This article titled “Are this season’s Premier League kits the worst of all time?” was written by Michael Hann, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 27th September 2012 09.53 UTC
There have been monstrosities in the past and there will be monstrosities in the future. And, true, this season’s Premier League home kits don’t throw up any true horrors – the guano effect that sullied Liverpool’s red shirts between 1989 and ’91, the awful lace-up shirts Manchester United sported from 1992 to ’94 – but that’s about all to say in favour of this season’s kits. The modern demand that kits must be changed every season in order to fleece money out of people who believe they must be up to date to support their team is ruining our kits. Tiny, incremental change every year means even the simplest kits are sporting silly fripperies. It doesn’t matter if it looks good, so long as it is recognisably different from last year’s effort. The result? This year’s Premier League selection might be the most underwhelming ever, with more than half the clubs having ruined their home kits one way or another. Here is your club-by-club roll of shame.
The problem: That tricolour on the sleeves. At first, I’d assumed it was to mark some Arsène Wenger-related anniversary but it turns out to be a “blue hoop detail inspired by the home kit socks worn in the 1930s under legendary manager Herbert Chapman”. A shirt design inspired by 80-year-old socks? Which marketing man thought up that line, and how hard does he laugh when he hears someone repeat it? Sadly, given the simple beauty of their classic kit, Arsenal have an impressive recent history of screwing it up completely.
The problem: There doesn’t appear to be a significant one. The body is claret, the sleeves are blue, the collar is simple. Shame the official photo shoot appears to have been undertaken as a hurricane rolled in over Villa Park, and the pictures are a bit dark to actually see the colours.
The problem: None. Obviously, it features cutting edge “TechFit” and “Climacool” technology (both trademarks, don’t use those words lightly), but you know what – I think this is the nicest kit in the Premier League. The blue is pretty much solid (I couldn’t see those diagonals on it from close-up at Loftus Road the other week), and the silver trim actually looks tasteful (though I was sure it was gold when I saw it being worn). The words I thought I would never say: well done, Chelsea.
The problem: What’s with the huge white cuffs? It makes all the players look like they’re bandaged after trying to kill themselves. Only they were stupid enough to slash their biceps rather than their wrists.
The problem: The pinstripes. Received Premier League wisdom holds that Fulham’s crowd is entirely composed of tourists and City traders (a couple of years back, on a rare visit to Craven Cottage, I sat in front of a man earnestly explaining to a baffled American tourist that most British schools had a house system, where the boys – no girls go to school apparently – are grouped together under a housemaster. Both stereotypes in two seats). Putting pinstripes on your shirts – which should be plain white – will do nothing to change the perception of the Cottagers as the bankers’ club.
The problem: Like all men of a certain age, I believe Liverpool kits should be made by Umbro. But other than the kit manufacturer, I can see very little wrong with this. It may indeed prove to be the most successful thing at Anfield this season.
The problem: Sky blue is notoriously easy to get wrong. So congratulations to City on getting it right. It wasn’t always this way: few who were present will ever forget the first Kappa kit launched by City, in 1997, when the assembled journalists barely got to see the new shirt because most of the club’s stock had been pinched from a parked van the night before. The highlight of the event was the horror on the face of Kappa’s president as he stood next to the retired referee Neil Midgley, who was acting as MC: “We’re like the Everly Brothers! One of us drinks Everly, and one of us smokes Everly!” You wouldn’t get that at the Etihad.
The problem: It’s “a design inspired by the club’s rich history and close bond with the heritage of Manchester. This relationship is represented by the striking gingham print which runs through the shirt – a tribute to the world-famous fabric that powered Manchester’s growth from a small market town to a global centre of cotton textiles. Its iconic checked pattern remains an enduring symbol of the city’s culture today.” No, it’s tartan and it looks ridiculous. Still, United pioneered the shameless-bastardisation-in-the-name-of-history. Why stop now?
The problem: Too much white. Black and white stripes are hard to get right, despite being so simple. Last season, Newcastle got it badly wrong – black shirts with a couple of white stripes on the front. This season’s is better, but all the white trim makes it look like a Juventus shirt. Proper stripes, black trim, and they’ll be sorted.
The problem: None. I can’t say it’s my preferred colour combination but it’s what Norwich play in and Errea has managed not to cover the Canaries’ shirts with vile additions. Shame about the black away kit, mind.
The problem: QPR are meant to look like a football team in blue and white hoops, not a collection of Breton fishermen who’ve somehow wandered into west London. Last season’s kit was criticised by fans for having too many blue hoops and making them too thin. The club responded by adding an extra hoop and making them even thinner – and still Tony Fernandes has a reputation as a listening chairman. All hopes are now pinned on the expiry of the kit deal with Lotto, and the expectation that no one could mangle the kit any more than has been done already.
The problem: From too many hoops to too few. There must be a happy medium somewhere along the M4 corridor. Perhaps the optimum number of hoops is to be found midway between QPR and Reading, in Slough. Kit designers worldwide are setting out for the town as you read this, in the hope of finding out.
The problem: In this case, let me cede the floor to a commenter on the caughtoffside website: “The worst home kit EVER. Won’t be buying the shirt. After the sash and the return to stripes, I thought SFC cared about the supporters. Obviously I’m wrong. What an absolute insult. CRAP.” Quite right, Pete Jordan. Southampton play in stripes, they do not play in red with white pinstripes. And what is it with pinstripes this season, eh? Apparently, in the case of the Saints, the shirt “sets itself apart from recent designs to embrace the new era of Premier League football for the club”. Am I imagining the striped shirts they used to wear in the Premier League, then?
The problem: The only problem is the way the team plays, isn’t it? The kit’s great – a close challenger to Chelsea for best kit of the season – suggesting Adidas are the only one of the big kit-makers who understand that fans want kits that look more or less how you would describe your club’s basic colours to someone who’d never seen them.
The problem: None. Again Adidas take on a traditional design and do nothing horrific to it. They obviously need a management shake-up over there.
The problem: In a word – hubris. By all means take a pure white kit and add lettering and trim in gold. But make sure you have a trophy cabinet like Real Madrid before you do so. Getting tonked in a kit covered with gold – the colour of champions, not 100th anniversaries – is not a good look, even when the shirt itself is a thing of beauty.
The problem: The shorts. Why can’t Tottenham leave their shorts alone? Last season’s looked black – though Spurs friends assured me they were “midnight blue” – and this year they’re white. There always used to be nonsense about Spurs and Chinese mythology; how they’d be successful in the Chinese year of the cockerel. But given the club’s infrequent habit of donning white shorts – from 1985-87, in 2007-08, and now – which used to be reserved for European games, it seems they take more notice of the Chinese year of the idiot designer. On the bright side, the shirt doesn’t have those yellow wee stains like the one from 2009-10.
The problem: None. It’s got stripes and it’s made by Adidas. That’s your seal of non-embarrassment, right there.
The problem: I prefer Villa’s collar but there’s not a lot wrong with this. Perhaps Macron are already preparing for the day when fans at the Olympic Stadium will be too far from the pitch to actually pick out anything bar the basic colours of the shirt.
The problem: You can’t see it in the picture, but it’s the back – it’s solid blue. Like Newcastle’s last season this is not a striped shirt but a solid one with two white patched. Then again, how many people outside Wigan actually have strong feelings about a Wigan shirt?
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