Wednesday, 5 August 2015

[50GFSE] #4 - Denmark 1986-87 Home Shirt by Hummel

Stick out your thumb and hitch a ride, everybody - we're heading for Classic Shirt Territory with the latest entry in our 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever countdown.

Today we bring you the brilliant red home shirt worn by Denmark in 1986 and 1987.

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First worn in the Danes' final World Cup warm-up match against Poland in May of that year, it immediately made an impact with its creative use of pinstripes and contrasting halves, accompanied by the traditional Hummel chevrons running along the sleeves.

But what makes this a superb example of football shirt design rather than garish monstrosity? The 50GFSE panel give you their thoughts...

[Chris:] If any shirt can be symbolised by the word 'flair', it's this one. With its pinstripes, halved sections and chevrons on the sleeves, it has all the ingredients to be a complete dog's dinner, yet remarkably it combines into a stunning whole.

I can remember seeing this for the first time during the 1986 World Cup and being amazed at its brilliant, modern-looking appearance. It just oozed class, as did the players that wore it. The brilliant part, however, was that it used less of Denmark's traditional red colour by distracting you with all the pinstripes and other details. Heck, even the navy blue piping along the collar and across the shoulders was wonderful to behold.

The smaller proportion of red soon became apparent when Denmark changed their shirt design again in 1987. A return to solid colour was inevitable, and it was only then that you realised how clever the two-tone shading of this shirt really was.

For me, this is exactly what football shirt design should be about: interesting detail, a good use of colour and original in its styling.

[Rich:] The insanity of late-80's / early-90's shirt design is usually regarded as starting with the Holland '88 shirt, but the seeds were sown two years before with the shirt Denmark worn at Mexico '86.

While this template has already been seen in the Top 50, this is the original (and still the best as some would say). While shirt technology at the time meant more and more intricate detailing was finding its way onto kits, the designs themselves were still relatively safe. Then along came Hummel and just blew everything else out of the water!

It's worth noting that the original shorts that went with this top were also halved, but with the blocks reversed, culminating in a design only a sociopathic harlequin would wear. Even today it's a design that would divide opinion, which after 30 years, surely says something about its impact. It may have been a template that got used over and over, but the Denmark incarnation is a bona fide classic... as demonstrated by the price they now fetch on eBay!

[John:] The only thing I really knew about the Danish side in the 80's was the presence of Jan Molby and Jesper Olsen in the side and the fact they always had superb kits, which were of course back then always supplied by their fellow countrymen, Hummel.

Back in the decade that style forgot (although interestingly as our line up reveals, this didn't apply on the football pitch) this ground-breaking design divided opinion almost as neatly as it divided the red and white on the shirt.

Thankfully now good sense prevails and this jaw dropping outfit is rightly regarded as a classic.

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

[50GFSE] #5 - Liverpool 1985-87 Home Shirt by adidas

Our 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever countdown has reached the last five - the best five shirts, according to the beliefs of the judging panel. For that reason and that reason alone, we thought we'd share all of our comments for each of the last five shirts, rather than letting one of us divulge our thoughts as a representative for the panel.

With that in mind, we enter the home straight beginning with Shirt No.5 - the Liverpool home shirt worn between 1985 and 1987.
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Directly following the ground-breaking pinstriped design introduced in 1982, this adidas offering might have struggled to match the success of its predecessor, and yet it proved more than popular. So what were its redeeming features and why is it deserving of such high praise in our countdown? Here's what we thought...

[Rich:] The first ever football match I watched on TV was the 85/86 FA Cup Final, where the team, supported by half my family, lifted the trophy in this excellent shirt, To me it is the ultimate 80's football shirt - a classic V-neck with multi-coloured trim, super shiny fabric, a detailed shadow print, vibrant colour and finally a memorable, but not super-corporate, solid British sponsor. As if it wasn't perfect enough, adidas had their famous three stripes adorning only the shoulders, rather than running all the way down the sleeves... and once more were outlined in yellow, rather than just plain white. This shirt saw Liverpool do the double, though for the following season (after I'd abandoned them for Coventry... probably a coincidence), the blue half of Merseyside took the league title and some plucky upstarts won the FA Cup. The 80s... crazy times and super shirts!

