Kits are an emotive part of football culture these days; there are as many articles in the summer based around kit launches as there are around player signings.
We’re kit connoisseurs here and have already covered The Cult of the Kit in a previous article. A football shirt isn’t just the colour you play in or the design you sell to fans; it’s your identity just as much as your badge, ground or personnel.
Over the summer, kits began to change drastically. Some clubs have really thought about certain designs. Take Coventry City’s new third kit that pays homage to the city’s ‘Two-Tone’ musical origins. The Sky Blues got their kits spot on this season, their home kit nails retro like no other, reaching back to 1987 to draw inspiration.
Then there’s the trend of going towards a short without a sponsor. Of course, in this commercial age, that’s not possible for everyone, but a handful of clubs do have a bare shirt this season. It’s a marketing ploy, with Huddersfield the first to have a bare shirt despite a rather ‘wacky’ release by sponsors Paddy Power. Sandlot Games’ review of Paddy Power explains how their wacky adverts shouldn’t fool football fans; they’re serious about their customers and services and they’re serious about their commitment to their impact on football. They want to hand shirts back to fans, taking away the shameless plugs and logos to hark back to a simpler time.
Do fans want that though? Is a shirt without a sponsor truly handing identity back, or is it, in fact, taking away a marker, a benchmark by which fans remembers eras or seasons?
To demonstrate our point, we’ve picked four shirts from history that are defined by the sponsor and, in our humble opinion, wouldn’t be quite the same without the branding.
Could anything be more iconic the Fossitt and Thorne, one of our earliest sponsors? This was our first season on the terraces of Sincil Bank and the tyre logo sticks out as a defining image of the era. We Are Imps explain how we were only top for three days in our Vauxhall Conference stay, but one of those days was the last day, resulting in promotion.
Yes, it’s the sponsor garnishing shirt when we went down, but it was a symbol of rebirth and revival when we came back up. Without it, would this red and white striped effort merge into one over the course of a few seasons? We think so.
The Echo period was long and at times arduous, but in 1996/97 the shirt that defined that period came out. The baggy style was fitting for the Britpop era and as we beat Manchester City and held Southampton, it became one of the first shirts a new generation of fans owned.
Even now, both the home and away are hugely popular but the Echo logo helps make the shirt what it is.
The shirt that spawned a quiz question; which League Two team share a sponsor with Real Madrid. Thanks to the local Siemens factory, Lincoln City found themselves in illustrious company in 2003/04.
It coincided with another successful period as well as an innovative shirt design. The dark blue came in sharp contrast to the red and white of the home kit, but it sold well and looked great. It’s a classic shirt now, perhaps more because of the famous name on the front than anything else.
Perhaps this might be a little controversial, not least because it took me a second or two to recall who did sponsor us this season! In the modern era, names on shirts change as quickly as designs making them a little less noticeable, but there’s something altogether fitting about our link up with the local college.
2016/17 was the year we came back, the year we snatched our pride and because the club that we’d threatened to be for seasons before. It was the culmination of a city coming together and learning new methods and approaches. It was a season in which The FA suggests that a startling FA Cup run funded our current training ground, a key motivator in attracting exciting young talent.
What better to define that than a link up with a local college, ironically one that conducts teacher training as we were managed by two teachers.
Do any of our sponsors of the past accentuate a shirt in your eyes? Which are your classics? Let us know in the comments below.