Contrary to what some of you out there may think, we sweated blood over this countdown. We didn't just discuss the 50 Greatest Football Shirts – we argued about them. Endlessly. At times, we threatened to commit arson to each other’s houses unless certain strident views were toned down and even, on one occasion, resorted to calling each other some very rude names indeed.
Strangely, though, it was all worth it. We decided on our 50 favourite shirts and ordered them accordingly, stopping only once we’d written at great length about each and every one. We knew they’d mystify or frustrate some of you by their very inclusion, but by going to the trouble of explaining ourselves so thoroughly, we hoped you’d see our point of view.
And now it’s done. Over seven weeks of daily blog posts and well over a year of planning are at an end. We hope you enjoyed our 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever series, but before we close the book on this epic tale, we thought we’d summarise what we put before you. Somewhat inevitably, we’ve created an infographic.
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To begin with, it may come as no surprise that almost half of our 50 shirts belong to teams based in the United Kingdom (all of us having some sort of strong UK connection). Almost as many again belong to national or club teams in Europe (again, an area of familiarity for us all).
Only nine of the 50 shirts belong to teams outside of Europe which could be conceived as a shortcoming on our part. Guilty as charged… but then again, no-one can be expected to have a comprehensive knowledge of every football shirt in every part of the world.
More than a third of our Greatest 50 shirts belong to one manufacturer – the company behind our Number 1 shirt, adidas. Surely this should come as no surprise to anyone. The German sportswear giant has been responsible for so many great football kits in their time, whether they’re on our list or not. To come out on top as the most dominant manufacturer in our round-up is perhaps the very least they deserve.
Chipping in with 11 shirts was Umbro – a fine achievement for the designers behind such classics as the England 2009 shirt and, to bring things right up to date, the widely-acclaimed West Ham United shirt for the 2015-16 season.
Another great English company, Admiral, provided five of our 50 shirts, each one showing their imaginative flare covering a period from the early-70’s to the early-80’s.
Of the other manufacturers, Nike and Puma were responsible for just four shirts and one shirt respectively. That’s not to say they’re poor when it comes to football shirt design – just that, in our view, few of their creations have been true classics. Such rigorous standards we applied to our project…
This was a tricky one to create sub-categories for. Gone are the days when football shirts could be simply called ‘Plain’ or ‘Hooped’ or ‘Striped.’ Now, thanks to improved manufacturing techniques, they’re much more complex, not just comprised of a collar and cuffs in a contrasting colour.
Taking that on board, and for the purposes of this infographic, we devised some simple profiles for each shirt style. ‘Plain’ was self-explanatory, and perhaps unsurprisingly accounted for over a quarter of the 50. ‘Halved’ and ‘Striped’ shirts were also well defined if less common in numbers. Hell, we even embraced those new-fangled shirts with ‘Faded’ designs, of which there were two.
What caused a slight headache was categorising those shirts that were essentially plain but were decorated with coloured blocks, lines or other motifs. What could we call them? ‘Decorated Plain’ seemed apt, and mopped up almost half of our half-century selection.
And if you thought ‘Decorated Plain’ was vague, we simply had to add a category called ‘Other’. Well what sort of label would you give the Hull City 1992-93 Home Shirt?
Decade of Origin
We’ve discussed on Football Attic podcasts past that ‘proper’ football kit design didn't really start until the 1970’s, as before that it was essentially classed as ‘equipment’. Despite being a great era for football shirts, however, the 1970’s only accounted for five of our final 50. The lion’s share instead went to the following decade; 20 of the 50 were a product of the 1980’s. Was it really the greatest decade for football kit design? You decide…
Fans of modern shirt design won’t have been too disappointed to see the last five years represented by 11 of our shirts, which reassuringly proves that the era of great design is in no way behind us.
Predominant Shirt Colour
These days, football shirts are often likely to contain any number of elements that in some way dilute its predominant colour. Whether it be blocks and panels in a contrasting hue, or a stripe, hoop or other motif, it’s not always easy to pin down the main colour of a shirt.
For the purpose of our infographic, however, we had to do just that, wherever possible. In so doing, we exposed a wide colour palette ranging from the most popular colour, blue (11 shirts) to yellow, gold, pink and amber (1 shirt each).
One colour that didn't feature, most notably, was black – not that many teams wear a predominantly black shirt in their home kit, but many away kits have certainly turned to the dark side by way of a contrast. Maybe none of them have quite managed to balance this darkest of dark colours with a real sense of style?
Returning to the theme of ambiguity, 10 of our 50 shirts were categorised as ‘Various’ because of the complexity of their colour scheme. Birmingham City 1972-74 Third Shirt, anyone?
Finally, an interesting (if simple) look at whether our 50 Greatest Shirts have been produced for club teams or national sides. As you can see, the clubs win that particular battle with almost two-thirds of the entire amount. Strange, if you think about it… national team shirts probably get more exposure via major international tournaments, and yet they only account for 34% of all those featured in our countdown.
So there it is – the 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever in infographic form. Now if only we could represent the approval rating of each shirt as some form of graph…