A few years ago I remember trying to put a value on my Lincoln City kit collection. It was perhaps 2003 and I had 10 shirts maximum.
I hoped each would maybe be worth £10, so I entered that into my ‘sad little database’ (as labelled by my partner at the time), believing they were worth that. Two days later I saw one in the window of a charity shop for a fiver. Three weeks later, it was still there. When I needed to decorate a few days later I almost wore a shirt a season or two out of date, but thought better of it.
To be fair, it was awful 2001/02 shirt, so maybe I should have done.
These days, if a football shirt hits a charity shop, it’s usually sold within minutes. Now, rather than just being the colour you play in, a shirt is a fashion accessory, poured over by experts and judged in the same way as any club announcement.
In fact, some of the biggest rated articles on The Real EFL, our sister site, are reactions to kits. One, in particular, has got people talking this week, which we’ll touch upon in a second.
I first fully understood how popular kits had become at the ‘shirt off’ I did with Danny and Steve Nez during last season. They knew I had a bit of a collection and in turn, they’ve got quite a few nice bits as well. On the night we displayed them and I was shocked at how much people bought into it. Some wore their favourite retro kits and later in the season, the club did a retro shirt afternoon. If I’d had a pocket full of notes that day some chaps would have been going home shirtless but with more money than they arrived with.
The appreciation of kits even bridges a local divide sometimes. Bitter rivals will be happy to call each other’s kits as smart if they feel it so, although few would have praised our effort last season. Sadly, Grimsby seem to have got it right with their away kit this year whereas ours still divides opinion. Amongst my collection, there is a Luton Town kit, as well as one from Bari and another from Siena. Why? Nice kit.
What is it about a kit that closes these gaps and has football fans, as a collective, so passionate and involved?
To understand better, I asked Danny Nez why he felt they were so popular. His Twitter feed is littered with reviews of kits and bargains he’s picked up in charity shops. We’re not just talking Lincoln here either, but Roma, Barcelona, Colombia and England.
For a few years now I’ve always wanted a @ASRomaEN shirt. Never found the right price until I happened to pop on @lovellsoccer site. First ever order from them and it’s fantastic. ⛓⛓ that chainmail affect is superb. LOVEll IT pic.twitter.com/npqlw0WF6U
— 𝗗𝗮𝗻𝗻𝘆 𝗡𝗲𝘀𝗯𝗶𝘁𝘁 (@nezdanny) July 17, 2019
“Agree to disagree, we’ll leave it like that, shall we? Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to Club kit releases. It’s one of the biggest talking points in pre-season, bar transfers. Would you like to be in the position to make that final choice at a club? How do you think your chosen design would fare with the supporter?
“I’ve been fanatical about football shirt designs and collecting them from an early age. In my youth, you would always see me wearing some kind of football shirt, whether it be Lincoln City or AC Milan with Gullit 10 on the back.
“No matter what, football shirts will always divide opinions, just like music, politics and fashion. Being a 90’s kid, the football fan witnessed a new movement in shirt design, some we hated at the time but now, they are viewed as classics. Opinions change throughout time, for example, Arsenal’s Bruised Banana Away Shirt. Met with disgust back then, now I would say it would be in any collectors top shirt list.
“Maybe in time that Lincoln City shirt you ranted about on social media and refused to buy may become a nostalgic classic which in years to come, you’ll happily remortgage your house just to have.”
Indeed, the kit releases this season have truly divided opinion. Lincoln’s wasn’t warmly received by everyone, the red back and colour sponsor causing some problems. The away kit then didn’t have enough colour, in particular the Imp badge, but it is all down to taste. Certainly, this season’s seems more popular than last year’s Kwik Save bag effort, one which will always be fondly remembered now not because it looked good but because we went up.
I’m also interested as to why having a kit similar to an opponent is such a bad thing now, when two of our most respected kits were also worn by Exeter City, just with a different logo on the front. Why do we crave an identity now, but it wasn’t important back then?
Can success make a shirt more of a classic? Why is it that the early eighties Adidas shirt is so revered as the Holy Grail? How come the excellent 2012/13 TSM Shirt isn’t near the top of anyone’s favourites when it incorporated almost everything you could want in a Lincoln City kit?
These are questions I’m not going to try to answer. Taste, success and changing trends all come into play when assessing shirts. Clubs who manage to nail tradition and trend in the same shirt usually do well; Coventry City have done it really well this year. They’ve got something akin to the 1987 FA Cup Final shirt on the go, but with a modern feel.
What really sparked this article is a question; will three of the very worst shirts I’ve ever seen be fondly remembered by fans of the clubs involved if they achieve success this season? Are they likely to go from a vile garment to a respected kit over time?
I wanted to cover the worst three from this season here because genuinely, I challenge anyone to ever call these classics.
Next Page – Classics? Hardly.