Bring back a two-year kit lifespan

Posted by John Devlin

Although I always enjoy browsing people’s comments and opinions about new shirt designs on other football kit sites it can sometimes be a bit of a disheartening experience. All design is subjective of course but it is amazing how opinions can be so radically different. For example, the new Lotto QPR strips have provoked several extreme reactions from people who think they’re the best things since sliced bread to those who just simply can’t stand them. But I’ve noticed increasingly many of the reactions to new kits just come across as bored and uninterested with no real passion or interest behind the designs. Many kit fans seem to be coming to the conclusion that the designs for 08-09 are bland or uninteresting, or as described on one site ‘sh*!te’.

Part of the reason for this may come from this yearly turnaround of kits that has become the norm in recent years. The feeling seems to be that many of the designs are just not different and exciting enough to provoke responses. Take for example the Umbro Everton kits (first, let me make it clear, I am a BIG fan of Umbro designs and always have been since the late 70s) but ever since they took over the mantle from Puma the club’s home shirts have hardly differed. People criticise this lack of development (and may also knock the template approach, but thats a subject for another article) and I think the designers need longer to create a really special design and the fans need longer to appreciate and identify with the current outfit.

A one-year lifespan is just too short – in my view this is failing to bring real character to these outfits as designers and suppliers are perhaps lacking inspiration. Is it a coincidence that more and more teams are releasing strips to commemorate certain events or milestones rather than producing inventive forward-thinking designs?

In the ‘old days’ after two or three years wearing the same shirt fans were just be gagging for a new design and there was real anticipation and excitement when you saw your team wearing a brand new shiny kit for the first time. Distinctive kits that were given time to ‘mature’ clearly defined eras in a club’s life – nowadays the fast turnaround of increasingly similar designs often fail to even define a season.

Now, after just one year its just ‘oh yeah, a new strip’ – another regular occurence. The magic seems to have gone a little. People just don’t seem to be getting really excited about new kits any more, its no longer an event its just another design – and quite often not much of a move on from the previous.


17 Responses to “Bring back a two-year kit lifespan”

  1. Jon Says:

    I agree with this John, it’s got to the stage where some football fans are even dreading their team’s new strip for the new season for fear of what bland/hideous/untraditional design that the manufacturer has conjured up, and in the case of the likes of Everton, you get people asking “what’s the difference between the new shirt and the old one?”. There is no excitement about new kits any more, a far cry from the time during my younger days when you used to be eagerly awaiting the new kit that your team was going to reveal, and back in those pre-internet days you first got to see it in the likes of Match or Shoot during the summer.

    I remember the time when I followed Liverpool in my youth, the rumours going around (back in 1991) that they were having a radical change of kit, with the away kit being green instead of the grey, white or yellow that I was used to. I couldn’t wait to see the kit when it was revealed, especially the away. These days if your team has a radical change in design, or a new away kit in a colour not used before, it often leads to negative comments before the kit has even been revealed.

    The template approach doesn’t help matters, especially when the manufacturer has already revealed their teamwear catalogue for that forthcoming season, so you kind of get a good idea of what your team’s new kit is going to look like before its even got off the drawing board.

    So far this season we’ve seen new kits that go from the “almost similar to last season”, such as Everton, to the uninspiring (any team who wear Puma) to those which has split fans in two, such as Palace reverting to the sash kit, and Barça ditching stripes.

    I reckon a two-year kit lifespan should come back and just stagger the release of home and away kits so that there’s one new kit per season (like what most clubs did in the 80’s) but not a new home/away kit every season.

  2. John Devlin Says:

    Actually I hadn’t even considered the away colour aspect – you’re right, you always used to have a rough idea of what the change colour scheme of your team would be and it would be really exciting if they changed it. Now of course it HAS to change with every new away strip so that it is seen to be different enough to the previous year’s. Its quite a restraint isn’t it? This started in the 90s if I remember, when the trend of retaining the previous year’s away as the current year’s third strip was started. Perhaps I’m being old and boring for saying this but it would be nice to see club’s re-establishing traditional away colours with maybe livening things up with an unusual choice for a third strip.

  3. Jon Says:

    At least with the retaining of the “old” away kit as a third strip the following season it gets an extra year’s life out of it, albeit not worn as much due to fewer (or sometimes no) occasions in which the kit is called upon to avoid a kit clash. I know Liverpool did it almost every season when Reebok supplied their kit and a number of other clubs adopted the trend, such as Arsenal and Man Utd.

