Blackburn Rovers 2011-12 Kits Review

Posted by John Devlin

blackburn-h-11-12Its always tough to reinvent the Blackburn home kit due to its highly distinctive and traditional halved shirt. But for many designers the more strict the limitations, the more inventive their design outcomes can be. In my view Umbro  have hit the jackpot with this Rovers home kit that harks back to the late 70s/80s style of strip complete with bold red V-neck and cuffs and red turnover on the socks. Its about time sportswear companies stopped beating about the bush and integrated red fully back into the Blackburn palette and this bold gesture does the trick perfectly. The rest of the shirt is pretty simple – the only other elements of note are the additional stitched panels on each sleeve where they join the main body – presumably these are to aid movement if Umbro’s reasonings behind some of their recent England strips are anything to go by – and the fact that the shirt has reverted to alternating sleeve colours as opposed to last season’s sleeves that matched the colour of their respective halves.

Pre-season the Blackburn kits were sponsored by Venkys – a chicken meat processing company and the club’s new owners. However by the time the season kicked off their brand had been replaced by logo of young people’s charity The Princes’ Trust with Blackburn donating their shirt sponsorship this season to the organisation. Although its all for a good cause, unfortunately I would venture that the logo itself doesn’t really work on the Rovers shirt as it is barely legible at times and could probably do with a tweak here and there so that people could actually see who the club are supporting on their jerseys.

blackburn-a-11-12Away from home the club have returned to a yellow change strip and crafted it into a really smart outfit. The shirt features black sleeves and a new minimalist neck design that’s cropped up on a few Umbro jerseys this year. The shirt also features the additional sleeve panels that were included on the home jersey. Although I love the kit I think a pity that the side wore red as their main colour last season as a red away kit would have complemented the reintroduction of the colour on the home outfit well (although presumably the red kit will be retained as third colour this season should the need arise). Still, I think the Blackburn kits, while nothing stunning, are another set of good, functional outfits.


Nottingham Forest Home Kit 1992-94: True Colours Hall of Fame

Posted by John Devlin

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forest-h-92-94Umbro had produced some fine Forest kits since they reclaimed the club’s contract in 1986 but for me this is the pick of the bunch. Harking back to the early 70s trend of non-contrasting jerseys Umbro added an old-fashioned red collar to the Forest shirt and adorned it with elegant pinstripes – a full decade since their first widespread appearance on kits. It was a strip that exuded class and sophistication.

As was the trend at the time the club badge was now housed within a shield and Umbro also featured their new upper-case logotype. The white shorts were trimmed with a broad red band across each hem and the kit was completed by red socks topped off with the standard early 90s Umbro diamond trim.

As well as the regular white shorts, the shirt was accompanied by a smart alternate red pair in the 1992-93 season although the following year the 1991-93 away black pair were worn with the home shirt (although the red pair did make at least one appearance, away at Notts County despite there being no clash). Bizarrely in another blast from the past, the 1990-92 home white shorts design was worn for at least one game in the 1992-93 season, the home encounter against Spurs.

The shirt was also unusual in that it featured two different sponsors’ logos during its lifespan. The 1992-93 season saw the side alternate between Labatt’s and Shipstones (although replica versions only featured Shipstones). Labatt’s were another brand owned by Greenalls, the parent company who had originally purchased Shipstones in 1978. It seems that Labatt’s shirts were only worn when the match was live on TV as part of the sponsorship agreement agreed with Greenalls, thereby gaining maximum exposure for a more national brand than the parochial Shipstones.

The kit was worn during a tumultuous time for the club. Legendary manager Brian Clough left the City Ground at the end of the 1992-93 season – a campaign that also saw the ‘too good to go down’ Forest relegated to Division 1.

Worn by: Stan Collymore (who sported the shirt for press photos on signing for the club in 1993), Roy Keane, Kingsley Black.
Worn in: The 2-0 home defeat to Sheffield United that sealed the side’s dismal relegation at the end of the 1992-93 campaign – Clough’s last home game as Forest manager.

