Mix and Mismatch – by Denis Hurley

I was delighted when friend of the site Denis Hurley mentioned contributing an article around one of his pet hates concerning football kit design and sent in this great feature. Denis is a freelance sports journalist in Ireland who has an unhealthy obsession with football kits.

It is often odd when you think back to the things you did when you were a little boy. When I was eight years old, at the beginning of the 1992-93 season, clearly following real football was not enough to satisfy me, and so I created an imaginary club. Where I, being from Ireland, got the name ‘Clydeonian’ from I’ll never know (I always took an interest in Caledonian Thistle after I heard of them a few years later), and my method of squad selection was probably not the best either.

Basically, I started off with a team comprised of players whose Pro-Set cards I had, meaning a strikeforce of Paul Merson and Owen Archdeacon, though I allowed myself to sign Dragan Stojkovic when I realised Andy May (of Bristol City in real life) was not up to the standard required of a team chasing a fantasy championship. You’re probably wondering why such meanderings are appearing on a site dedicated to kits. Well, you see, even back then I held the same principles towards kits that I still do.


In my head, and on numerous sheets of paper spent drawing goals from games, Clydeonian wore an adidas kit. It was a mixture of what France and Rangers wore at the time, with the three stripes over either shoulder, two red and one white, with white shorts and blue socks with red tops. The away was exactly the same design, only white where the blue was, blue where red was and red where white was, with blue shorts and white socks, with the third following the same rules, red the main colour. And this is the point I am trying to make – I like it when clubs have a set of kits where the shorts and socks can be properly mixed and matched, as the club’s identity is retained no matter what kit is worn as all the colours are there.

Manchester United’s strips in 1996-97 were classics in this regard, the shorts and socks exactly the same design, with the kits worn in many different variations.


To a lesser extent, United’s kits two seasons ago also matched up to that criteria, with the home and away kits both using the same pair of black socks as first choice. However, consider United’s offerings from 2006-07.


The home was the usual red/white/black, with gold trim on the shirt and shorts. The away was white, with black shorts and white socks, gold appearing all though as well. Red, often a trim on white United aways, was missing from the kit unless there was a sock clash, as at West Ham that season, where the home socks jarred with the rest of the kit. And that is what annoys me (and sometimes I worry that niggling little things like this irritate me far too much and I should get out more) – when a prominent colour in a side’s home kit, or one very close to it, is featured on the away kit, only paired with a different colour. Take Everton’s away outfits from 2006-07 until last season. All white shirts, but all with navy or black shorts, as opposed to royal blue, last featured prominently on a Toffees’ away in 04-05, when plenty mixing and matching occurred.

As I am Arsenal fan, let’s take a look at the Gunners’ three kits from 07-08.

ARSENAL-07-08The home was the one launched a year previous, classic red with white sleeves and white shorts and socks, with gold trim on the shirt. Gold was also the third colour on the new away and navy and redcurrant hooped third, the only colour to feature on all three kits. White was on the home and away, with redcurrant on the away and third, with red confined to the home and navy, the tertiary colour on many an Arsenal home, only on the third kit. Despite the fact that colours appeared on more than one kit, there was no mixing and matching. This meant that four different pairs of shorts were used (regular white home, recurrant away and navy third as well as white change away shorts at Sheffield United in the Carling Cup) and five different sock designs (white and red with the home kit, redcurrant and white hoops and plain redcurrant with the away and redcurrant and navy with the third). You can’t help but feel that, with a little more thought from Nike, the away would have been trimmed in red with red shorts and socks, paving the way to mix and match.

Let me point out, however, that I’m not calling for all teams to have aways that reverse their homes, I love yellow and blue Arsenal away kits, but when things are so near and yet so far, the lack of foresight seems silly.

(C) Denis Hurley 2009

24 Replies to “Mix and Mismatch – by Denis Hurley

  1. Great article Denis. I guess as 2nd and 3rd kits have come into their own as marketable items, rather than practical necessities, the kit designers have felt less inclined to focus on the clashing side of things and more on what will sell in the club shop. I also had a made up team when I was a child…can’t remember what I called them, but they played in orange and the away shirt was a complete reverse of the home 🙂

  2. I agree with the mixing and matching as an ideal. As an Everton fan, I was amazed that in recent years we have had two sets of home and away shorts because the kits are not compatible. Whether our away kit was yellow with blue trim, or white with blue trim, either way blue shorts could have been included that would have in turn been the home change shorts.