    There are plenty of restraints that designers face when designing new away kits for teams – the kit design has to be different, the choice of colour too has to be carefully considered… look at Wolves this coming season, who after releasing a new black away kit decided to retain last season’s navy away kit as a third choice, rendering it superfluous. There’s also been cases where designers have chosen colours that are too similar to the home kit, to the point where not just has the third kit been a necessity but it has been used more often, such as West Brom last season, who wore the black kit more often than the white/navy kit. Finally of course there’s the choosing of a colour more suited to a team’s deadly rivals – Arsenal’s white away kit from last season springs straight to mind.

    Personally I think clubs should retain the home kit for two seasons and change the away kit each season (or two seasons), and try and keep the previous away kit as a third choice if at all possible. However with the football shirt market being a rather lucrative business its something that manufacturers (and clubs) would never heed.

    I too would like to see some traditionalism come back to away kit design, there are a number of clubs who have had away kits in certain colours that stick to the club’s history, such as Arsenal having a yellow and blue away strip, a combination which has made a welcome return for next season. I’ve noticed since Adidas returned to Liverpool they have decked them out in away shirts that have been based on colours that they made for them in the past, (yellow, white/black, grey this coming season) whilst having something a bit more radical for a third kit. Some other clubs in the Premier League I’ve notice have also gone back to the past for inspiration for new away kits, such as Middlesbrough (black/blue stripes), West Ham (sky blue with claret horizontal stripe) and West Brom (yellow/navy, albeit with no smoking logo!).

  4. Jon Says:

    Forgot to mention in regards to the new QPR kits, another thing I’ve noticed amongst fans is that when a club reveals a kit using a design that has been used the previous season or a few seasons previous it more often than not provokes a negative reaction.

    I for one think QPR’s new away kit is almost a dead ringer for the kit used by the Costa Rica national side, whilst the third kit (black with yellow) has been used by a handful of Lotto-sponsored clubs in Eastern Europe. It’s not just Lotto over here who we see this kind of thing, but the teams who wear the Genesis-licenced Puma kits too, wearing last season’s designs.

  5. Chris O Says:

    I agree with pretty much all of the above!

    I think Umbro have done themselves a favour by getting rid of last season’s template design featuring a rash of diamond logos, and that in turn has improved the overall standard for kits this season.

    What I disagree with is the way that most clubs are having both home and away kits replaced this season rather than it being one or the other. This certainly seems to be the case in the Premier League, and in the case of Chelsea they’re even launching THREE new kits at the same time.

    As you quite rightly say, John, let’s have a two-year limit to give people enough time to build up some enthusiasm for a change. It becomes worthless, otherwise.

  6. John Devlin Says:

    You speak a lot of sense Chris! I think Umbro are excelling themselves at the moment. They seem to have re-evaluated their whole football kit position in recent years and realised their importance to it all. I thought something was imminent when they started signing deals with lots of clubs a couple of years ago. I mean, for most of the late 90s/early 00s it was really only Forest, England and Ireland wasn’t it? Its great to see them back at the forefront of football kit design.

  7. john Says:

    my team man utd used to have a club charter which said every strip would last 2 seasons then the glazers took over and its gone all to cock.We had a one of special commerating the 5oth anniversary of the busby babes first title in 1956.And the aways/3rd kits change every season. I’d also stop clubs wearing new strips on the last day of the previous season.

  8. Denis Hurley Says:

    While I agree with two-year lifespans, I wish Arsenal’s home kits didn’t adhere to it as I think the new one is awful, Arsenal should have white sleeves

  9. Ned Says:

    I’m particularly unimpressed by Arsenal’s home kit this season. There’s far too little white on it. It’s just not distinctive or ‘Arsenal’ enough. I would like to see Arsenal in something more like Birmingham’s new away kit, although that would be dangerously close to Ajax’s.

  10. John Devlin Says:

    I have to agree with you Ned and Denis. Although a lot of Arsenal fans I’ve spoken to really like the shirt, for me its just not Arsenal without white sleeves. Its as simple as that. I love the away kit however.

