These days football kits are fashion and each new kit design is met with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for the kick-off of a new season. When you also add in issues of performance, durability and a recognition of the heritage of each team that you are producing kits for, it’s easy to see why some new designs take nearly two and a half years to hit the shelves.
Most national kits go through many incarnations before the final one is decided upon, with national federations signing off on every aspect from length of shorts to style of badge. For Nike, one big challenge is to realise that not all clubs and countries work in the same way.
"The Dutch FA have a very progressive attitude towards their away kits," says Phil Dickinson, creative director football at Nike. "We worked closely with Marco van Basten on the new kit which uses a nassau blue colour linked closely with the Dutch royal family. We’ve never used this colour on a kit before but we know they’re really happy with the design."
Other teams aren’t quite so open to change. "Arsenal away kits were always yellow, so when we met with their officials and suggested we change the colour, it made for a very uncomfortable meeting."
Dickinson also reveals some kit changes can come from the strangest of sources.
"One vice chairman of a club took home the design boards to think about them overnight and returned the next day to tell us he wanted to changed the width of a stripe on the socks based on feedback from a family member the night before."
"In the 2002 World Cup, we developed a kit for Brazil which was super-conceptual and we wanted to use those ideas as a test bed for developing something new in the future," says Dickinson. "And if you look at the new Australian kit there’s a lot of engineered mesh panels which promote air flow over the body. When we analyse where people sweat the most on their body, it’s generally down the centre of the back so that’s why there’s a new panel there. The shirt allows the players to feel comfortable playing in the heat of Asia all the way to a more temperate climate like the UK."
"If you look at the complexity of the Australian coat of arms, if it was embroidered it would have a high stitch count, therefore compromising the ability of the material to perform," says Dickinson. "And the preferred option for us is to sell the shirt that the players are wearing. There are exceptions. The Brazil away shirt has a transfer badge on it which the players play in, but the cultural feedback from that region is the fans want an embroidered badge on the shirt for retail. The replica almost feels richer than the real thing."