[Chris:] I'll be honest. This isn't my favourite Liverpool shirt ever. That would be the one that preceded this - the famous 'pinstripes' kit created by Umbro. When this one arrived in 1985, however, it was like an acknowledgement that football kit design had reached full maturity. After the extravagant flair of the 70's and the tentative styles of the early 80's, adidas showed with this shirt that it was finally time to get serious about looking good on the field.

Everything about this shirt says 'grown up'. The shadow pattern, the detailed trim, the use of yellow as a generous nod to the Umbro away kit used between 1982 and 1985... it all embodied a big leap forward to leave behind those 'so yesterday' pinstripes. A fine shirt and one of Liverpool's greats.

[John:] As a young Liverpool fan when the news came out that the club had signed a deal with adidas, I could almost not comprehend that Umbro, who had accompanied the Reds throughout their glory days, would not be producing the team kit.

The anticipation to see what adidas would do with the famous red was almost too much to bear. When I first saw the strip though, unveiled via a double page-poster in Match magazine, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was a stunner. And the away and third kits that also appeared on the poster were pretty decent too.

Style personified - with the merest touch of yellow bringing to life the trim and the innovative Liver Bird and adidas trefoil logo shadow pattern, it was truly magnificent and, at least in my eyes, it was better than the Umbro kits that preceded it.

The task facing adidas in 1985 was huge but they passed with flying colours.

[Jay:] Aside from seconding the words of my esteemed colleagues, there's not a whole lot I can say about this shirt. adidas just simply got it right in the 1980s, and the subtle combination of white and yellow trim, along with definitive versions of the adidas logo and simple Liver bird ("L.F.C.") crest, with hindsight, propels this offering into the stratosphere of shirt design. adidas knew this, and added a - we'll assume knowingly - inaccurate recreation of this release to their Originals range a few years ago. That was disappointing, as I wouldn't want to change a single stitch on this masterpiece.

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

The Football Attic Podcast 26 - 50GFSE 30-21

OK we're already into the Top 5 of the 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever! and we're only just getting to chat about shirts 30-21, but hey, we're human and need holidays! These tans don't come out of a bottle ya know!

This time, Jay was unavailable so for baselayer fans out there (no-one!), you'll have to go elsewhere for your weird fetish! Deviants!

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy Chris, rich & John Devlin waffling on about shirts once more...REPRAZENT!

Subscribe to The Football Attic Podcast on iTunes or download our podcast here.

Monday, 3 August 2015

[50GFSE] #6 - Juventus 1985 Home Shirt by Kappa

When anyone mentions this shirt, it immediately conjures up several names: Platini, Laudrup, Ariston, Tardelli... and er... Rush... maybe...

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There's no doubt this is an iconic shirt, a stone cold classic, but this Top 50 isn't necessarily about iconic shirts - it's about the greatest designs ever, so can it still hold its own on that front?  The answer is OF COURSE IT DAMN WELL CAN!!!!  Just look at the bloody thing!!!! It's beautiful! How dare you even question it?!?! GO TO YOUR ROOM!!!!

Let's put some context around this... and this is where the line between iconic and great start to blur, so forgive me if I occasionally stray into iconography.

This shirt is from an era when the world was a huge place, where 'foreign' football was a strange and mysterious beast, only occasionally glimpsed in a football weekly when a famous Brit went abroad (see Ian Rush) or at the end of a season when a televised European Final involved a British team.

Back then, overseas teams had strange sounding names and wore weird looking kits made by companies with odd names. Kappa? Diadora? Ennerre (NR)? Part of what made this kit so great was its uniqueness to our British eyes. It just oozed foreign flair and could only have existed overseas. Yes, the top flight in Blighty may have been awash with V-necks, but none plunged so deep as this and ended in a flat wrapover. It was all just so... so foreign! So yes, sometimes it's near impossible to separate a shirt from its iconic status, but in design terms alone, it deserves its place.

The overall design is simple with black and white stripes all over - no contrasting sleeve design, no cut out for numbers on the back, just solid black and white everywhere. And oh those stripes! Personally, and probably due to this shirt, I prefer Juventus in thin stripes. It's again something that made this shirt different as most stripes in the UK at the time were of the thicker variety and even now, the thinner stripe is a rarity, helping to make this stand out from the crowd even more.

