Umbro’s Archive Photo Collection

Posted by John Devlin

I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted here but if any of you have not yet checked out Umbro’s page showing literally hundreds of their past shirts then I urge you to do so immediately!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/umbrofootball/page1/

Its a truly magnificent collection with some beautiful photography that collates some common and not so common shirts from the Umbro archive. Some new photos have just gone up. If you want to see some vintage shirts, many in immaculate condition then its well worth a visit.

Coventry City Home Shirt 1972-1974

Coventry City Home Shirt 1972-1974

West Bromwich Albion Away 1977-1982

West Bromwich Albion Away 1977-1982


Melchester kits now updated to 1986

Posted by John Devlin

The Melchester kits article now runs to 1986 – the remainder of the kits should be up by the end of the weekend – so keep checking!


Premier League Kit Rules

Posted by John Devlin

I’ve just posted an article on the Premier League’s official rules on kit clashes…it makes interesting reading:

http://www.truecoloursfootballkits.com/truecolours/premier-league-rules-on-kits


Premier League rules on kits

Posted by John Devlin

A while ago friend of the site Phil sent me some really useful info on Premier League kit 08-09 rules. With all the talk here about kit clashes etc I thought it might make interesting reading. He makes the following observations.

1. There is no rule stating that a marketed strip must be worn. Therefore don’t be surprised if some kits are never used.
2. 3rd kits may only be worn if the Premier League gets notice in writing at least 7 days prior to the match in question.
3. There is no definition of a kit clash. Its up to the kit managers and then match officials, hence the inconsistency.
4. Surprisingly, there is already a rule in place saying change kits can only be worn in away matches and when there is a clash. Only the match officials can give permission for a change.
5. A change kit may only be worn a maximum of EIGHT times during one season unless necessity suggests otherwise. This decision lies with match officials.
6. A home and away kit must be presented to the Premier League at least 4 weeks before the season starts, hence why unexpected kit clashes fail to revive previous seasons kits.

I’ve cut and pasted the relevant text taken from the Premier League 08-09 Handbook – available for free download from their website:

http://www.premierleague.com/page/Publications/0,,12306,2,00.html

SECTION F
PLAYER IDENTIFICATION AND STRIP

Player Identification
1. Before the commencement of each Season each Club shall allocate a different shirt number to each member of its first team squad.

2. A Club shall likewise allocate a shirt number to any Player joining its first team squad during the Season.

3. Save with the prior written consent of the Board shirt numbers shall commence with the number one and shall be allocated consecutively.

4. While he remains with the Club a Player will retain his shirt number throughout the Season for which it was allocated.

5. Upon a Player leaving a Club the shirt number allocated to him may be re-allocated.

6. Each Club shall forthwith provide to the Secretary on Form 8 full details in writing of shirt numbers allocated so that throughout each Season the Secretary is aware of the names of members of the first team squad of each Club and the shirt numbers allocated to them.

7. When playing in League Matches each Player shall wear a shirt on the back of which shall be prominently displayed his shirt number and above that his surname or such other name as may be approved in writing by the Board.

8. The Player’s shirt number shall also appear on the front of the left leg of his shorts.

9. The size, style, colour and design of shirt numbers, lettering and the logo of the League appearing on a Player’s shirt or shorts and the material from which such numbers, lettering and logo are made shall be determined by the Board from time to time.

10. The colour and design of the shirt and stockings worn by the goalkeeper when playing in League Matches shall be such as to distinguish him from the other Players and from Match Officials.

11. The captain of each team appearing in a League Match shall wear an armband provided by the League indicating his status as such.

12. Any Club acting in breach of any of Rules F.1 to F.11 inclusive will be liable to pay to the League a fixed penalty of £300 for a first breach, £600 for a second breach and £1,200 for a third breach. Any subsequent breach may be dealt under the provisions of Section R.

Home and Away Strip
13. Each Club shall have a home Strip and an away Strip which shall be worn by its Players in League Matches in accordance with the provisions of these Rules.

