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’s the best shirt Chelsea have ever blessed us with?
One of the last advertising campaigns by adidas for Chelsea ran with the slogan, “it’s Blue, what else matters”. The memorable campaign featured a lot of blue paint and it was quite cool, but the message was especially timeless.
A shirt that is Chelsea blue, is the best. It’s the only thing that matters.
But that answer is a bit of a cop-out.
So I’ll go with my standard answer, even though the 50th anniversary FA Cup kit that we wore in January (pictured at the top) is fantastic in all the right ways and more. If you ask me this question in the future, I might have to go with that.
But for now, the best Chelsea shirt is the 2008-09 home shirt. It’s so good, you even forget the Chelsea lost the 2008 Champions League final wearing them. And although you’ve now remember that fact, the shirt is so good, you will quickly disassociate it from that sad day once again.
It’s the perfect design, with the perfect blue, the perfect white and yellow accents, the perfect collar, the perfect neckline, the perfect sleeves. It doesn’t overcomplicate things, but it’s also not “just” a blue shirt. Even the material is very nice, for polyester.
It’s the first Chelsea shirt I owned, and it’s the only Chelsea shirt I need.
It is truly unfortunate that I only get to choose one shirt, since we have been blessed with so many good kits over the years.
But I had to make a decision, and am confident that this is the best equilibrium I could find between heart and mind:
The legacy of Mourinho might not be what it once was, but the 2014-15 season was an exhilarating time for anyone lucky enough to be a Chelsea fan. Lifting the Premier League trophy again after a five-year wait, while seeing players such as Oscar, Branislav Ivanović, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard perform at their peak week after week, was just amazing.
Our shirts for that season were just as special — especially the away kit, which was an homage to several other yellow shirts worn going all the way back to the 1970s.
Combining blue with yellow might seem weird at first — ed.note: is the best color combination — but the combination eventually wins you over. On top of that, this bright yellow goes well with several clothes and accessories that make up a wardrobe in a tropical climate.
Chelsea’s 2007-08 away kit made you look. It was impossible to not have your eyes drawn to it, as the color chosen — fluorescent yellow — glows as if it were emitting light. Is it garish to some? Ok, maybe many? Of course. But that is precisely what adidas and Chelsea wanted: to affix your eyes to the team. This was a team with high expectations not only domestically, but in the Champions League. They wanted your attention.
As such, it’s an intense departure from odes to Chelsea’s historical shade of yellow. Instead, this is an attempt to bring fluorescent colors into the mainstream. Chelsea were not the first club to debut a kit with a color scheme matching your favorite highlighter, in fact they weren’t even the first in the Premier League (in 1996 Blackburn wore a similar shade of electric yellow). But fashion, as you know, is cyclical.
Chelsea, in my eyes, would be the visionaries to double down on eye-catching colors with this fluorescent yellow. Since then, multiple teams in the Premier League would try their own version. But as the saying goes: it’s not about who did it first, but who did it right.
Adidas was by far our most consistent and fastidious manufacturer. Every home shirt is a classic, and aside from an away shirt and a couple slightly too weird third kits, they displayed a genuine care when incorporating touches from the club’s past. For something outside of their collection to be labeled the best, it has to truly stand out.
Perhaps this is so because Umbro, in their final season as Chelsea kit designer (2005-06), left us a treat, and adidas a blueprint. If this kit could speak it would only repeat, ‘This is the way’.
The star of the shirt is that vivid, gorgeous shade of blue.
Somehow Umbro found a way to melt a pile of sapphires then weave them into a football shirt. That’s the only explanation, because this isn’t a shirt, it’s a piece of jewelry. The blue sparkles and glows in sunlight as if you’re looking at it through jewelry loupes. It’s royalty, it’s grandeur, it’s pristine — it is quintessential Chelsea.
Umbro didn’t stop at smoothing gemstones into a football shirt, they also took great care with details. Great art keeps the eye circling and noticing new elements of the piece, and this shirt’s accents do the same. The largest gold accents — in honor of the club’s 100th anniversary — though still delicate and minimal, trace the clavicle, framing the chest and guiding the eye toward the logos and Chelsea’s badge. The rest of the gold accents are even more understated. Piping peeks through the base hem and at the end of the sleeves, serving as a languid frame around the artwork that is this shirt.