The shirt was finished, as mentioned, with a very deep V-neck, topped off with a neat collar. The depth of the neckline caused the shirt to pull apart quite wide when worn, further adding to the strange look. Those fancy foreigners, looking all stylish, showing off their toned chests... the cheek of it!

One final detail which, though not strictly part of the shirt design, undeniably indelibly linked with this period, is the name mentioned at the beginning. Not Platini, nor Laudrup, but Ariston. The white goods manufacturer whose name, similarly with Candy I suspect, would not have been anywhere near as well known over here had it not been for the exposure gained by adorning the shirts of Notts County B.

And so, with its affirmation as one of the Greatest Football Shirts Ever here, Juventus' 85 shirt's appeal goes on... and on and on and on...

Written by Rich Johnson (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

[50GFSE] #7 - France 1984-86 Home Shirt by adidas

It's not often you can say that a football shirt is so good that it prompts a number of later tributes to be released, but that's what we have here. France's home shirt, most commonly associated with their winning Euro 84 campaign, was rubber-stamped as a classic when its national team finally staked its claim to be one of the best in the world, and with good reason.
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This was unquestionably one of those moments when you wondered why a shirt with just a few simple elements hadn't been thought of before. It is, at the end of the day, just a blue shirt with one broad red stripe, three thinner white ones below it and three more along the sleeves (as seen on all adidas shirts at the time). So why is it such a beautiful thing?

Perhaps it's that red stripe - the first time red had ever been used on a France shirt as a bold feature in its own right (save for a bit of trim on the collar in the late-'60s/early-'70s). Perhaps it was the three white stripes below - sweeping away the pinstripes of previous shirts with a simplified, bolder look, rotated through 90 degrees. More likely, it seems, it was the sheer fact that the twin-colour twin-thickness nature of the stripes had never been tried before, let alone designed with such panache.

French football was undoubtedly on the rebound in 1984. The national side was growing with stature as, from the late 1970's, an increasing number of talented players emerged and coalesced into a team capable of playing exceptionally beautiful football. In the 1982 World Cup, France reached the semi-finals, but in the European Championships they hosted two years later, they won the competition outright. They did so playing the same brand of elegant football, and this time, wearing a shirt that was the envy of every other team.

With a small winged collar in blue and the classic FFF badge proudly sat on the red stripe, this was a design that reinforced the bleu-blanc-rouge national colours at the perfect moment in time. Even on the white away shirt (where the main stripe was blue above thinner red stripes below), no sense of elegance was lost - in fact one wonders why many other teams didn't apply their own colours to such a strong template. It's not illogical to suggest this must have been a bespoke design created specifically for France by adidas, and if that's true, you'd have to say the exclusivity was worth every franc.

Such was the synonymity with greatness that this shirt had, it was no real surprise that someone somewhere used nostalgia to bring it back to life several years later. It finally happened in 1998 when France hosted the World Cup, and incredibly even this adidas homage was forged with glory as the likes of Blanc, Deschamps and Zidane lifted the trophy for the first time in the country's history.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, adidas retained the classic red stripe from the '84 shirt and used it again and again. It appeared in a stylised, reinvented form on the France shirt for Euro 2000 (another win), Euro 2004, Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 (the last adidas shirt before Nike replaced them in 2011). Notable these days by its absence, it became almost an essential element of many France shirts over a 25-year period.

The irony, however, is that the original classic version from Euro 84 was only ever worn in just 14 matches. It didn't even last two full years of service - a scandalous waste for a shirt that's as recognisable as any other in our 50 Greatest Football Shirts countdown. As PT Barnum once said, though, 'always leave them wanting more'... and when it comes to quality design like this, we can never really hope to get enough.

Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

[50GFSE] #8 - Newcastle United 1995-97 Home Shirt by adidas

It’s not uncommon to associate certain football shirts with a winning period in a team’s history – Argentina in 1986 or Manchester United in 1993, for instance – but association with a particular player is an overlooked phenomenon that happens almost as often. In the case of Newcastle United’s home shirt for 1993-1995, it will always (for me at least) be associated with one player and one player alone – Alan Shearer.