14. The logo of the League shall appear on each sleeve of both home Strip and away Strip shirts.

15. Neither the home Strip shirt nor the away Strip shirt shall be of a colour or design alike or similar to the outfits of Match Officials.

16. Not later than 4 weeks before the commencement of each Season each Club shall register its Strips by submitting to the Secretary Form 9 together with samples of its home Strip, away Strip and goalkeeper’s Strip complying with these Rules and a brief written description of each and the Secretary having entered the descriptions in a register will cause the same to be printed in the handbook of the League.

17. Each Strip submitted for registration in accordance with Rule F.16 shall have on it:
17.1 the shirt number and name of any Player in the Club’s first team squad, displayed as required by Rule F.7;
17.2 any advertisement for which the approval of the Board is either sought or has already been given under the provisions of Rule F.28.1.

18. If pursuant to Rule F.16 a Club seeks to register a Strip which does not comply with these Rules:
18.1 the Board shall give to that Club notice in writing to that effect giving full details of the changes required to achieve compliance; and
18.2 the Strip in question shall not be worn by that Club’s Players until a further sample has been submitted to and approved in writing by the Board.

19. Subject to Rule F.20, Strips of the description thus registered shall be worn throughout the Season immediately following and no changes to it shall be made except with the prior written permission of the Board.

20. On the occasion of a Club’s last home League Match in any Season an alternative Strip may be worn provided that:
20.1 at least 7 days’ prior written notice of intention to do so is given to the Secretary and the Visiting Club together in each case with a sample of the Strip intended to be worn;
20.2 the alternative Strip shall be subsequently registered as the Club’s home or away Strip for the following Season.

21. Subject to Rules F.20 and F.22, when playing in League Matches the Players of each participating Club shall wear its home Strip unless the home Strips of the participating Clubs are alike or similar or are in the opinion of the referee likely to cause confusion in which event Players of theVisiting Club shall wear its away Strip or a combination of its home Strip and its away Strip. In the event of any dispute with regard to the Strip to be worn by either Club, the referee’s decision shall be final.

22. Players of theVisiting Club may wear its away Strip when playing in League Matches provided that they shall not do so on more than 8 occasions in any Season, including those occasions, if any, when required to do so by virtue of the foregoing provisions of Rule F.21. For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Rule shall limit the number of occasions a Club may be required to change its Strip pursuant to Rule F.21.

23. At least 7 days prior to each League Match the Visiting Club shall notify the Home Club on Form 9A of the Strip it intends its Players (including for the avoidance of doubt its goalkeeper) to wear. If the Home Club is of the opinion that this is likely to cause confusion it shall immediately notify the League.

24. Subject to Rule F.20, no Club shall participate in a League Match wearing Strip other than its registered home Strip or away Strip or a combination of the two except with the prior written consent of the Board.

Third Strip
25. Each Club may have a third Strip in addition to its home Strip and its away Strip.

26. The provisions of Rules F.14, F.15 and F.16 shall apply to any third Strip as well as to home Strip and away Strip.

27. A Club’s third Strip may be worn by its Players in League Matches only with the prior written consent of the Board.

Strip Advertising
28. Provided that:
28.1 the content, design and area of the advertisement is approved by the Board; and
28.2 it complies with the Football Association Rules for the time being in force; advertising on Strip shall be permitted.


Melchester Rovers Kits 1956–1973 now online

Posted by John Devlin

At last, the first part of my Melchester Rovers kit history can now be viewed online at:

www.truecolourfootballkits.com/articles/melchester-rovers-kits-1956-1973

Roy of the Rovers seems to have been in the news a bit lately with several books appearing and a new compilation comic also out. Perhaps someone’s trying to relaunch the comic? Might be interesting to consider what kit Racey’s men may wear today!

