In our last blog, we looked at the advances in football shirts from the start of the game until the 1980s. We’ll continue our look at football shirts by picking up in the 1990s.
Football changed forever in the UK in the 1990s. Terraces were outlawed, new all-seater stadia were built and new TV deals meant there was more money in the game than ever before. Admission prices also started rising to keep away the “riff-raff” from games.
With this commercialisation came the trend for new kits every year as a cynical move by clubs and manufacturers to get as much money from fans as they could each season.
Football shirts were becoming as much of a high street fashion item as they were functional sports kits, so designers started making kits that were up to date with fashion trends, so they’d look good worn with jeans at the pub before and after games. By this time football shirts were all made from artificial materials and we were told each season that the new fabrics used were more revolutionary than last seasons for whatever reasons.
Rule changes meant that referees could wear kits that weren’t black, meaning many teams (with Manchester United at the forefront) released black change kits. This led to a host of bizarre change strips in colours ranging from beige to denim. Abstract patterns and flashes of colour dominated the 90s and Hull City even ended up with a tiger stripe kit in 92-93 and 93-94
New technology meant every season’s kits were better and more advanced with technology to take moisture away from the skin and kept athletes warming in the cold and cooler in the heat, or at least that was the claim.
As we moved into the 2000s kits began to evolve again with figure-hugging kits made by Kappa starting a trend. They were designed to show off the physique of the players, but given the physique of football fans, didn’t prove particularly popular.
Puma released a sleeveless top for Cameroon’s 2002 African Cup of Nations campaign, which FIFA didn’t really like and banned. For the 2004 World Cup Cameroon and Puma were also innovators, releasing an all in one kit with the shirts and shorts stitched together. FIFA was also not keen on this kit and banned this, causing Puma to sue the governing body to court for loss of revenue.
Jerseys designs were more conservative, with fewer flashes of colour and going back to traditional designs with little to no patterns running through them.
As league rules changed, more sponsors were allowed on the arms and back of shirts as well as on shorts. This meant more sponsorship, with companies spending millions to have their names emblazoned above players numbers.
Who knows where football shirts will go in the future, but I hope these blogs have been informative to the football shirt enthusiast and the casual reader.