Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Chris O's Favourite 5... England home kits

Once again we find ourselves ready to make acquaintance with another new England home strip, an altogether more frequent event these days but made all the more exciting this time around due to a new manufacturer taking over.

But before we embrace all that Nike has to offer, I thought I'd take a look at the home kits England have worn since World Cup '66 and pick out my own Favourite 5... and if you want to see Rich J's Worst 5, click here!

1. Admiral 1980-83

The first and so far only England shirt I've ever owned, or at least a cheap nylon interpretation of one. When England wore this strip for the first time against Argentina in a 1980 friendly, BBC commentator Barry Davies felt duty bound to question the inclusion of all the colours of the Union Flag on the kit. Maybe he was right, but it would be another 32 years before he'd see an England home kit that was only white and red.

When this kit was launched in May 1980, I remember feeling at the time that the design was good, but not quite on a par with those being produced by Adidas at the time. True though this might have been, it offered a unique look that no other team had, thanks to those distinctive horizontal bands across the shoulders.

If I have to make one criticism, it'd be that the shade of blue was too bright, but as was the case with the previous England home kit, Admiral appear to have made the decision that navy blue was out and royal blue was in. I'd love to have seen what this kit would have looked like with navy rather than royal blue, but this kit still looks great and gains more and more retro kudos with every passing year.

2. Umbro 1987-89

I realise this view chimes with only 0.03% of the world's population, but I really loved this when it was worn around the time of Euro 88. Perhaps it's because the kit has become synonymous with an utterly terrible England campaign that few people like it, but that's unfair in my view.

This, to me, was a breath of fresh air compared to the dull, unimaginative kit that we saw before it in World Cup 86. The crew neck was modern in an understated but fashionable way, and there was a subtle dash of red used here and there on the cuffs and shorts too. How much red to use on the England home kit has always been a tricky skill to master for its manufacturers. Too much and it can spoil the overall effect; too little and you risk upsetting the Barry Davieses of this world.

This, however, was a perfectly executed kit that was as creative in its design as it was smart. A shame, therefore, that we didn't see it worn for a slightly longer period, or at the very least in a successful tournament for the team wearing it.

3. Umbro 1999-2001

If you're going to produce a kit with a retro feel, you really have to get the design spot on... and that's exactly what Umbro did with this one.

With the exception of the squad number in the middle of the shirt, there wasn't any red on show at all. A simple round neck was ringed in navy blue (as were the cuffs), while the shorts were plain and the socks had minimal decoration. There was also a pleasing shadow pattern on the shirt which featured a series of horizontal bands.

Unfortunately for such a great home kit, this was the one that England experienced the least success in. Throughout it's paltry 12 games of service, only three were won while five were drawn. One of those three victories was against Luxembourg, as if to make matters worse.

Not exactly England's luckiest kit, then, but it did manage to beautifully combine an old-fashioned look with an up-to-date freshness. Very nice.

4. Umbro 2005-07

A neat idea from the Umbro boffins this time - namely to use a stylised version of the St. George's cross to add the merest dash of red colouring to this clean-looking outfit. The cross itself may have looked a bit sharp and spiky, but if nothing else it added a much-needed edge to the armoury of an under-achieving team.

And this kit indeed played its part to reverse that trend. Statistics show that this is England's most successful home kit since 1947. Worn on 20 occasions, 14 resulted in victory.

Returning to that red cross on the shoulder, the asymmetrical approach nicely echoes the way Admiral used to design some of their kits back in the 1970's, which is no bad thing. Who says you have to have the same features on one side of the kit as you do on the other?

In summary, then, we have a modern take on the 'white shirts / navy blue shorts' format that once again lacks unnecessary stripes and fussy paraphernalia. Not boring, not complicated - just great.

5. Umbro 2009-10

And so we get to the first England home kit for decades that was specifically designed to be worn with white shorts instead of navy blue. A bit of a gamble, perhaps, but for all those people suggesting the kit should reflect the colours of the English flag they finally had what they wanted: and how.

This is a kit that strips away all the stilted boredom of the 2000's, all the garish excesses of the 1990's, all the pretentious design of the 1980's and the unrelenting rash of manufacturers logos from the 1970's to leave us with the tailored simplicity you see before you. It's white, has a proper shirt collar, a traditional England badge and a single Umbro logo in red, as are the numbers. The temptation to elaborate was resisted and commendably so.

Though the current outgoing England kit tried to repeat the same format, it fell down by adding a bit too much red, even if it was done sparingly. This one stayed true to its clear objective and looks amazing as a result.

So there you have it - my Favourite 5 England home shirts which I'm sure will see many of you criticise my eye for a good design, but what would your Favourite 5 be... or your Worst 5?! Leave us a comment below or better still, write up your thoughts into a blog post for us. Send your details by email to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com and we'll do our best to publish your work.


  1. The 1988 top was my favourite, maybe slightly biased as it was my first. I also liked to lesser-seen third shirt (same design) in sky blue.

    The 1999-2001 shirt looked lovely, but I couldn't stand wearing it, the material was horrible.

    The 2009-10 was a beaut with long sleeves.

    Rich Nelson

    1. Same here Rich, 88 was also my favourite, very closely followed by 86.

      I never owned the 99-01 shirt and have heard the same about the material being horrendous. Cracking design though!

      I'm also glad we finally stopped putting 'England' over / under the badge. surely the 3 lions is enough to say who we are?

    2. Wow... so that's three of us that like the 88 kit! Wasn't expecting such high figures... :)

    3. Agree totally about the 99-01 Home - one of the most underrated England shirts ever. Regarding the feel, I think of all the pre-baselayer era shirts it's the one that lends itself best to that phenomenon, so that should solve the discomfort issues.

    4. Thanks for your thoughts, Jay29ers! That all sounds logical... :)

  2. I always liked the red version of the 88 home kit...I don't mean the away one, I mean the Terry Butcher special ;-)

  3. I had some pyjamas from Kays catalogue when I was a lad that mimicked that Admiral kit.
    My favourite England kit was the Admiral that preceded 1980, red and blue stripes running down the sleeve. Admiral at the height of their reign, the mid to late 70's.
    Perhaps Barry Davies was having a bad day forgetting it's predecessor also had all three colours of our great flag!

    1. Cool PJs by the sound of it, Al! :)

      The first Admiral kit was a little too basic for me. Had they brought out a new kit around 1978, though, we could have ended up with tramlines and everything!

  4. As if to answer your query in the final sentence under number 1, Asda produced this a few years ago: http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Admiral-Football-Shirt-/00/s/MTYwMFgxMjAw/$%28KGrHqV,!hcE+C,1mQN0BP3kqscQT!~~60_35.JPG

    1. Wow - thanks for the pic, Richard. That shirt looks rather odd... but that's as much because my eye is being distracted by the two Admiral logos as much as the shade of blue! Great to see... thanks again!