Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I've Got Stripes: The five most wretched striped football shirts of all time

Ed Carter returns with a fabulous guest post all about the place of the striped shirt in football history...

Listeners to the latest Football Attic podcast will now be fully aware that I have become part of the problem. The problem, specifically, is the way the world of football fans dotes on the Peru international kit. But we love sashes. Sashes on kits are brilliant things and, moreover very difficult to mess up.

Stripes, on the other hand, are a different matter. My own team are Brighton and Hove Albion, so I dote on striped shirts. Brighton of course once famously had a kit with striped shorts as well, by way of demonstrating the massive inadvisability of doing that.

There's another magical aspect to striped football shirts of a sort unrelated to sartorial concerns: teams who wear them underachieve magnificently. The last time a team who wore stripes as their first choice kit won the English football league championship was Sunderland in 1935/36 and the last FA Cup winner in stripes were the largely otherwise stripe-free Coventry City in 1987. The last team who are regular striped shirt wearers to prevail in football's oldest competition: Southampton, in 1976. And naturally, they weren't wearing their red and white striped shirts that day... the impossible glamour of the no-hoper is hard to overlook.

You'd think that it was hard to make a porridge of a striped shirt. All one need do, after all, is have vertical bands of colour of identical width, equidistantly spaced. It's not rocket science. But the sheer level of crimes - CRIMES - against striped shirts that have been done in the name of kit design are very hard to forgive or forget. I've picked out the five I consider to be the most shameful examples.

Southampton (1993-95)

This jersey was quite dazzlingly horrible. Stripes of all kinds of shapes and designs, combined with a totally unexpected chevron. The manufacturer - Pony - could not have been more aptly-named. It's one and only saving grace is the fact it doesn't commit the cardinal striped shirt sin, i.e. uneven spacing and width. The worst thing about it, however, was the fact it was the kit worn by the great Matthew Le Tissier as he scored some of the finest goals in the history of English football, thus securing this aesthete's nightmare of a kit's continued presence in compilation programmes and highlights packages from here to eternity.

Colchester United (1997-99)

There are several common sins committed against striped shirt design: uneven width, uneven spacing and straightness failures being the most likely to set my eyelid twitching. Sometimes, however, a shirt comes along which transcends even these mistakes, entering into the realms of metaphysical badness. Step forward Colchester United at the end of the last century. What Patrick were thinking when this appeared on their drawing board is very much open to interpretation, but it's unlikely that the answer was "about striped shirts". It looks like the report on a hard disc defragmentation.

Lincoln City (2011/12)

Nike are particular sinners in the striped shirt world in recent years. They, for reasons I hope they will keep to themselves, seem to have taken on the quite demonstrably unneccessary mission of redesigning the striped shirt. This is their current attempt, and it is quite magnificently awful. Awful enough that you could almost start to admire the brass neckery of it all. Almost, but not quite. This shirt remains in their template catalogue for the current season (why?) and some teams - Bradford City's away shirt among them - have even taken them up on the offer (for the love of god why?). The ever diminishing width of the stripes here are presumably a reflection of my will to live.

Newcastle United (1990-93)

Newcastle United are a fine old club with magnificent fans who almost invariably deserve better. But you don't always get what you deserve unfortunately, and the Magpies have been particularly badly served by the kit manufacturers down the years. Last season's bewildering two-stripes-folornly-floating-past-on-a-black-background effort takes some beating. But beat it this monstrosity did and does. The most eloquent argument ever made for clubs changing their kit design every season, the Toon wore this crazed experiment in multi-spacing and sizing for three seasons. It's completely all over the place. Luckily, the transgressors in this case - Umbro - are now very much at the forefront of modern, elegant and restrained football kit design.

West Bromwich Albion (1992-94)

What's worse than variable width stripes spaced at seemingly random intervals? Easy: just make it look like your television has cross-channel interference. Who knows how many sets were lost to a good stiff whack on the side by viewers thinking the tracking was off? Either way, this wibbly-wobbly catastrophe may very well have been designed by a genuine maniac. Wolves season ticket sales must have absolutely soared.

Our thanks again to Ed Carter for this superb review of some of the worst stripey monstrosities. Ed also makes the point that very few national teams wear striped shirts (Argentina and Paraguay being in the obvious minority). Which countries do you think could pull off the striped shirt look? Leave us a comment and let us know!


  1. That Lincoln one looks like a graphic equaliser.

  2. Sadly most of Saints kits throughout the 90s were pretty bad. The worst one - even worse than the one here - had to be Pony's 1995-1997 attempt at combining retro with polyester. Truly horrible.