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Not that a single player can elevate a shirt to greatness single-handedly. It just so happens that this one came completely out of the blue and was unlike so many others in its design. What sealed its place in the memories of so many, however, was when it appeared on the wiry frame of the world’s most expensive player when presented to Newcastle fans in 1996.

But let’s put Alan Shearer to one side for a moment (or as long as I can stretch this article out for, at the very least). This shirt, produced by adidas in 1995, was a vision of sublime simplicity. Its main feature was a white grandad collar which, without the aid of any other complementary elements, was enough to get the football kit design fraternity into something of a tizz.

To put this into perspective, hardly any other shirt before it had dared to implement a grandad collar in the entire history of British football. The only other one that springs to mind was also made by adidas and appeared a year earlier in the form of Liverpool’s green and white quartered away shirt.

Newcastle United’s version had a long hem containing three buttons up to the neckline, and again it’s worth mentioning that, along with the collar, it was white. That’s because all of Newcastle’s shirts since the late-1960’s had featured a collar that was either completely black or had some form of black trim. This one was all the better for being completely colourless and set the tone for understated style that permeated the rest of the garment.

The black and white stripes were also on show, as you’d expect, and the width of those stripes were absolutely spot on in my view. They were wide enough to frame not only the Newcastle badge – still just seven years on from its introduction – but also the manufacturer’s logo in name form only, set on its own black strip. As a final flourish, the iconic three stripes of adidas also made an appearance, but in reverence to the club and its history, they started and finished only on the arms rather than extending to the shoulders and neck.

Throw in an all-new Newcastle Breweries logo to replace the old blue star from previous seasons and you have an excellent shirt that took pride of place among many other great alternatives for the St James’ Park club during the 1990’s. Looking every bit as smart on Alan Shearer’s back as it did on your own, this was another great example of how ingenuity at the design stage can make for a truly stand-out football shirt.

Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Friday, 31 July 2015

[50GFSE] #9 - Africa Unity 2010-11 Third Shirt by Puma

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This is one of those shirts that frequently finds itself on those lazy 'worst football kits' lists that get trotted out by the papers every season when one club or another releases something different.

In addition to this, it's whole concept could be described as at the extreme of superfluousness, so why is it not only in the Top 50, but also in the Top 10 Greatest Football Shirts Ever?

Two predominant reasons...

One: Purely on aesthetics / design - Coming in the form of the standard Puma template for all the African teams at the time, it's rendered in sky blue, fading down into brown. Now, aside from these both being quality colours (check out the Attic logo), I'm a sucker for a fade effect. The colours aren't just a matter of whatever the designer fancied that day, they actually have meaning - the sky blue representing the African sky and the brown the African soil. A nice touch and one with some actual thought behind it.

Two: The concept. No I don't mean the sky / soil thing. The idea behind this kit's existence was peace and unity. As the title suggests, this was an African kit - Africa, of course, being a continent and not a single nation. The shirt was therefore designed to be worn by ANY African country* as a third shirt and indeed, the replica versions came with iron-on crests for all African nations*.

Alongside each individual country's badge, there was an Africa Unity crest on the left of the shirt. Replica versions also all came pre-printed with the number 10 and the word 'Africa' where the player's name would usually be,

(* supplied by Puma)

As it turns out, the shirt saw hardly any action, being used in only a handful of games, usually friendlies, so when it came to the ideal world stage of the 2010 World Cup, the first ever held in Africa, the kit, and with it the grand ideal of African unity, was nowhere to be seen.

Written by Rich Johnson (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Retro Rewind - 'So Near, So Far: The 1991/92 Manchester United Season Review' (VHS)

Once again, ladies and gents, you're in for a treat as we welcome back Dave Burin to give you a review of a VHS tape aimed mainly at nostalgic Man United fans...
"What a goal from Clayton Blackmore.  He loves it, and so do the crowd!"

