Ok, so this week Liverpool’s appointed kit manufacturer announced the club’s new third kit for the coming season. Its unveiling drew gasps of amazement. And when those gazing at it had sufficiently hauled their bottom jaws from the ground the sound of gasps was replaced by raucous laughter and sneering. It was probably quite a humiliating experience for a Liverpool fan, a bit like when your Dad makes a fool of himself drunkenly dancing at a wedding or something. I for one love the kit, and I’ll lay out the reasons why I think it’s a triumph and why its actually important for kits like this to exist.
Apart from a brief dalliance with club during the 96-98 period (coincidentally a era in which the club was graced by terrific kits) I’ve never supported Liverpool so that pain and embarrassment has somewhat tempered down my feelings on its design for me. I know for a fact that a decent amount of Liverpool fans are annoyed or even angry at what they see as an insult towards a ‘proud club…tradition..yada-yada-yada’.
And to be honest I can’t really argue with people being pissed off. The design is, to put it lightly, bold. Certainly coupled with the away kit Warrior unveiled earlier on in the close season it certainly adds weight to the theory that there maybe something in the water back at the Warrior design department. But the reason I love it and why all football fans should too has little to do whether it looks nice at all. The fact it stands out from the crowd is more important; being aesthetically displeasing is a mere unfortunate by product.
Thirteen of the 20 clubs in the forthcoming Premier League season will have their kits made by either Adidas or Nike. And save for the top tier clubs the majority of fans will have to endure template designs rather than unique kits tailored to their clubs history and personality Sunderland’s, Stoke’s and Hull’s kits being prime examples. A situation much like the shirts of the 2004 European Championships or the current MLS.
A fair chunk of the comments I’ve seen on the kit have been vitriolic towards Warrior and its designs, a fair sprinkling of ‘We shouldda stuck wi’Adidas” or “We should bring in Nike”. Actually that’s the last thing you should do. Ask Stoke, Sunderland and Hull supporters what they think of the fact that Adidas believes that the shirt on which their crest sits is essentially interchangeable with any other mid-table team. Its only a matter of time before the homogenisation of football shirts creeps up into the top tier of English clubs.
In fact, it can already be seen with Nike’s two newest English acquisitions – Manchester City and the England national team. Both teams were poached from Umbro at the end of a process where the global giant had gutted the Manchester based company from the inside out, and the difference in kits is palpable. Manchester Citys’ is essentially the same Umbro design with a round neck and the badge cheaply heat-pressed on rather than stitched-on as was de rigueur under Umbro. And take the England goalkeeper shirt for example, for years the product of a unique design with Umbro now demoted to a shirt design which is available for Sunday league teams through the Nike team wear catalogue. The designs are not meant to inspire pride in the jersey, or evoke memories of past glories they are simply business based steps to increase the profit margins for the company’s owners.
I hope this dosen’t sound like I have a personal vendetta against Nike or Adidas, because I don’t. In the past and currently they have made some terrific kits designs and in doing so help define an era for a club and its fans. However I do have a problem with their business model. Any economist will tell you monopolisation of a market will always lead to creative stagnation, and if Adidas and Nike were to have their way, the result would be a generic line-up of cost-saving templates for the new season, whilst all along charging increasing prices to already financially pressured fans.
Above I mentioned back when Liverpool had great kits by Adidas during the 1995/96 season. The list of kit sponsors for that year included: Asics, Umbro, Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Lotto, Puma, Pony and Le Coq Sportif. Oh and the match ball was made by Mitre. In terms of the current stranglehold big business has on football it is unlikely we will see that sort of diversity again.
So when you see the latest Liverpool third shirt (Warrior Sports) or Aston Villa away (Macron) rather than guffaw at the outlandish designs, applaud at the stand that shirt is taking against the generic and boring that the big companies are foisting onto football fans. And Liverpool fans, be proud that your city has once again taken a stand against bullying big business.
Now if you don’t mind I’m off to get drunk, look at classicfootballshirts.com and have a cry.