    And talking of home change shorts brings me nicely back to Arsenal. They don’t have any. Are Arsenal the only team who only ever wear one pair of shorts with their home shirt? I would have included Liverpool up to this year where they wore red shirts and white shorts for one game. But arsenal always wear white shorts when they play at Goodison park and we always wear blue shorts when we go to Arsenal?

    Regardless, I believe that Arsenal have never worn red shorts? Rather odd really. Their kits in their centenary year when they wore maroon were interchangeable, and they did swap more, but I guess the fact they have a fair bit of white on their home shirt stops them going for a simple away design of reverse colours.

    Man Utd are one of my favourites for swapping items between kits as they seem to always have worn black shorts as a change. This again might be fairly unique in that their change home shorts are not the same colour as their shirt. Most other clubs with white shorts have change shorts that are the same colour as their shirts. But having black change shorts lends almost infinite possibilities to having an away kit that can be interchanged with the home one.

    Kidderminster Harriers had the same system for one year where they wore black shorts if their white ones clashed, the following season they decided they liked the black shorts and actually wore them as the home shorts for the next season keeping the same shirts!

  3. Hi Matt,

    Arsenal did wear red shorts with the home kit on a few occasions in the 70s.

    To respond to your comment, you have hit the nail on the head with what I was trying to say – in situations like that, clubs often end up with more than one set of shorts or socks which are the same colour, which is madness in my view.

    I’m not sure you’re right about Liverpool wearing white shorts with their home kit though?

  4. I don’t remember Liverpool wearing white shorts with the home shirt this season Matt – what game was it in? Interesting points by the way – cheers.

    Denis is right, Arsenal did wear red several times in the 70s although as you point out Matt, they always stick with white shorts now and would rather play in their away kit then change them.

  5. Thinking back to Chelsea in the seventies and eighties they caused a few teams to wear away socks with home shirts and shirts due to the white socks. Remember Leeds with red socks in the 1970 cup final at Wembley, then Chelsea switched to yellow socks for the replay (in fact to a different home shirt and shorts with yellow trim). Also an FA Cup tie against Spurs in 1982 where Spurs wore yellow socks (and white shorts)

  6. It’s widely known that Arsenal only ever wear white shorts with their red/white home kit but I distinctly remember a night game at St.Andrew’s in the early eighties when they wore black shorts with a green trim with the standard shirt.Their away kit at the time was green shirts with the aforementioned shorts.Looked awful by the way !

  7. i created edlington united when i was younger ……but unlike yours my team was made up of me (star forward #11) and my freinds ………i also drew kits for them and seeing your article made me dig them out ………it seems that even at the age of 8 i wasnt new to the mix and match theory ……..

    we played in blue and white stripes with black shorts and socks for the home …….i also created blue alternates

    our away was all white with blue trim (and could be worn with the alt blue shorts/socks of the home ………just as the home could be worn with the white of the away)

    our third was a wednesday inspired gold and purple …..no colour mixing on this kit but the gold did look rather fetching with the home black shorts now i come to think of it lol

  8. On Fifa 12, i have a team in the creation centre made up of me and my mates named Edinburgh FC, colours of white, black and red (Edinburgh municipal colours)

    i am sad enough to pay the extra and get a third kit editing option so my home kit is all white with black/red trimmings, the away is red with black/white trimmings and the third black with white/black trimmings, which could mix and match perfectly

    however in the game you cannot swap kit elements which is annoying as its something that pro evo 3 had but they took the feature away. annoys me greatly when i play another side with white socks in the game that i end up having to play in the away strip rather than have the option just to wear my third choice black socks

    being a football kit geek has some drawbacks where a normal person would probably not even notice these issues!

  9. Yeah, that’s a pet hate of mine too, David. That you can’t mix and match the elements in Fifa. Ideally they’d have the rare change shorts and socks included too but that may be a bit much to ask.

  10. i know it was be amazing if they included it, or at very least able to swap bits and pieces of kit. on the subject of Fifa my other pet hate as well is that on Creation Centre you cannot edit GK kits, which agian is something Pro Evo used to have then took away, as my Creation Centre team play in white and the game has allocated me a light grey GK kit and the GK’s done have any of the branding or sponsorship logos

  11. What did it matter if PES3 had the option to use change and socks, as you could edit the kits anyway, no?

  12. Interesting to see Middlesbrough with a sash rather than a hoop now and white shorts back too. For the away, though, adidas have basically plagiarised themselves by giving them Chelsea’s one from 09-10

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