Football kits- the good, the bad and the ugly

Our sports writers look at some iconic kits from across the years.

Tom Hardwick
3rd December 2018
Image- Flickr

Football kits are special. They are often perfect encapsulations of the values of a club, and they are often a kaleidoscopic explosion of headache-inducing colours. Here, our writers look at some famous kits that fit both of these categories.

FC St Pauli Away Kit 2015-16: Tom Hardwick

Football has a lot to do in terms of inclusivity, but many teams and fans could learn a lot from the example of FC St Pauli. The club is renowned for its politically active fanbase, who go to great lengths to eradicate any forms of discrimination that manifest themselves in and around the club and use their status and voice within the community to promote equality.

Football kits are often iconic in themselves, becoming embedded in the minds of fans. St Pauli, realising how significant a canvas the football shirt can be, decided to go one further than the rainbow laces campaign by emblazoning the edge of the sleeves of their 2015-16 with rainbow flags in a display of support for the LGBT community.

A subtle gesture indeed, but one that emphasises that at St Pauli all are welcome to enjoy football regardless of their sexual orientation. It might not be the most stylish kit ever created or a kit associated with a teams success, but in terms of promoting progression, inclusion and the responsibility that clubs have to do all they can to make their stadiums welcoming environments for all, it is a strip that deserves considerable plaudits.

Newcastle Home Kit 1995-1997: Tom Hardwick

There’s something about the Newcastle home kit displaying the Newcastle Brown Ale sponsor that just looks right. The inhabitants of Newcastle are as proud a people as you’ll ever meet, and to see a local boy like Alan Shearer terrorise defences whilst wearing the logo of a local company must have inspired great satisfaction.

In the present day Newcastle have been run into the ground by Mike Ashley, and although that pride remains it has been stifled by endless controversy, with the renaming of St James’ Park standing out. Furthermore, Newcastle Brown Ale is no longer brewed in the city, instead being made down in Tadcaster to the distaste of some locals. These recent developments both suggest that the city of Newcastle and its people have been ignored, almost cast away, a far cry from the times in which the city and businesses were united behind a successful football team.

This shirt evokes nostalgia by the bucketload, and when you think about what has happened to Newcastle in recent years and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the club’s ownership, you can forgive Newcastle fans for wanting to return to those heady days and to see the likes of Shearer don the classic kit once more. They probably won’t make a kit like this again, because football has sadly changed for what seems to be the worse, and that makes the memories associated with this kit and that era of success all the more important to those fans who experienced it.

Stoke City Away Kit 1992-1993: Dominic Lee

Ah, the 90’s, truly the golden age of awful away kits and this number from my beloved Stoke City certainly fits the bill.

This purple number from the 92/93 (which I’ve nicknamed “Purple Haze” after the Hendrix song) saw the Potters succeed in the league, winning the Second Division (now League 1) with 93 points. Unfortunately, I’m far too young to remember this kind of success- a win at home is now a rarity in the Potteries.

Purple seems a popular colour at the Bet365, with Stoke again donning purple away colours this season- though the current version is far plainer as opposed to the retro carpet-style aesthetic which featured on this matchmaker shirt.

City’s current manufacturer, Italian brand Macron, may have drawn inspiration from this very shirt (which lives somewhere in my drawers at home). I’m a superstitious fan and ever since Macron took over the manufacturing of Stoke’s kits the club has gone downhill in their on the pitch performances- coincidence I think not! Regardless, I have little doubt in my mind that this classic strip will go down in the list of kits that were such an eyesore that they were actually quite good.

Sunderland Goalkeeper Kit 1994-1996: Rebecca Johnson

Football has a range of marvellous things about it, the tactics, the tension and the kits. Every team in the world who plays, professional or amateur, has a distinct set of colours to identify themselves with. However, these colours can produce some of the most iconic and strangest kits around.

When deciding what kit I wanted to write about, I had a gander through my team's (Sunderland in case you were unaware this far into the year) attire from recent years. There are a range of different kits I love in there, including the Gary Rowell "Cowies" shirt from the '80s and the Lambton brewery sponsored ones from the '90s. But one kit in particular caught my eye- well it wasn't difficult to miss.

This kit is the '94 to '96 Vaux Sunderland goalkeeper kit. And it is truly iconic for all the wrong reasons, it is beautifully horrific. It ranked a commendable second in TalkSport's, "20 Worst football shirts you'll ever see". It's like a child had entered a competition to design a kit and used all the colours they had at their disposal to create it. There's a crazy combination of red, yellow, blue and black shapes with a pattern of smaller squares at the top and bigger squares at the bottom. Additionally, there are a pair of goalkeeping gloves at the bottom of the shirt to complete the look.

If you look at it for too long it's rumoured you'll get sucked into a vortex of colours and shapes, much like the one the TARDIS travels through. Or you'll just get a terrible headache. It's a kit that truly embodies the wackiness of '80s and '90s football kits and for me it's amazingly awful.

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