Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Whatever Happened To... Long Laces?


This photograph is possibly one of the most famous football images of all time. The smallest of details seem burned into the subconscious - the Seiko advert in the background, the sloping roof of the executive boxes, the expressions of both participants, one sheer effort, the other a mix of panic and futility.

There is one small detail however, that most won’t even realise is there, but one which only people of a certain age would even understand. Look at both Maradona’s and Shilton’s boots. They’re both wearing Puma... Kings I believe. This is clear due to the large Puma logo down the side of the boot.

But wait. There’s something amiss with that logo, for it appears to have a large black line right through the middle. Now, those of us of that certain age can immediately say what it is. In fact, you can probably still smell the mud falling away as you recall achingly removing the boots from your feet after a hard fought 1-0. Or feel the crispness under your fingers as you came to put on those boots for the next match, the laces still caked in turf from last time, for as we all know that black line cleaving in twain the Puma logo, is a lace... a football boot lace.

In the days of personalised, lighter than air, Himalayan Camel leather boots with self-triggering air bags (probably), the concept of laces longer than the Great Wall of China wrapped several times under the sole of the boot is completely anathema. Boots these days only seem content when the laces are kept hidden, concealed beneath aerodynamic, bullet proof Kevlar panels (maybe). Try wrapping a lace round a boot these days and it’ll just about make it to the other side!

The most important question I feel is not so much, why don’t they still do this, but why on earth did they ever?  Why make laces so damn long you had to wrap them round the boot? I’m sure there was a logical reason for it – maybe old style boots just weren’t secure enough? Maybe it was a FIFA edict brought in after the infamous* 1974 Boot Loss Incident, where Chile took its entire team off the pitch against France after 2 of their players’ boots came off and the French players hid them and refused to give them back. The simple fact is, I don’t know why as when I started wearing boots they fitted perfectly and could easily have stayed on with normal length laces.

Yet another thing the modern game has deemed unnecessary, but frankly one whose absence, I think, has barely been noticed.

*made up


  1. Great piece, although in my experience long laces were always useful for holding down flappy tongues!

    I suppose that cheap tape / tongueless boots have made long laces largely redundant...

    1. Ah yes, flappy tongues...which then raises the question, why did they make such big flappy tongues? Seems someone somewhere made a design error and rather than correct it, they designed everything else on top of that to accommodate it ;-)

    2. You are not going back far enough. Original football and Rugby boots were 'boots' not slippers!! The lace went around the back of the heel -usually through a leather 'loop' crossed over down under the sole where your foot arch is and then tied on the top where the boot laced up. Mid to late 1960's Association football boots became lower but you could still lace this way but 'lazy boys' just used to lap the lace round and round the boot. Not many rugby players wear boots now either all 'fancy dan slippers' lol : )

    3. Thanks Anonymous, I remember lacing round the back of my ankle even in football boots!

      I assume why you had to lace round the back and under the boot to hold them on securely? Still no reason for big flappy tongues though :)