All these years later, I still love the famously oversexed full back's rocket of a strike, at a hostile Elland Road  It's been a shade over 23 years since this VHS first hit the shelves, just after the end of a season where triumph and despair mingled together uneasily amidst the rubble of the old Stretford End, pulled down after a final day victory in a 3-1 dead rubber tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

Whilst Manchester United's Class of '92 embodied a freak of nature, a youth side compiled of numerous future Premier League stars, its story was almost timeless. The gaggle of Giggs, Beckham, Gary Neville and even Robbie Savage, would have made headlines in 1965 or 2015 for the abundance of natural talent on display. But the story of that season's first team and the backdrop to their matches feels more definite. It feels more 1992 than the Class of '92's story. It's become a common cliché, but there's relevance to the argument that this was the last year of old football - depending on who you ask, perhaps, 'proper football'.

With the hindsight of time, and the club's enormous success in the intervening 23 years, watching through the build-up to our most infamous title collapse feels more like an exercise in nostalgia than an act of self-masochism. The title cards for each game mix brightly coloured scrapbook animation with short glimpses of the action to come, like some ill-advised crossover between The Big Match and Saved by the Bell.

With the distance of time, what seemed standard then, now seems lovably quaint. Sheffield United were sponsored by Laver, a timber company, because financial corporations and loan companies were simply not manly enough for Sheffield. During United's away game at Oldham Athletic, Denis Irwin jubilantly celebrates a goal whilst a woman walks along the touchline pushing a trolley which seems to be conveying a large vat of soup. What a time to be alive!

Even the names of certain opposition goalscorers evoke a sense of cosy familiarity - some long forgotten, but instantly conjuring up memories of half time Bovril, obscenely short shorts, Shoot! magazine and any other clichés you'd like to add to that list. Frank McAvennie. Nigel Jemson. Mike Milligan. Even Ian Rush's 'tache feels vaguely historic, a remnant of a time when the giants of the English game cribbed their facial grooming tips from Ron Jeremy. This was also a time before the choreographed monotony of the synchronised celebration. Steve Bruce flaps his arms like an overly-excitable eagle, after each goal he scores. It's the way things should be.

On that note, I should probably talk a bit about the football - and more specifically, the brand of football United played. Despite the eventual disappointment of the league campaign, there were magic moments. Young Ryan Giggs nets a stunning solo goal in a 3-0 home triumph over Norwich City. The Reds produce a slightly reckless attacking masterclass at Boundary Park, beating Oldham 6-3.  A 5-0 trouncing of an admittedly dire Luton Town (see left). Bryan Robson's late, great winner at White Hart Lane. This was a side that embodied excitement and entertainment. Harry Redknapp would have called them "T'riffic".

But, for all their attractive football, neither Man United nor eventual champions Leeds needed to be that good all of the time. Whilst in the big money, high-pressure Premier League of 2015, serious mistakes are something of a rarity, on the boggy pitches of 1992's First Division, they were alarmingly frequent.

In this one review video alone, Sheffield Wednesday's defenders clatter into each other on the goal line after a terrible backwards pass, and Brian McClair sneaks in to score. A Luton Town defender falls over his feet, leading to a United goal. Spurs stopper Ian Walker kicks the ball about four yards to limply set up a United goal. Peter Schmeichel concedes a few goals by just standing around the box looking slightly bored, as if waiting for a delayed bus to arrive.

It's all interspersed with interviews, of course. These were the dark days before a gurning Jim White held Sky Sports News hostage interviewing surprised players through car windows, and before United's centre backs could post every ridiculous thought they had on Twitter (love you really, Rio!). Bryan Robson is interviewed in what appears to be his living room. A reflective Alex Ferguson talks with a surprisingly resigned sadness about the season past. "We're not looking for excuses" he says, with a shrug of the shoulders.

The last jubilant moments take place at Bramall Lane and Wembley. The away victory against The Blades is a moment of pure, joyous early '90s emotion. The screen is awash in slightly fuzzy figures leaping over the terracing barriers, a unified mass of oversized padded jackets, technicolour shellsuits and uniform bowl cuts.  No hipster combovers here.

