Friday, 5 September 2014

Catalogue of Eras: Littlewoods - Spring & Summer 1982

"Like discovering a whole new shopping world in your own home", mail order catalogues have offered people a tempting glimpse through the looking glass into retail heaven for decades. By thumbing through anything up to a thousand colour pages, it was possible to turn your back on those busy high street stores and buy clothes, gifts and all manner of things from the comfort of your Shackleton's high seat armchair.

The innocent (if self-indulgent) pastime of casting a casual eye over the lingerie section has now become the stuff of legend, but what did the humble mail order catalogue have to offer for young football fans? This occasional series aims to bring you the answer in a parade of long-forgotten memories, easy-pay instalments and dubious marketing strategies.

Littlewoods Spring & Summer 1982 catalogue

We begin with sleepwear, because that's where all young football dreams are formed, wouldn't you say?

If you were wearing an ordinary pair of old-fashioned pyjamas back in 1982, you simply weren't trying hard enough. Now it was possible to hop into bed wearing the kit of your favourite team like a proto-David Mellor. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if it was this catalogue that gave the former Putney MP the idea in the first place.

To be honest, the choice wasn't terribly great. If you supported Liverpool, you could get a passable imitation of the kit Kenny Dalglish was wearing at the time (albeit with a dubious badge on the shirt), while the Manchester United set brings a whole new meaning to the word 'generic'. The best of the bunch was saved for the England pyjama set which had some very realistic Admiral details on the shirt, except for a basic white v-neck collar. All three were made in natural polyester and would set you back somewhere between £6 and £7.

To complete your England sleepwear tribute, how about a fetching blue full-length dressing gown? It, too, was made from polyester and added extra realism to that dream you had of staying at the England team hotel while the World Cup was on.

Admiral clearly had their heads screwed on straight in the early 1980's because more of their creations could be seen in the 'boy's clothes' section. Here you could snap up a blue England team pullover in acrylic - not quite the same one that Kevin Keegan wore in 1982, but not far off - plus three different NASL t-shirts for teams that Admiral provided the kit for (Dallas Tornado, New York Cosmos and Chicago Sting).

For English fans in need of bodily warmth, there were pullovers in the colours of - you've guessed it - Liverpool and Man United. Again, they lacked the attention to detail of the Admiral items, but for no more than £5.99 they were probably better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

At least it was possible to get a half-decent pair of football boots from your Mum's favourite catalogue, and in this one you could get some Adidas 'Hansi Muller's, Patrick 'Keegan Crown's or Puma 'Dalglish Striker's for less than £22. All were supplied with stud keys and Keegan devotees were even treated to some spare studs too.

So, you've got your pyjamas, your pullover and some boots... how about a football to play with? No problem, said Littlewoods, who stumped up three options to choose from.

First there was the 'bound-to-be-misshapen-within-a-fortnight' offering of the Atlas, a patriotically coloured 32-patch leather ball that would have set you back a not inconsiderable £7.50. For the same price, there was also the Silver Star model that looked altogether more Telstar-like in appearance, but if you were going to shell out the thick end of £8 for a football, you were better off making it a tenner and buying the Mitre 'League' ball. As discussed on a previous post, this was one of the three official models used in the Football League at the time and would no doubt have lasted a damn sight longer than those other cheapo offerings.

(Oh and by the way - I actually once owned a pair of those yellow goalkeeper gloves. They were useless. The cotton would get cold, wet and soggy in the rain, and the 'rubber reinforcements' on the fingers and palms were unable to provide any kind of grip whatsoever. Only the elasticated strap around the wrist comes out of this with any self-respect at all.)

Finally, having shown how the game was played outside on grass, what better than to return to the comfort of your own home and play some football on your TV? Though the imperial Atari 2600  was the must-have video console of the day (and available through this catalogue for £129.99), it was Intellivison that offered a more realistic football game.

Atari's take on football, Pelé's Soccer, was, to be honest, basic. Lacking distinctly in realism or excitement, it needed Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise and Trevor Brooking to make it in any way desirable, and that's saying something.

Better, then, to go for the Intellivision option - as long as you were prepared to fork out £225 for the console. Once you'd done that, you could reflect on your new-found poverty as you settled down to a game or three of 'NASL Soccer,' a cartridge thrown in for free. All in all, a great computer game system, although I find the claims of 'Three-dimensional excitement!" and "Startling realism!" to be taking things a little too far.

So there you have it - a football-related carousel of wonderment provided by Littlewoods. Other mail order catalogues are available, and we'll be checking some of those out in future posts on The Football Attic.

-- by Chris Oakley.


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