Solutions

Soccer shirt design is a hot button issue for me and I spend a great deal of time reading and writing and discussing the topic. I even have developed rules for my purchasing for my personal collection. One of those rules is the only national team jersey I can buy is that of the US National Team. I haven’t bought one since the Centennial shirt in 2013. Why? Am I not patriotic? Yes but mostly because they are unattractive. Read THIS to see how I really feel.

centennial shirt

But why do we even buy shirts? To show our support? To have the latest thing? To make sure that Phil Knight or the generations of Dasslers live comfortably? Whatever the reason, fans round the world are going to continue to buy shirts and clubs are increasingly using them as a revenue stream and even making transfer decisions based on the number of shirts that will be sold (cough Real Madrid).

Adidas signed a $1.3 billion contract with Manchester United and the company wants to recoup their money. According to a post on the Richest website, United sold 1.4 million shirts in 2014. Figure each shirt is sold at a conservative $75 and that’s $105 million. New year, new shirt, fresh revenue. Clubs continue to ramp up the arms race and kit manufacturing contracts are only one weapon in their arsenal. The other component to the jersey is the shirt sponsor. AC Milan has the tenth highest shirt deal and that’s at $19 million a year, with most clubs in the Top Ten, north of $30 million per year.

Ok so let’s accept that jerseys will continue to be sold. The next issue I have is with the design. More and more frequently, manufacturers are producing utter pieces of crap in terms of aesthetics and club tradition. Bad kit design is not limited to the Stars and Stripes. Players all over the world have pulled on some pieces of shit. In the very recent past, the Gunners have had to wear skin tight travesties, Newcastle players had to suffer under Mike Ashley and the mustard disasters from adidas and of course who could forget the Warrior (now New Balance) eye sores for Liverpool. The players have no choice. Forever they will be on the internet or whatever technology comes after the World Wide Web wearing some ghastly strips. But what are fans supposed to do? Not buy shirts? Wear their Chelsea kit from the 90’s with the Coors sponsorship until is it a rag? Is that fair? But I want to support my team. I know, but I didn’t buy the picnic blanket or the button orgasm for Manchester United.

Touching on the historical nature of kits, who can forget Cardiff’s famous change from blue to red? Granted that was an ownership decision so we’ll give Puma a pass. But what about Inter who released an all RED away strip a couple of years ago? The Nerazzurri who usually have a white away strip produced a kit with a color of their major rivals. It’s like the Spanish April Fools all white Barca strip.

Speaking of FC Barcelona, Nike launched the home shirt for next year.

barcelona-15-16-home-kit

Horizontal stripes. Not once in over 100 years has this happened. But the Swoosh decided now is the time. Then you have adidas’ Florida Gators shoutout for Feyenoord and Mexico’s Vulture themed goalkeeper shirt.

Jersey-Feyenoord-Away-2015-2016 mexico gk

To be fair, it’s not all the fault of the designers. Cranking out a new range every year has to be tough, but they are just serving their masters who are signing huge contracts with soccer clubs as previously mentioned.  Keep producing shirts and eventually you run out of ideas.

In the spirit of not being part of the problem but being part of the solution, recently it has occurred to me, why don’t the clubs just have the fans create the jerseys? Seems to me it’s a win/win. Fans get to participate, get to have their voice heard via social media, feel  a sense of ownership  as they see their creations every other week, plus they are doing all the heavy lifting for the club and manufacturer. No longer will designers have to sit in a room and figure out how to make the iconic white and black stripes of Juventus modern or classic or new or whatever adjective they plan on using in marketing materials. Fresh ideas, template free designs from creative fans that are then approved by the supporter community. (Two sites came to mind http://www.designfootball.com/ and http://www.lovefootballhatefootball.com/. I’m sure there are more)

Another idea would be for clubs to bring kit design in house. Recently Southampton and Roma and Cardiff City have produced their own strips. They were attractive, legal by the rules of the game and the domestic leagues, and amazingly enough the world kept spinning. As fellow Kit Nerd JR Francis (@paynomind) pointed out, the club would have creative control but would lose revenue, which is the name of the game in the modern game. But it is a solution.

Third option would be for someone with a lot of financial muscle (Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet) to create a new brand. Start from the ground up with socks that are solid, or hooped if appropriate, and shorts that are simple, maybe some modest piping, a logo, a club crest and a number every once in a while. They would agree to release a new, classic, non-complicated, traditional strip every two to three years and maybe this new company would even break even. Any takers?

Kits are a stand worth taking. Nike and adidas and Warrior/New Balance and Puma are dicking us over. From painted on to ridiculous designs to God awful color schemes. This has to stop. Join me in my effort.

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  1. I like the idea of fan designs and fan votes, but they have to have a safeguard (registered accounts, members only can vote) to ensure rival fans don’t sabotage the vote and elect a shit design.

    The sad thing is that revenue is king. A team can surely do with the same kits for 2-3 years, but it seems the norm now for 3 kits – home, away, third – to be released EVERY season.

    But you know something, I do look forward to seeing new kits each season. Maybe I’m just being a good little capitalist consumer, but I do like seeing teams I support in something new each year, and being able to wear those shirts each year. Maybe a compromise would be to release new home kits every year, new away and third kits every 2-3 years. It’s still an overabundance, but at least there’s some reduction.

    Last point: what irks me most about kits are the sponsor logos and wordmarks. I’d like to see clubs/manufacturers keep the sponsor logos on the players’ shirts, but keep them off the replicas that fans typically buy. If fans want shirts with the sponsor logo to look and feel more like their idols, make the authentic shirts with the sponsor logos available according to demand. I support Arsenal, not Emirates AIrlines, and despite the billions that Emirates has in its coffers, I don’t get a penny from them to walk around as their billboard.

    • I like seeing the new designs too but as you say when every team is putting 2 to 3 new strips a season, it’s a little overwhelming. Your suggestion about the less frequent release of away kits has some legs. Might be an area of compromise. As for fan voting, it would take a little bit of work to manage but shouldn’t be too difficult. Finally, totally agree with your replica/authentic no sponsor/sponsor idea. It will never fly but makes sense. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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