The footage in the build-up to the Rumbelows Cup Final is perhaps the most interesting feature of all. It's a document of how much everything has changed. Club officials eating a fried breakfast on the train with eager young lads in face paint and carrying homemade flags and banners. Workers at Manchester's Victoria station wearing red rosettes reading 'Good Luck United!'  It feels like another world to the football where Manchester City spend £49 million on an unspectacular player and parade him in front of a stage-managed set of 'fans'.

United win the Final 1-0 against Nottingham Forest. The trophy is presented by the 'Rumbelows Employee of the Year' - because apparently selling lots of computer keyboards translates into getting to give Steve Bruce a trophy. Anyway, it's a nice touch. Paul Ince is wearing a bucket hat. Peter Schmeichel is wearing a fez and throwing the kit man into a full bath in the dressing room. By this point I'm trying not to think too hard about the football - because I know what's coming next.

Even now, the last 10 minutes of this VHS review feel akin to the culmination of a shlocky but especially grisly horror movie. The fun part is over. Something horrific is about to happen, and though part of you wants to avoid it, you continue watching - compelled - knowing that the smiling faces will turn to masks of despair. United lose twice to Nottingham Forest. They lose at West Ham. Some pretentious git named Cantona keeps scoring for Leeds, and they go on to lift the title. It's all rather grim.

Alex Ferguson flashes back onto the screen, immaculate in jacket and tie. "The demands... of everyone means you have to win titles," he says meaningfully. Over the following two decades, those demands would be met and surpassed with incredible regularity. Even in 1993, though, winning the Premier League would feel somehow different to winning the First Division. Not better or worse, simply other.

The moustaches would be trimmed. The acid blue away kit would be retired, and left to the nostalgists and curios. The pitches would improve. Even the season review soundtrack, here a pleasant enough background noise which probably appeared on old PC screensavers, would get an upgrade. The times, they were a changin'.

Even if you're not a Man United fan, we're sure you'll agree that Dave's reminder of how things were back in the early-'90s was very evocative and a really great read. Thanks Dave!

If you want to catch more of Dave's guest posts at the Attic, you'll find the links below, or if you want to follow him on Twitter, be sure to find Dave at @GoldenVision90.

More from Dave Burin:

Thursday, 30 July 2015

[50GFSE] #10 - England 1980-83 Home Shirt by Admiral

There's no written rule that says football shirts have to reflect the fashion trends of the era in which they're born, and yet many do. Think of the football shirts of the 1960's: basic, functional, unshowy... Until Twiggy started wearing spangly mini-skirts, the word 'flair' hadn't even been invented.

Then when the 1970's arrived, colour flooded into everything from TV programmes to home décor as creativity and imagination underpinned art, architecture, clothing and much more besides.

And after that, the 1980's came along, where fashions became... well... 'sensible.' But you know what? By the early 1980's, we all needed a bit of sensible. It was time to take stock of what had gone before and forge ahead with understated design that was modern and sleek without being ostentatious.

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This was the very essence of how England's 1982 World Cup shirt came to be. Thanks to Admiral Sportswear, the England team had moved from basic unambiguity to tentative boldness with their 1974 kit, but six years down the track, it was time embrace a new decade. Out went the old-fashioned stripes down the sleeves and in came silky polyester, a continental-style collar and bold shoulder panels.

Naturally enough, it rubbed a few people up the wrong way. BBC TV commentator Barry Davies, upon seeing England wearing the new kit for the first time against Argentina in 1980 said "England wearing their new kit today... although why it has to have all the colours of the Union Jack is beyond me." Truth be told, the previous kit had also featured the same red, white and blue, but the shirt was predominantly white. Now... well... this.

The thing is, half the world's football teams seemed to be wearing the three stripes of Adidas on their shirts by this point, and very stylish they looked too. Adidas had become THE football brand to wear, whereas Admiral... well, to put it politely, their day had been and gone. Their iconic designs of the 1970's reflected the decade perfectly but were suddenly out of step with the 1980's. Even this new shirt that would go on to be worn at the 1980 European Championships and the 1982 World Cup somehow didn't have the allure that Adidas could provide.

And yet, we all missed the point and still do. At the start of the 1980's, fashion trends were becoming more modest, more muted, more... 'M&S'. Shirts didn't need wide collars, fiddly detail and wacky colours. This was a new era where 'modern' and 'smart' were the watchwords, and the new England shirt embodied those values perfectly.