Part 2 coming shortly…


Melchester Rovers Kits 1956–2001

Posted by John Devlin


There’s not many kits that stand out as being truly individual and iconic; there’s Liverpool’s all red, the red and blue of Barcelona and the all white of Real Madrid. But in my view one of the classic strips of all time is that of Melchester Rovers – the team that gave the world Roy Race or Roy of the Rovers as he’s better known. The seldom seen combination of red and yellow gives the Rovers a distinctive position in the football world – making a Rovers’ kit instantly recognisable.

OK, so the club is not real and Roy of the Rovers is ‘only’ a comic strip but for me and thousands of other football fans Melchester Rovers was always our favourite ‘other’ club. I learnt all about the workings of football through its dilution in weekly editions of Roy of the Rovers albeit in a fantasy and rather far-fetched form. I was an avid reader in the late 70s and early 80s and only lost interest when Melchester signed those two blokes from Spandau Ballet. I remember being thrilled when I saw Race lead the team out at the start of the 81-82 (with the club facing life in the 2nd Division) with a brand new kit! Gone was the classic asymmetrical 70s look and in was a classy hooped look. And it featured a proper manufacturer and sponsor name in Gola!! So began my love affair of Melchester Rovers’ kits. Looking back through their kit history its funny how the writers never seemed to get it quite right. Club badges were seldom and erratically worn, shirt sponsor and kit manufacturers (even fake ones) took a while to become established (although as part 2 reveals the club have had some BIG corporate names behind them in their lifetime) and away kits were a rarity as virtually no other club in the Roy of the Rovers universe wore red. Still, none of this matters and to this day I regret never asking my Mum to buy me the official Melchester Gola strip…

melchester-h-561melchester-h-56-58melchester-58-59

When we first encounter Melchester Rovers in the 55–56 season they are sporting a typical button up heavyweight jersey in a unique colour combination of red shirt with yellow sleeves, blue shorts and red socks with yellow turnover. It was in this kit that a young Roy Race made his debut. By the 56–57 season though the side ditched the long sleeved shorts and instead opted for a short sleeved shirt coupled strangely with a ‘futuristic’ 70s style wing collar – quite unlike anything else knocking around at the time. In 1958 a more regular shirt appeared with a plunging continental V-neck and a club shield. The yellow turnover also now gained a single red band. It was a classic kit without a doubt.

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Bit of a change in the Mel Park kitbag occured in 1959 when the yellow sleeves and club badge were scrapped and instead an all-red shirt (with yellow V-neck and cuffs though of course) was favoured. Another great looking design it only lasted for two seasons before the yellow sleeves returned although the badge was still mysteriously missing – perhaps it was too fiddly to draw? The ever-fashionable Rovers updated their kit in 1964 with an authentic 60s long-sleeved shirt accompanied by a round crew-neck and new yellow socks. This kit was worn right up until 1973, interrupted only by a one-season wonder badged version that emerged in 1967.

Replica versions of several of these kits are sold by the excellent TOFFS, although several of their designs also feature badges.

melchester-h-73-78melchester-a-73-77melchester-a-77-78

In 1973 a new kit emerged that for the casual supporter is recognised as the definitive Rovers kit. Crew neck, long sleeved with a vertical yellow band running down the left hand side of the shirt and continued on the opposite leg of the shorts it was certainly stylish. A nice touch was the addition of numbers on each sleeve. The socks were a curious affair with no discernable turnover and a ‘T’ shaped yellow trim. The first Melchester away kit I’ve found evidence for was this yellow reversal of the home outfit which ran until 1977 when to the glorious fanfare of a Roy of the Rovers front page a new blue shirt was launched featuring a shield badge device not used on any other Rovers kit of the time.

melchester-h-78-80melchester-a-78-79

melchester-h-80-81melchester-a-79-80melchester-a-80-81

The vertical banded shirt actually went through three incarnations in its eight year history. As well as the original design it also appeared with a standard 70s wing collar and for one season only at the start of the 80s with a V-neck. Both strips now sadly ditched the sleeve numbers. This period also saw Rovers wear a white shirt/shorts away strip, followed by a return to blue – this time without shield but with the addition of a single white stripe down each sleeve. This design lasted for just one season before being replaced by an all-yellow away kit.

