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!
What is your favorite football shirt?
Not just your favorite, the one you would commit felonies over.
That’s right, -nies, multiple.
(DISCLAIMER: WAGNH does not condone and in fact actively discourages committing felonies, especially over football shirts.)
My love for the 2008-09 home kit knows no bounds. For me, this is adidas’ magnum opus as Chelsea kit supplier.
I love the varying textures used to create the appearance of an armor-like kit. Adidas’ ClimaCool mesh fabric is soft. One would think that the stitching would be a cause of discomfort, but they would be wrong. I have never felt it scratch in over ten years. The badge is embroidered, which is a huge plus. And I’ve always thought of the patchwork on the chest as a reference to the multi-national squad who collectively comprised one of the best teams assembled.
I look at this shirt and see more than just an article of clothing in the best shade of Chelsea blue. In it, both the club and I have traveled the world, experienced many important Chelsea matches, and grew up together.
As you may have gathered, I am a man of more than one allegiance in football. Isn’t that what they mean by “modern love” these days?
(Ed.note: the prophet Bowie said it was the conflict between God and Man, fwiw.)
Anyway, the bond with my childhood team Fluminense is not as strong as it once was because of the team’s failures in management that led them from perennial Série A/Copa Libertadores contenders, to, now, relegation fodder — and in only a couple of seasons. This does not mean that the happy memories from the times I got to witness them making history and producing greatness on the pitch were soured.
As such, my most cherished shirt remains Fluminense’s third kit from the 2012 title-winning season (what a year, 2012!), which paid tribute to the club’s stadium, Laranjeiras, which also hosted the Brazil national football team’s first ever match (they beat Exeter City 2-0, all the way back in 1914).
Absolutely gorgeous, and certainly worth getting arrested for. (DISCLAIMER: No, it isn’t.)
I’m hashtag-blessed to have many of the football shirts I love. There’s Totti’s Roma shirt from his final season, that extremely sweet Parma black third kit, Senegal’s lion shirt, PSG’s 2018-19 Champions League shirt with the perfect kerning and light font, plus many Kanté and Hazard Chelsea shirts. But none of them would make me risk my every intention of continuing life as a free man like my 2014-15 Drogba shirt.
Sure, by now a million people have this very same shirt — except they don’t.
In the summer of 2014, some time between Chelsea’s unveiling of the new kit and Drogba’s official return after stops in Shanghai and Istanbul, my then-girlfriend was trotting into the megastore at Stamford Bridge during a London vacation. Though speculation swirled, employees were adamant they couldn’t yet print ‘Drogba 11’ on the new shirts.
As it turns out, the English remain vulnerable to American wile.
I present, the first:
What makes a shirt special? What elevates it beyond just cotton and polyester fibers taking on a new shape and color?
Obviously, it’s the memories, the connections, the meaning — the things a shirt represents to us, be that a club, a place, an idea, an event, a collective of some sort, the hopes of a certain moment in time, or the outcomes of famous nights near and far away.
When we see a Chelsea shirt, we see so much more than just a piece of (probably blue) fabric, for example. I certainly have ones I like more than others, but if I had to pick an absolute favorite football shirt, I would have to go with one that represents so much more than just a football club.
I’m supposed to keep this to just 150 words, so let’s just say that the shirt that was unveiled in 2014 by the new owner of the football team in my hometown, who were at the beginning of a wonderful journey that continues to this day, takes the cake.
This team, which has existed in some form since 1904, has not only become good (again), set attendance records, finished higher than ever before in the league, qualified for Europe, built an award-winning stadium, and a top class youth academy and training facilities in the half-decade since, but they have become a unifying symbol that extends far beyond the football pitch and far beyond the town to the entire region that is steeped in a thousand years of ethnic and political conflict.
Many people have written many books about all that history, so let me not do it disservice by simplifying it any further.
Oh, the shirt is glorious, using the traditional blue-yellow stripes on the front with the traditional badge embroidered over the heart.