Football Shirt Culture

An insert football catalogue in a football magazine in the 1990s was often pored over more than the publication itself. This, from Bourne Sports in 1992, is a great example of exactly that.

With Euro 92 on the horizon, there was the opportunity to dress like one (or both) of “Dahlin...Brolin….Dahlin...BROLIN!” via the heavily-branded Sweden design, or eventual losing finalists Germany, or France… In fact, several adidas teams were covered, but not quite accurate to how they appeared - see the USSR shirt which became the CIS, and the Arsenal-esque Yugoslavia shirt which became, um, eventual winners Denmark. (Check your history books for how that came about.)

Puma, born of the Dassler split - Adi formed adidas, brother Rudi Puma - have a storied past, even beyond their beginnings, and, as this 1974 catalogue demonstrates, much of their finest work can be found on the feet of superstars.

Puma boots have quite the reputation. Diego Maradona notably swore by them, and his predecessor as GOAT - greatest of all time - Pele also endorsed the shoe.

First football boots as a child? For many: Gola. The budget option, like a Yamaha Pacifica or Squier guitar rather than a vintage Gibson Les Paul, you never know to what extent you’ll take to the beautiful game, so go easy on the wallet.

But, as these 1974 catalogue pages demonstrate, there’s historically been more to Gola than My First Football Boots. Like so many brands of the time, less was more. A black boot, with a white or specifically-coloured flash as contrast. Leather, for sure, along with the unmistakable branding, means an endorsement from a player of the calibre of Peter Osgood gave the footwear a certain unlikely cachet.

Some view Nike’s involvement in football - certainly the association variety - as an ultra-modern phenomenon. Whilst the American brand’s influence and approach has grown exponentially in recent years, this advert from a 1987 edition of a Soccer Products and Services magazine proves how far back the engagement goes.

Featuring endorser Ian Rush - Rush was an early-adopter of the now ubiquitous boot range - the teamwear kits aren’t exactly ground-breaking, but now seem to hold a certain kitch value. As client Sunderland found, the branding’s position relegating crests to an unfamiliar placement on the chest is an interesting quirk.

The early-to-mid-1990s was a time of huge transition in football kits, as demonstrated by these Bourne Sports catalogue pages from 1993.

Kappa had recently taken over from Meyba in supplying FC Barcelona, and whilst the Athletic Bilbao and Juventus shirts had an understated and relatively timeless quality, there was a lot more embellishment on the Catalan club’s designs.

These adidas catalogue pages from 1976 are a confusing affair, as one alternates between laughing at how dated items look - understandably - bemoaning others’ unavailability in 2020, and wondering how the German giants could have been so ahead of their time 44 years ago.

The rugby jersey, the rainsuits and the men’s athletic vest are easily timeless enough to be fantasised over, and whilst the leisure suits scream the 70s, the navy and green vertical stripes t-shirt and the allover print example - in 1976! - can only be placed in sportswear history through their coupling with potential guilty pleasure shorts.

In the 1980s, it was hard to argue that adidas had much competition in the European football kit market. In pole position at least, these 1983 catalogue pages show that the teamwear world was adidas’s oyster.

Trefoils - occasionally wordmarked - continued to be the focal point on the torso, as the sleeve stripes caught the eye elsewhere. Horizontal pinstripes were added to goalkeeper shirts with expert spacing, and the boots and Tango balls remain to salivate over. And we’ll grant the odd oversized collar and those purely cosmetic gloves a pass - the latter are saved by the inclusion of that gorgeous Trefoil!

Belgian manufacturer Patrick had a whale of the time in the 1980s. Big club contracts in mainland Europe - and the odd example in the UK - coupled with huge name player endorsement deals made Patrick a winner in the eyes of a generation of football fans.

This 1985 catalogue shows the teamwear range, which doesn’t necessarily stand the test of time, but features connoisseur hits like jacquard shadow stripes and pinstripes on those oh-so-short shorts.

Umbro is a brand which many football kit fans, particularly of a certain vintage, will proclaim as the best ever. These catalogue pages from the 1977-78 season will only bolster that argument.

The teamwear designs demonstrate that Umbro could do the simple kit to virtual perfection - as they continue to do today - and the addition of the famous and inspired diamond taping on a further range took the effect to another level. They cheekily even created what seem like copies of the Admiral England kits of the time, after Umbro had lost their long-term Football Association contract to the new kid on the block.

These 1978 adidas catalogue pages are simplicity itself. Barely a frill in sight, the most significant flourish in the modelling comes from the dashing chap playing the referee’s role.

Trefoil, no adidas wordmark, sleeve stripes is the order of the day on the teamwear kits. Slight variation in the necklines - v-neck or contrast wrapover - is perhaps tied in with having long or short sleeves, but Johan Cruyff would have been itching to remove a stripe on the Netherlands-style shirt, evocative as it is.

Classic Football Shirts