Buy this shirt now from Vintage Football Shirts


Aston Villa 2011-12 Kits Review

Posted by John Devlin

A brief glance over the past few years of Nike’s Villa kits reveals that, well actually not much has changed. Sticking to tradition, the club have retained their familiar claret shirts with sky blue sleeves in very similar designs since 2002. Nike’s kits have, in the main, topped this off with minimal, tidy necks. So in 2011, has this home kit formula changed?

aston-villa-h-11-12Well, yes and no. The claret and blue shirt combo remains and there is still not much of a neck design to speak of but this season sees the shirt adorned with a subtle chequerboard shadow pattern that lifts the otherwise plain jersey. The chequerboard motif was first introduced last season (instigated by the club’s chairman apparently) and has also been rolled out amongst other elements of Villa merchandise including the matchday programme.

The biggest change though with this season’s home kit comes with the socks. Gone are Villa’s regular sky blue or claret socks and in comes a rather daring black pair (trimmed with the club’s traditional colours though) in a throwback to the 1920s-1950s era when the club wore similar. I have to admit I’m a sucker for socks that at first glance don’t ‘go’ with the rest of a kit (maybe its because I’m a Scotland fan?) so I have to say I love them!! The fact that they have historical inspiration only gives them extra brownie points in my book.

aston-villa-a-11-12Away from home Villa’s new change kit mirrors the design of the home in a more familiar white/claret/white combination. The shirt retains the chequerboard design introduced on the home jersey along with an identical neck and sleeve stitching template. The shorts, as with the home kit, are plain giving ample opportunity for mixing and matching with the home strip should the need arise. No surprises with the socks this time which feature an identical turnover to the home.

Last season’s sponsor FxPro have departed Villa Park and are replaced by Malaysian betting company Genting Casinos in a move designed to raise the club’s profile in the Far East. Including Genting’s Chinese logo as well on the shirt is further evidence of the club’s intentions.

With a risk of Nike’s Villa efforts becoming stale, the designs have been given an added spark of interest this year with the introduction of the black socks and for me this move has helped create a couple of good, solid strips.


Arsenal 2011-12 Kits Review

Posted by John Devlin

Before putting together a page with the full kits for 2011-12 I thought I’d look at each team’s strips for the season in a bit more detail. First up, Arsenal.

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Biggest change on the Arsenal kits this year is the introduction of a new badge commemorating the club’s 125th anniversary. Frankly the new crest is HUGE and completely dominates the shirt. The design sees 15 laurel leaves on the left hand side of the badge and 15 oak leaves on the right. The reasons for these may not be immediately obvious (!) According to the club’s official site the laurel leaves “reflect the design detail on the six pence pieces paid by 15 founding fathers to establish the club. Laurel leaves represent strength” and the oak leaves “represent the origins of the club – the 15 founders met in the Royal Oak pub”. I was surprised to be honest that the meanings behind these symbols are so weakly contrived and don’t actually adequately reflect, in my view, the impressive stature of the club and its true beginnings.  I would venture that there are more iconic symbols that could have been used.

The rest of the home kit sticks solidly to good old Arsenal principles of red shirts and white sleeves, trimmed with just a sliver of red on each sleeve. Nothing wrong there other than the fact that an almost identical kit was launched just a year ago (the main difference being the crew neck colour). If the football world is going to persist with single season kits I feel manufacturers for the sake of simple value for money do need to design kits that offer a more substantially different design to the previous.

Another Arsenal kit principle seems to be one of creating confusion. Last year it was which goalkeeper top is the official first choice and the promotion of a third strip that it seemed they had no intention of wearing. This year its the socks. In virtually every game (I think) this season the regular home kit has been worn with white socks. Yet publicity photos of the new kit show the players sporting red pairs. And indeed, on the official site, only red home socks are sold. So whats going on?! Clearly there has been a last minute change in the official home kit but for some reason true replicas are not being offered. Very strange…

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The away kit adopts the navy blue/teal colour scheme that has been favoured several times since Nike took over in the early 90s. In fact their first change kit for the club comprised of these colours. Basic cut/trim is identical to the home, the key design feature is the diagonal division of the shirt into the two colours with alternating sleeves. Not a bad look but one that is taking a bit of getting used to for me. As its the 125th anniversary I would rather have seen a more historical angle to the away kit than this. Navy socks are first choice but teal pairs will also be worn. As with the home kit, the slivers of trim on each sleeve (not sure if these appear on the long sleeved versions – can anyone confirm?) look great until the Premier League patch is applied over them. Wonder what happened to the rulings that sleeves need to be kept bare in order for tournament patches to be added?

In conclusion, a solid home kit spoilt only by the big crest and the fact that its actually not that much different to last years, and a brave away that may prove to be a bit of a grower!