Football shirts are everything.
They conjure nostalgia and serve as official accounts of history. They’re markers of both pride and time-served, and turn supporters into amateur designers.
A rival’s shirt can make you nauseous, while your club taking the pitch in their classic strip can draw tears.
Football shirts are cultures, annoyances, stories, art, memories, and things to both love and hate. So let’s talk about them.
Welcome to Shirt Week!
Confess! Tell us about the most random football shirt(s) in your closet:
As a man of modest means, especially before entering the workforce, I could rarely purchase football shirts simply because I liked them. But there was one time when I absolutely had to forget about budget constraints, and just go for it for pure consumerist reasons.
I have always had an affinity for AS Roma, mainly because of their history of Brazilian players. It helps that they have some of the best shirts in the world. And their 2014-15 home kit is one of the best I have ever seen.
I felt I just had to have it, and I started looking for it all over the Brazilian online shops, to no avaial. Then one day, fate smiled upon me in a sports store in my very own neighborhoud. I finally found the shirt I had been looking for a year! It was meant to be!
Since I got it for relatively cheap (around half the original price), I assumed it would have some defects in workmanship that would show later. But it has lasted all throughout my college years and it remains one of the shirts I wear the most often — although the numbers on the back are worn out, mostly because I only recently learned how to wash football shirts properly!
When Ruben Loftus-Cheek went on loan to Crystal Palace for the 2017/18 season, I wanted his shirt (ed.note: “luckily” for André, he will be able to purchase a Crystal Chel-ace-sea shirt with RLC on the back soon!)
In my early days of playing FIFA I would always start a career with Crystal Palace; first, because of their hilariously gaudy name for a footballing institution; second, because they weren’t in the Premier League at the time; and lastly because I enjoyed their red and blue striped kit (for the record, I do not enjoy these red and blue stripes). (Ed.note: sure sure, whatever you say.)
However, devotion to Chelsea, and Palace becoming a mainstay in the Premier League, stopped me. Years later, I’m still disappointed that I never got my hands on it. (Ed.note: yeah, he’s definitely buying that Nike monstrosity.)
So apart from major rivals, I discarded that rule, and — admittedly — may have over-corrected.
I was also extremely close to spending too much money to have a friend in England help me commemorate Ethan Ampadu’s 277-minute RB Leipzig career via their beautiful third kit.
Like many an American (U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!) with a keen interest in the Premier League, I listen to the Men in Blazers podcast, A LOT. Rog has a beautiful way of expressing the dismal melancholy of, well, anyone who supports the blue side of Liverpool. Davo, well he’s proper Chels. The duo have been a large reason for football soccer’s rising popularity in the States. So I have this.
As for this majestic kit — the Men in Blazers national team jersey — it all starts with the hard-to-ignore majesty of the faux-tweed sash. Perhaps one day the footballing world will be ready for the texture of tweed. Alas, we are left with this beauty from adidas and the Men in Blazers.
One day the world will join them and me in feeling the need, the need for tweed.
Back when Bournemouth were a relatively new Premier League club, I was rather wowed with their story, ethos and style of football (things have changed a bit there now). They were my favourite “underdogs”, and I watched them as much as I could.
When my favourite player, Nathan Aké, joined them on loan in 2016-17, I made sure to watch them every week. In the process I took an ineffable liking to their combative midfielder, Harry Arter, who’d also been playing very well for them despite having suffered a great personal tragedy that season. At the end of the season, when clubs begin selling replicas at 50 per cent off discounts, I decided to buy a Bournemouth shirt.
I’d never ordered one that way before, and contacted a Cherries fan on Twitter (with whom I had talked now and then about Aké), to ask if she knew if their megastore delivered to India. She had followed the club home and away for several years and, as turned out, lived right across the actual club store. She very generously offered to purchase it for me (extra discount with her club membership!) and send it over! I paid her back via PayPal, and the next month I was wearing ARTER 8 all over Bangalore.
But the story doesn’t end there!
One day the following summer, soon after the devastating permanent transfer of Aké to Bournemouth, I had a surprise package waiting for me. In it was a 2017-18 Bournemouth shirt with ‘AKÉ’ on back, with a note attached from the same wonderfully kind Bournemouth fan who had helped me buy my beloved ‘ARTER’ shirt. To this day I can’t believe that actually happened, and I am still quite stunned that anyone would be that nice and giving to, essentially, a complete stranger.
(Still a Chelsea fan.)
Following friend of the blog and football shirt connoisseur @amadoit__ on Twitter has led to a couple impulse purchases in the last few years, perhaps none more random than a charity shirt by Prague Raptors.
The Raptors are an amazing amateur team (and non-profit organization) operating in the Czech capital, who try to raise awareness for whatever social good they’re trying to accomplish in addition to playing some football.
While all their kits are rather unique, last year, they created a limited edition kit to support a fund created in the memory of two young children. It took a while to get here, but at least my impulse went to a good cause this time.
This one’s a fun one to wear to the gym.