melchester-h-81-82melchester-a-81-82melchester-h-82-86melchester-a-82-86

Commercialism arrived at Mel Park courtesy of Gola in 1981 with this superb kit. A new style Rovers badges was also introduced and Gola’s support of the side was emphatically made as shirt sponsors. The away kit saw more imagination than some previous Rovers efforts with its non-contrasting V-neck and cuffs and colour combination of white red and blue. Replica versions of the home kit were also sold at this time through the comic. Just one season later though the authenticity of the Gola kit disappeared as the deal ended and Rovers took the field in plain old shirts once again.

melchester-h-86-87melchester-h-87-89melchester-h-89-90melchester-h-90-91

After five years the Rovers kit was updated again with a new design featuring yellow panels on each side of the red shirt. The yellow v-neck remained but the cuffs changed to red. Although the shirt did not appear to be manufactured by a specific company it did feature the second sponsor in Melchester’s history: American sportswear giants Nike. Back in the 80s Nike had only dipped their toe into the football kit world with Sunderland and had not yet achieved the worldwide football fame they enjoy today. A new badge was also introduced in 1986. The Nike deal only lasted for one season and it wasn’t until 1989 that another sponsor arrived in the form of football sticker (and publishing) giants Panini followed a year later by Roy of the Rovers publisher Fleetway.

melchester-h-91-92melchester-h-92-93melchester-h-93-95melchester-a-93-95

A competition amongst Roy of the Rovers readers resulted in a new strip for Melchester in 1991. It saw the introduction of a fairly traditional arrangement of stripes in the famous red and yellow. In line with the times a button-up collar was present. The shorts featured an unusual asymmetrical trim. Another big name became the club’s new sponsor; Sega whose logo brought the colour blue back to the Rovers’ strip. The same kit was used the following season with  TSB as sponsors but by 1996 the shirt’s stripes and collar were slightly altered, the old badge returned and plainer shorts and socks were introduced. A kit manufacturer was indicated on the shirt whose logo looked remarkably like the Umbro diamond! Football game legends Subbuteo became the new shirt sponsor. In 1993 another competition was launched to design the club’s new away kit. This brilliant design with horizontal red and yellow bands was the winner. The shirt featured a lace-up collar design clearly based on Manchester United’s iconic kit of the time. With typical Melchester inconsitency the kit featured no badge or manufacturer’s logo and was worn with white, red or blue shorts and also featured three different collar renderings in its brief lifespan.

melchester-h-95-97melchester-h-97-01melchester-a-97-01melchester-e-99-01

After a two year hiatus Melchester Rovers returned to the newstands in 1997 sporting probably their most outrageous strip to date. Predominantly yellow the badgeless shirt featured a huge star with natty red trim on the sleeves. The shorts were yellow and the socks a classy hooped affair. As Roy’s adventures were now incorporated into Match of the Day magazine it was perhaps no surprise that the MOTD logo appeared on the shirts. For the 2007–2008 season a new classic Rovers kit was introduced along with arguably the club’s most high-profile sponsor yet – fast food giants McDonalds. It was also the first time a shirt sponsor’s corporate colours matched those of the Rovers perfectly. The shirt, which also incorporated a new badge, featured a dashing V design and the socks utilised an interesting zig-zag trim. The away was a stylish white and red incarnation. Another curious Roy of the Rovers moment in 1999 saw Roy introduce a special European kit in an attempt to raise transfer funds. This all white kit was a great design with horizontal red and yellow bands and Umbro-like diamonds on the sleeve and socks.

Readers last saw the famous Melchester Rovers in 2001 wearing the ‘V’ kit. Roy of the Rovers seems to be enjoying a bit of a revival so hopefully a relaunch may not be far away and if it does happen it will be interesting to see what combination of red and yellow kit accompanies it…


Aston Villa v West Ham

Posted by John Devlin

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Another kit clash issue arose yesterday at Villa Park when referee Rob Styles forced Aston Villa to wear their all white Nike third shirt against West Ham as he believed the Hammers all light blue Umbro away strip would clash with Villa’s home outfit. Villa boss Martin O’Neill was not happy.