Finally, let it not be forgotten that you, our knowledgeable Football Attic audience, have already declared this your favourite England shirt of the last 50 years - a considerable achievement given its attachment to a fairly ho-hum period in English football history. What it does attach itself to, and perhaps why it's already proven to be so popular, is its forward-looking modernity symbolising hope for a bright new future. Yes, football shirt design was capable of being technically better or more exciting, but this was the right shirt at the right time, and executed with great discretion to boot.

So there we have it: a shirt whose greatness has been earned through its imperfection, you might say. Not as stylish as Adidas with all their fancy pinstripes, but a neat 'of its era' shirt worn with pride by dozens of players from John Barnes to Kevin Keegan - and there can be no doubt: they all looked absolutely bloody great in it.

Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

[50GFSE] #11 - Wales 1976-79 Home Shirt by Admiral

It's time once again for us to welcome a guest writer into the 50GFSE fold, namely Simon Shakeshaft - Welsh football fan and an esteemed authority on the many and varied shirts worn by the national team. Here he is to discuss a classic vision in red, gold and green...

On this countdown the ‘template’ word has already appeared on a number of occasions. This Admiral shirt design is another one of those, a template. No disrespect to Eintracht Frankfurt, Dundee, Saudi Arabia, Vancouver Whitecaps or even Coventry City who actually had it first (even in their infamous shade of russet), but this is probably the most recognisable.
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The FAW joined the pioneering shirt designer’s revolution in 1976, just as the replica shirt market started to really take off, donning the same iconic Admiral ‘tramlines’ design until the end of the decade.

The colour combination of all red with the two arched ‘tramlines’ stripes in yellow and green, from the shoulders vertically down each side of the shirt’s front, was perfect for a Wales shirt. What separated this one from others in this template was the Welsh dragon crest placed centrally on the chest. The Admiral logo had to be moved onto the winged collar, meaning they could use two, and this appeared to give the shirt more of a balanced look.

Remember the tramlines were even more enhanced by the fact they continued down the front of the matching red shorts. A great colour combination for a Wales shirt, although I'm not quite sure about Admiral’s marketing explanation for the colours. ‘Red for the dragon’, yes... ‘yellow, for the daffodil - Wales’ national flower’, yes ok... ‘green for the leek, the national vegetable’... Seriously!!!  Not totally necessary justification for an 11-year-old - after all, Wales away colours were traditionally yellow with a green trim and I don’t think Umbro use of those colours’ would have been explained in quite the same way in 1949. The away kit of this design was another beauty, a reverse of home in the traditional daffodil yellow with tramlines in red and green.

By the mid-Seventies, the Welsh national football team were enjoying a bit of a purple patch, the only one of the home nations to qualify for the quarter finals of the 1976 European Championships and a controversial failure to qualify for Argentina ’78 World Cup due to the hand of Jordan.

It was a great time to wear your replica Admiral Wales shirt with pride, although it was also a time when it was deemed semi-acceptable to see non-Welsh kids wearing the shirt, such was its appeal. In the late Seventies - and early Eighties, if you’re English - Admiral replica shirts carried the same status that, later, a pair of Jordan Air Max did.

You weren't really fazed by the scratchy, itchy, small electric shock of the nylon material or the fact that your previously shiny vinyl crest and logos cracked and peeled after Mum washed it for the umpteenth time. Wind forward 25 years from when I first held a cotton player’s shirt in my hand and imagine my joy in finding out these also came in an aertex perforated hole variety... it was nearly too much to take! The cloth crest, logos and numbers stitched to the shirt were a work of art and that buzz, even today, is still the same.

If you missed the Seventies replica shirt boom, you probably don’t really get all the fuss made about Admiral Sportswear, but for those that were there, many are now iconic classic shirt designs. For me and many other Welshmen, the Wigston factory in Leicestershire produced the finest Wales shirt of all time.

Our grateful thanks to Simon 'Shakey' Shakeshaft. He can be followed on Twitter here and his website, Wales Match Shirts, contains everything you need to immerse yourself in the wearable history of Yorath, Giggs, Southall and many, many more.