  11. Rich Johnson Says:

    My team, Coventry City, have had a brand new home and away kit every season for about the last 6 years now. Frankly, they’ve all been much of a muchness and each year I’ve been slightly disappointed with the lack of change or ideas. It’s either all sky blue with a slightly different trim or the old stripes. While I acknowledge there’s only so much one can do with a limited palette, there must surely be someone with an idea a tad more interesting than changing the collar from grey to blue etc. As for the scourge of the template idea, I first noticed this in prominence at the World Cup in 94 where it seemed every team playing in Adidas’ colours had the variation of the 3 stripes running diagonally. Sometimes this approach can be interesting (Denmark’s 86 kit and Holland’s 88 one), but on the whole it makes for boring viewing.

  12. David King Says:

    One of the problems is that clubs like Chelsea and Spurs release 3 new kits a season, that templates are getting used 2 or 3 times as much.

    Secondly, in the past 20 seasons Birmingham City have had 20 Home shirts, and thus it becomes harder and harder to do something unique each season. In the desire to be different Arsenal have lost their white sleeves, and Tottenham recently had blue sleeves and have worn all white, which is not right.

    Thirdly, because the World is getting smaller, and multi-nationals getting bigger, their are less companies involved in making the high profile club shirts. Adidas make Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Ajax, whilst Nike make Arsenal, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Valencia and Porto.

    Whilst Puma, Umbro and Kappa make a few clubs in their stables, we fans are exposed to numberous clubs each year with the same template, where previously Barcelona and the Milan clubs having square logos on their shirts and these companys seem to have been taken over, resulting in less variety.

    Changing kits every other year would be good, but yearly changes are in most countries. The French national team now have a shirt which is only for qualification (or not) for the 2010 World Cup

  13. John Devlin Says:

    It is difficult to be different when the speed of change dictates new designs every season – its even harder to make designs that will please the purists. I’ve noticed a trend with clubs like Coventry and Middlesbrough (who both change their home kits every year) to alternate between two of their familiar design styles; Coventry – all sky blue shirts and then sky blue/white striped shirts and Boro – plain red shirt and then one with a white chestband. I think Rich has a good point, there must be more that could be done with some of these designs. In the 80s and 90s kit changes often brought radically different designs (some not successful it has to be said) but at least they were different and made you look forward to seeing what the new strip would be like. But (and here’s where I find myself going full circle again) I think that had more to do with the less frequent changes.

  14. Rich Johnson Says:

    I think we’re in a period of sobriety where ‘designs’ are concerned. The 90s brought some truly hideous (or interesting as I like to call them) designs and the trend these days seems to be the corporate line of playing it safe…afterall the kit is aimed mainly at the replica shirt market so the thing has to have the broadest appeal possible, which sadly translates into mediocrity. Combine this with what is essentially a captive market and you end up with what is possibly the worst possible premise.
    For me, the defining moment when the pendulum started to swing away from the inasanity it had reached was the semi final of Euro 96. David Seaman wearing what became known as the ‘refresher’ top and the rest of them in the hideous grey, ‘designed to go well with jeans as that’s what the fans wear’ number…why not just add a ‘pie’ pocket and matching beer hat? Meanwhile, the Germans lined up in retro looking plain white with sombre badge and the equivalent number 1 in a cool, plain blue goalie top. It demonstrated how far the ‘wacky’ designs had gone and made it all look a tad ridiculous. In came new retro and out when any chance of ever seeing a Denmark 86 or Holland 88.

  15. PrairieBhoy (Chicago) Says:

    Two years? Make it three. Changing a home/away shirt every two years is nuts. I’m waiting for Nike/Adidas et al, to come up with a fabric that approximates the old cotton jerseys, while still maintaining the sweat wicking properties.

  16. John Devlin Says:

    Now thats a good idea PrairieBhoy – nearest recent fabric I can remember that was close to cotton was Umbro’s Sportswool that cropped up most notably on Man Utd and England kits. If my memory doesn’t fail me though, it was pretty itchy and quite heavy too.

  17. Jon Says:

    I remember those old wacky designs of the early 1990’s when kit designers really got out of hand. I remember when Wales had an away shirt made by Umbro which was dark green with a red and white abstract mess all over the front. At the same period Scotland had a monstrosity of an away kit in white with navy, purple and what I’d describe as “teal” plastered all over it. The simple but stylish kits that Adidas and Nike started churning out in the mid 90’s thankfully consigned the busy designs to the dustbin! Still those over-the-top jerseys still provide entertainment for us all in those worst-ever polls, ha!

    Anyway back on the subject of kit lifespans being more than one year, how about this? PSV Eindhoven are using their sky blue change kit, first introduced in 2005, for a FOURTH season. And its a Nike kit too. Many clubs should follow their example!

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