I couldn’t really understand the problem when I first heard the story but on looking again at West Ham’s away kit the ref may just have a point. When you consider the large flashes of claret across the chest and the huge claret sponsors logo (designed of course to obliterate that of the now defunct XL Holidays there is certainly an argument that this may provide a visbility problem against Villa’s claret and blue.

To make matters even more interesting in the first half Villa’s shirts were without sponsors/player names but in the second half they were!

Perhaps now the likely trend for simpler kits has come at the right time?

Thanks to David Privett for the tip.


Almost Weekly Blog – 13th April

Posted by John Devlin

Well, computer problems (hopefully) over I’ve been able to get back to the site. By now I hope you’ve seen the work I’ve been doing with Danbury Mint on the Liverpool badges. I am so pleased with these, they really have done a great job on them. Plans for more books have hit a bit of a stumbling block over copyright issues and exclusive book deals that clubs have. I’m hoping to solve some of these problems and get some more publications out – I’ll keep you posted on how this is progressing.

I’ve been working on QPR’s kits for the past few weeks and I have to say they are now firmly among my favourite teams in terms of the designs and ethos behind their strips. They’ve had so many great kits that its been fascinating tracing what they have worn. Whats been interesting as well is how many anomalies exist around their designs – for example in the late 80s/early 90s the replica versions seemed to be quite different in many ways to the match worn versions – especially the badge detailing. Plus the hoop arrangements vary considerably. Its good stuff though and I hope to be posting some examples soon.

I’m also thinking of posting entire club sets from my books onto the site and I’d really appreciate your views as to whether its a good idea or not. There’s been so many updates and new kits since the books came out I thought it would be good to see them all complete online.

Some early 09-10 designs are coming out already and apart from the England top and the leaks of the forthcoming adidas kits nothing too much has caught my eye although I am looking forward to seeing what Canterbury come up with their new kits. I really rate Canterbury as a clothing manufacturer – it can be expensive but its always great quality.

Sorry to see Luton go out of the league today. Anyone of my age (pushing 40, crikey, how did that happen?) may still consider them a top-flight side – its a real shame to see how far they’ve dropped. They have had some really classy kits in the past as well so I aim to post a small selection as a tribute to them. I was also sorry to hear about Southampton’s difficulties. Again, such a big club – they deserve to be in the Premiership and I really hope they are back there soon. Perhaps if every Premiership player donated a small percentage of their salaries these clubs might avoid administration and at least there would be a level playing field points-wise…


The intricacies of Umbro

Posted by John Devlin

Umbro’s new England kit has seen a return of minamlist aesthetics but for several seasons now their designs were getting ever more intricate. Complex constructions of different fabrics combined with trim and detailing that, to the average football fan watching from the terraces were barely visible. These were kits designed for replicas with particular niceties that could only be appreciated at close quarters. Consequently many of these elements did not really contribute to the overall design and it was only a matter of time before a more simple philsophy was reinstated.

I wanted to explore and look at in detail a fairly recent Umbro kit and see the detail that the design holds and thanks to the excellent service at www.soccerpro.com, the best place for online soccer jerseys I was able to do so. For added interest I wanted to choose a continental shirt and selected the Umbro Olympique Lyonnais Home Jersey from the 06-08 seasons.

This shirt is available here: http://www.soccerpro.com/Umbro-Olympique-Lyonnais-Home-Jersey-2009-p8179/

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The new England kit – one of the most important in the modern era?

Posted by John Devlin

england-home-09-111

Whetting the appetite

It’s been a long while now since I’ve been as excited by the arrival of a new kit as I have been by the new England outfit.

