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 the worst shirt Chelsea have ever forced over the ashamed faces of our players?
This shirt sucks. I hate it.
I’m typically all-in on stark contrast. I smile at thoughts of a grandma on a motorcycle or an American politician with empathy. But this shirt knows nothing of contrast, only confusion. It wants to be interesting, but it’s too afraid. Instead of learning photography or a new language, it bought glow-in-the-dark bowling shoes.
The design elements put its insecurities on further display. First, the most common and nondescript color the majority of the world sees every day and doesn’t care about — asphalt — is the base. Not even freshly laid asphalt, the kind that’s been neglected for years over small town local government squabbles. Mrs. Blumford got a stop sign in front of her home; Umbro’s designers would, apparently, have to settle for a sample of dusty road.
Then there are the blocks of orange that wrap around the tops of each sleeve, framing a logo box in the middle of the shirt. Above the box are light and dark stripes between the shoulders (for literally no reason other than to annoy me, specifically), while below is ... well ... nothing. They just stopped designing the shirt.
So what’s left is something that’s both boring and ostentatious, vapid and offensive, forgettable and mortifying. And Chelsea wore it two seasons in a row.
(Ed.note: this is clearly the (second) greatest Chelsea shirt of all time and I’m sitting out today’s post in protest.)
Thank you, China. The quality may be worse than actual 90s polyester, even! pic.twitter.com/NJBNgWxa8D— Dávid Pásztor (@D_Peezy) November 22, 2019
I should make it clear that for so many years, I found it hard to consider a Chelsea shirt “ugly”. Even those kits from the 1990s that are the perfect showcase of how wrong Francis Fukuyawa was, are shirts that I would readily wear in public, either because of my love for the team, or just a total lack of fashion sense.
However, things have changed since the Nike takeover. I was never a fan of the brand to begin with, and they have confirmed most of my fears with their design choices.
Especially with this one.
I “get” how designers often guide themselves by themes that ultimately make their job easier. Our 1994-96 away kit, often deemed our worst ever kit — ed.note: again, wrong wrong wronngggggg! — would actually be a prime candidate for a re-imagining from the new design crew. But instead they made it “uglier” than it already was.
The colour scheme, with this washed-up blueish grey combined with minor orange details, mesh even worse than the original kit, which seems inconceivable, yet here we are. Also, if you really want to add a fluorescent pop to your shirt, you either go big or go home. Maybe that way I could avert my eyes from the utter nonsense of using satellite imagery as a pattern for your $150+ shirt.
“Blue is the colour, football is the game.” I love the color blue as much as any Chelsea supporter. However, my selection for worst kit will be sure to upset many… so hear me out.
Per the Premier League:
‘When playing in league matches the players of each participating club shall wear strip which is of a sufficient contrast that match officials, spectators and television viewers will be able to distinguish clearly between the two teams.’
In the handbook there is then clarification over which kits in every match take priority:
M.22.1. 1st priority: the outfield players of the home club who shall wear their home strip;
M.22.2. 2nd priority: the outfield players of the visiting club;
M.22.3. 3rd priority: the home club goalkeeper;
M.22.4. 4th priority: the visiting club goalkeeper.
In the 2014-15 season, adidas gave us a solid blue kit for our home matches and a gorgeous yellow kit with blue collars for away matches. From a utilitarian perspective, the third kit should be far removed from those two colorways. Personally, the more daring, the better.
On its own, removing the context of the home and away, the 2014-15 third kit is quite appealing. The navy and cyan colors work well with each other. The v-neck is a classy touch, although I could do without the faux-gradient that resembles an audio equalizer from the days of Winamp.
But the fact that this third kit is using two differing shades of blue bothers me. Adidas (and Chelsea) essentially doubled down on blue. The main shade of the kit, navy blue, is one that is commonly used as a main colorway for multiple teams. Rummaging through the match reports, Chelsea wore this kit only three times that season. Two matches against teams featuring claret and blue (Aston Villa and West Ham away) and another match against QPR away. These matches could have been completed using the Premier League guidelines using the yellow away kit.
If you ask me, adidas and Chelsea blue it.
Okay, not sitting out. But only because there is one actual monstrosity that needs to be rounded up, every last one of them, and shot into the Sun.
Chelsea have had many kits of course. All the home ones are great, even the ones that look like pyjama tops or bus seat patterns. As long as it’s blue (with blue shorts and white socks), we’re good.
While I believe that away should always be yellow, I’m not too fussed about other colors. And it’s hard to get mad at third kits, even if they’re neon green or, yes, even red. (Though Nike’s upcoming third shirt may change that.)
But there’s one exception to that. I present thee, the worst Chelsea shirt, the 2011-12 away kit. It’s the Windows 95 of football shirts, crashing like the logo that it resembles on a bad night in Naples. (Do note the lovely goalkeeper shirt that Čech’s wearing though.)