to play football and with a pair of jeans”. As ringing an endorsement as one could wish for and one that I am more than happy to echo for this sleek effort. But why stop at just a pair of jeans? Stick a cuban collared shirt over the top. Or why not accessorize with an oversized blazer? The world truly is your oyster.
17. Leicester, home
The white coloring on the collar and three stripes is a touch of class that would look great carried on across the shirt. So would the gold of the manufacturers logo and club badge. Just pick one Leicester!
16. Everton, home
The white armpit patches seem a tacit acknowledgement from Hummel that Frank Lampard’s side will be chasing the ball a lot and that they’re entitled to look at their best whilst doing so. Those downward pointing chevrons are no less concerning on the home than the away though.
15. Crystal Palace, away
As will soon become apparent, this design choice is not one to which we object in its entirety but on the white away kit those blue and red lines running up the center of the shirt look more like the actions of reprobate armed with Crayola than of a highly paid Macron executive.
14. Liverpool, home
After those objectionable orange diagonals spoiled a fine shirt last season, Nike have played it nice and safe (or in their words have delivered a “bold, no nonsense design) with a natty little red number with some of the best custom numbering in the business, modelled below by new signing Darwin Nunez. I’d show you the front of the shirt too but it’s Liverpool, you know what to expect.
13. Southampton, home
As if Erik ten Hag snaffling all their players wasn’t enough, now Ajax have Southampton swooping in to nab their shirt? When will the indignities end? Still, it’s a good look on them.
12. Brighton, away
It’s a mood. You’re strolling along the sea, the late August sun on your back. You might stop for an Aperol Spritz before heading up to the Lanes. A stranger nods as you go by. He rates your shirt. That’s all you need.
11. Manchester City, home
Initially, folks, I had this right the way down in the lower 20s because of what I and only I termed “vertical stacking.” Too much in the middle of the shirt. But I’ve grown to the Fred Perry-ish charms of Puma’s efforts here, in particular that magnificent maroon trim. Or maybe it’s just Jack Grealish. The guy’s a Gucci model after all, he’s just serving you some of that Etihad, sky blue realness.
10. Wolves, home
Arguably there is no better base template in the English top division than Wolves’ home kit. They’ve a color palette they don’t have to share with anyone else, but most importantly they have a wolf, universally acknowledged to be the coolest animal. Castore have not messed it up. How could they?
9. Bournemouth, home
If it feels like Bournemouth are back too early for the Premier League to have missed them, at least we can take solace in this corker of a kit getting a top flight canvas. It’s hard to imagine many items of clothing that wouldn’t be improved with lightning bolts on it. I am, however, obliged to subtract points for the random patch of red on the shorts. By the way, does anyone ever actually buy the full kit anymore? All these ads of the players wearing the new shirt in jeans…
8. Wolves, away
It’s not often you see a kit that you could imagine wallpapering your study with. Scratch off that Astropay logo though…
7. Arsenal, away
At the start of the 2019-20 season I found myself sat in a presentation by Adidas’ lead designers in which they explained the extraordinary lengths they went to to find inspiration for their new kits, from local coats of arms to the fonts at stadia past and present, all just to make a t-shirt. It paid off then and has paid off again today, what might have been a boilerplate black away kit elevated by the subtle detailing from the Arsenal sign at Emirates Stadium. The hard work paid off.
6. Brentford, home
Yes Brentford! The Bees are embracing what was once the common practice of giving their home kit two years before updating it, saving fans something north of £50 for what would be another red and white striped shirt. So far in these rankings we’ve tried not to overdo the corporate speak but on this occasion let’s give the floor to Brentford chief executive Jon Varney.
“Respectful, Progressive and Togetherness are our three core values at Brentford FC, as many of our fans know,” said Varney. “We also believe in football being affordable for our fans and are aware of the need for the game to become more focused on sustainability. As such, when we discussed the idea, everyone at the club was fully behind it. Whilst it is not normal practice for Premier League clubs to roll a kit over for two seasons, fans have told us that they would be in favor of the savings that a two-season shirt would provide.
“This season, our membership of the Premier League means that the income we receive from broadcast and commercial partnerships far outweighs the income we can generate from retail, therefore now is the perfect time for us to try something different without it having a material impact on our revenue.”
5. Nottingham Forest, home
If there’s one thing that eclipses a shirt on its second season it’s one that has been cleansed of sponsors. Of course there are some acts of football-industrial synergy that just work. No Arsenal fan will remember O2 anything but fondly; for some Standard Chartered might be a multinational bank, for others it is a sign of the years when Liverpool got their groove back.
Still one look at both Forest kits (for the time being) shows you how much happier we could all be if our chests were advert free. We can but hope that Dane Murphy and company are unable to find a corporate partner that is to their liking.
4. Liverpool, away
In the UK at least this has been the summer of the bucket hat and nothing is giving me that energy quite like Liverpool’s music-inspired away number. You can already see them massed in the south east corner of Glastonbury next summer.
3. Crystal Palace, home
Now we’re talking, an upgrade from good to great with this home kit and its Saturday morning cartoon stylings. A personal highlight, the little pockets along the red where the felt tip pen presumably ran out of juice. But most of all this feels like a shirt that reflects the identity of the players and club it represents: not always the most reliable but vibrant, different and an awful lot of fun.
2. Nottingham Forest, away
Everything we said about the home kit but now with more vibrant colouring and the ironworks pattern off the Trent Bridge. Two out of the top three for the Italian sportswear upstart? Sing it! “Macron’s on fire, Adidas is terrified”. Just me eh?
1. Southampton, away
An immediate classic of the genre, already destined for the “how much???” category on retro football shirt merchants the world over. It is objectively mad, the River Solent reimagined as an ancient deity, the sort of trickster that would whisk away unsuspecting heroes who failed to correctly answer their riddle.
I’m not one to get carried away but I think it is safe to say that this is the single greatest artistic endeavour based around a body of water that humanity has ever created. The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Bruce Springsteen’s The River, Moby Dick, Surf’s Up: Southampton have beaten them all.
And there you have it, the best and the rest. Do you agree? What’s your favorite shirt? Have I always been biased against your club anyway and this is just another sign? Drop a comment below… I’m hearing we don’t actually do comments. Oh well. I guess we’ll never know.
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