Like many I suspect, my interest was aroused by the ‘leak’ of what purported to be the new England shirt on footballshirtculture.com. With its red sleeves, huge outlined crest and the absence of navy – replaced by grey – it was a shocker.

I thought Umbro had gone too far and the idea that this shirt, which might work perfectly well as a training or leisure top, would be gracing the field as England attempted to qualify for the South African World Cup made me question Umbro’s sanity and taste.

Most people felt the same and it was only after Umbro denied the shirt was real and slowly but surely, hints about the new England strip were released (new Umbro logo replacing that incredibly dated elongated version and new England crest minus the unnecessary ‘England’ legend) that it became clear that the white, red and grey monstrosity was NOT going to be the new England outfit.

I suspected something special was afoot when Umbro’s marketing cranked into action with a new blog, increased publicity surrounding their magnificent archive of kits and teasers about the forthcoming England outfit. Something about ‘Tailored by England’? What does that mean?! A press release explaining a new way of sizing seemed to indicate that this was not going to be your normal, run of the mill kit.

When a further leak appeared (albeit briefly on footballshirtculture.com once again) with John Terry wearing a simple all-white, collared shirt my jaw hit the floor. I was stunned. With none of the flashes, red crosses and superfluous and some might say over-worked trimmings favoured by Umbro in recent years, this shirt oozed class and confidence.

All the signs indicated that the leak was genuine – a fact backed up by little slips included in the fascinating videos released by Umbro showing the development of the shirt. Plus, could it also be true that England would now wear a completely all-white outfit?

Umbro’s impressive marketing machine stepped up a gear in preparation for the kit’s unveiling against Slovakia on 28th March and as promised, and as anticipation mounted, the outfit was launched to maximum effect with the teams stripping off their tracksuits in between the national anthems to reveal the strip.

The design

The new shirt itself has a much more fitted feel than other recent kits, not surprising given Umbro’s overall concept for the design. Jersey’s ‘silhouettes’ have been a primary focus for kit design for several years now and slowly but surely the baggy designs favoured in the 90s have been phased out for the 21st century.

The sleeves are much shorter than have been worn for almost 20 years – it’s a trim and elegant design.

The shirt features a non-contrasting collar with a neat single button neck. The only noticeable markings on the jersey are the new style red Umbro logo (very similar to that favoured in the 70s/80s) and the new England crest comprising of a lighter blue. Beneath the crest is a scroll revealing the name of the opposition – an idea influenced by legendary England kits from the past. Above the badge is an embroidered, but not coloured, single star representing the World Cup victory of 66.

Some people have criticised the shirt for being plain and boring (an argument also often fired at Nike) but the fact of the matter is that most supporters who are not specifically interested in football shirts prefer plain designs – not speckled shirts splashed with additional stripes, flashes, panels and swooshes.

The jersey fabric is a soft cotton with ribbed underarm panels and a handful of ventilation holes that appear just below the armpit and on the lumbar region at the bottom of the back. How this fabric will fare in hot temperatures will be interesting – will we see a jersey drenched in sweat after 90 minutes in the hot South African sun next year?

Interestingly almost every player has worn an additional layer beneath the jersey in the two games so far in which its been worn.

The white shorts for some strange reason feature the Umbro logo and England crest in non-contrasting white embroidery, making them barely visible. It’s a curious move and one that I confess I don’t really understand. Perhaps its designed to give extra emphasis to the minimal graphics/branding on the shirt or maybe it’s just a reflection of the fact that until the mid 70s shorts were generally bare.

The socks are also plain with no Umbro logo or England badge.

I suspect that the shirt might work better with the traditional England navy shorts and I am pleased to say that they will be available as change shorts should a clashing situation arise. There are also some rather bizarre half red/half white change socks that do seem to jar with the overall feel.

Acclaimed illustrator and fashion designer Aitor Throup was brought in to work on the shirt and his innovations have been key in the design. The whole idea of tailoring and honestly crafting this shirt is new to the disposable and flash world of football kits. And it is this thinking that I believe has helped lift this strip above the norm.

The impact of the kit

Umbro have really upped the ante for kit design with the launch of this outfit. In my view due to the increased frequency of change, the football shirt world was in real danger of becoming stale and something radical had to be done. With too many designs simply regurgitating previous very recent outfits; a new flash here, a bit of asymmetrical trim there and all neck designs becoming ever more intricate and yet not offering any substantial difference from one season to the next, there was a real need for a big shake up and an innovative rethinking of what a football shirt could and should represent and Umbro have cracked it with this design.

In a way it could be considered a retro look (its certainly inspired by the rich heritage and history of both Umbro and England) but it many ways its ultra modern. It is a kit of paradox – on one hand it focuses on the most workmanlike of all football strip attire: the white shirt. But by pairing it with simarly coloured shorts it embodies the entire kit with the other characteristic of white, namely heroism. Many of England’s important games over the years have seen the team sport all white strips and although photos of the side’s exploits in the 1966 World Cup finals inspired the change it is clear that the players look more classically heroic in an all-white ensemble. On a more practical level, FIFA’s increasingly stringent rules on colour clashes may see more teams adopt single colour outfits.

This paradox is extended by the complete absence of trim or additional colour. Clearly Umbro are saying the shirt and therefore the team doesn’t need these extravagances; it’s a plain, simple and functional football shirt, designed purely to ensure that one team can be clearly identified from the other and that the players are comfortable wearing it and perform to the best of their abilities. However this bold statement (completely bucking recent trends in football kit design) is also saying, look how special and wonderful this shirt, the England shirt, is. This fact is backed up by Umbro’s ingenious marketing campaign and overall design concept of fine tailoring, careful fitting and bespoke cut that is unique to each player that attempts to capture the psychological boost you receive when wearing a well-fitted suit. It’s a shirt of supreme confidence and self-assuredness – but NOT arrogance – and one that no doubt will inspire the England team.

Umbro

tlm-aOf course this isn’t the first time Umbro have changed the way people look at football kits.

Cast your mind back to the 1991 FA Cup final between Tottenham and Nottingham Forest. When Spurs appeared in the tunnel wearing what appeared to be throwbacks to the 1940s; knee-length and baggy shorts, the country gasped and then laughed. However, this brave design statement made Forest’s kit (also produced by Umbro but not due for a change until 1992) look very dated and within a year virtually all clubs were wearing longer, baggier shorts.

Umbro redefined football kits in the early 90s and they have now redefined them again in 2009 ensuring their reputation as arguably THE most influential and important football apparel firms.

It’s a rebirth for England, a rebirth for football kit design and a rebirth for Umbro. The company spent much of the latter part of the 90s and early part of the 21st century in limbo. The glory days of the 60s (the company provided kits for all but one of the 1966 World Cup teams) through to the early 90s when Umbro kitted out virtually the entire inaugural Premiership now long gone. Since then many of their contracts dried up leaving primarily the England team and Nottingham Forest as their main UK deals. Since 2005 however, more and more clubs have signed on with Umbro again and their designs are now much more common around the country. This revival, boosted by an appreciation and interest in their ‘back catalogue’ has culminated with this new England strip.

The new England kit is a ground breaking design and its implications and influence may only become apparent a year or so into the future. It blows recent designs out of the water, instantly making them appear clumsy, dated and old-fashioned. It will appeal to older and younger fans alike – once they have got to grips with its understated minimalist look.

Of course it will divide opinions and generate extreme views – but that’s what good design should do and anyway, when was the last time EVERYBODY agreed on a football kit design?

The important thing is that this outfit has breathed new life into and revitalised the football kit world. The fact that Umbro are now owned by Nike and that Nike acted as consultants on the design should be no surprise as the entire project has many of the hallmarks Nike employ when producing a kit. The thought, concept and meticulous execution of the design along with the marketing collateral that accompanies it has been nothing but superb and I have a suspicion we will see great things happen to the England side whilst wearing this strip – possibly one of the most important football kits in the modern era.


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