Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Poll Results: Best International Kit and Best-Dressed Football Rivalry

The polls are closed, the results are in. The readers of the Football Kit Blog have picked the best international shirt and the best-dressed football rivalry. One poll was close, the other, not so much...

When it comes to international shirts, the winner by a slim margin was Argentina(22% of the vote), which happens to be my favorite international shirt. So, good choice readers. Rounding out the results were Italy(21%), Brazil(20%), and Spain(19%). The "other" option came in last(15%), which I can't help but interpret as somewhat of an endorsement of my decisions when putting forth the choices for the poll. I cannot stress enough however that Argentina belongs in black shorts, let's hope FIFA does away with this silliness of making the albiceleste wear white shorts in the World Cup.

As for the best-dressed club rivalry, the winner far and away was Real Madrid-Barcelona(44%). A good choice, even if it's not my personal choice of River-Boca, which interestingly came in dead last(6%). Rounding out the results were Man United-Man City(12%), Celtic-Rangers(10%), and Lazio-Roma(8%).

Thanks to all of those that participated in the voting!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Best of the Strange Kits: Hull City home 1994

Here's a kit frequently listed in many "worst kits of all time" lists. But I don't know, I am not so quick to lambaste this kit. For one, Hull City are nicknamed "The Tigers." If any club can get away with wearing a shirt like this, surely it is Hull. And do we really need another vertically-striped club, as Hull usually is? I say this kit is a unique take on the the usual kit striping. Maybe it's time to have another go?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Top 5 New European Club Kits 2014/15

Now that the European football season is in full swing, it is time to assess the best kit releases of the new season. Here now are the Football Kit Blog's top 5 European club kits for 2014/15:

First, some honorable mentions. These are the kits that just missed the top 5. Aston Villa's home shirt is lovely. The color combination is magical and this kit hits all the right notes. I also think that their crest is among the best in English football. Overall the look is simple, elegant, and classic. The away kit is quite nice as well. Negative points for the betting house sponsor. Inter Milan's home kit is a refreshing take on the nerazzuri's classic black and blue kit. The thin blue lines on the black shirt really pop and give this kit an "electric" feel.

Our next few honorable mentions are from the German Bundesliga. Bayern Munich's entire set is splendid, but we are singling out their away and 3rd kit as among the best this season. Love the "heather" effect on the away, and the black and red 3rd is intimidating and fashion forward. The only reason neither kit placed in the top 5 is due to the horrific Deutsche Telekom "T" sponsor logo. Borussia Monchengladbach's home is an interesting take on vertical striping. I have never seen vertical stripes laid out quite like that before. Add to that the terrific color combination and you have one snazzy kit. Finally, Wolfsburg's 3rd kit(the one all the way on the right) is the kind of kit that people either love or hate, no middle ground on this one. And count me firmly in the "love" camp. The off-the-wall colors, the different colored sashes and even the VW logo all work here for me to create a dynamic kit.


5. AC Milan home - Color shading has been a big trend in design and fashion for the past few years now. Bayern Munich went this route for their 3rd kit from last season. This season it's Milan's turn and I think we can all agree Adidas' execution on this kit is on point. The old-fashioned crest bearing solely the St. George's cross is an added touch of class(note: embossed on the lower left corner of the badge, not noticeable unless looking up close, is the actual AC Milan logo). We rarely mention socks here but on this kit the socks play an integral part in the beauty of it. Truly a splendid kit for my beloved rossoneri.

4. Genoa away - Genoa is a club who has always stuck with a simple look. This season's batch of kits are no exception. Here we have a vivid example of how less can be more. The white away shirt is pure class. The red and blue stripes across the torso feature the club crest smack dab in the middle of the shirt, something rarely seen nowadays. There is a beautiful script under the crest that adds another layer of elegance. The ugly Lotto patches on the shoulder are negated by a lack of sponsor on the shirt.

3. Real Madrid 3rd - This is a choice I might get a lot of flack for. But I have always been a fan of sublimated graphics on shirts. This shirt, designed by Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto is a welcome break from Real's ho-hum kits of the past. There are only a certain number of times you can do a solid block shirt with three contrasting stripes. The asian-style double-headed dragon is totally random for Real but who cares. The look is great, and the origami-style typography of the player names and numbers is unique and ties the look together. One change that would make this kit the hands down winner for the season would have been to take away all the white elements and make this a truly all-black kit. That would have looked amazing.

2. Inter Milan away - As hard as it is for me to say, Inter was blessed with some outstanding kits this season, as they usually are. Nike's home shirts for Inter are almost always solid efforts, with their away shirts varying from boring to magnificent. This season's away offering is a beautifully-designed, sharp kit. All white, with sublimated graphics, the negative space on the shirt forms a cross. Even the red Pirelli logo adds something here. This is one of the top Inter away shirts of all time.

1. Manchester City away - The Citizens have been with Nike for a couple of seasons now, and this is hands down Nike's best work for them in my opinion. The shirt has a gradation effect, going from lighter to darker as you look at the shirt from top to bottom. I give this one a slight edge over Inter's away because it is a bit more out there and experimental. City have been fighting for years now to be recognized as a world-class club and now they have finally arrived.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2015/16 Liverpool New balance Designs Leaked?

Only about a week after my Op-Ed piece on Liverpool's kits comes this purported leak of New Balance's kits for Liverpool for the 2015/16 season. It is really unusual to see a kit leak this early in the cycle, and we would normally take this "leak" with a grain of salt, but the source of this news is a fairly reliable website. If these indeed are the new kits, they are a marked improvement from recent Liverpool designs, especially for away and 3rd. Time will tell if this leak is indeed legit.

h/t: Football Shirts News, @FumlerRawk

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MLS: Set the Kits Free!

The U.S. likes to go out on its own. We don't use the metric system, unlike every other country in the world. We call our league champions "World Champs" as if the world is confined to our borders. Call it arrogance, call it swagger, it is what it is. Another striking example is our national football league: MLS. Unlike every other major professional Division 1 in world football, MLS forces all of its clubs to wear kits made by the same manufacturer(Adidas).

This is actually general practice in U.S. sports. All the major pro leagues here sell their "kit" apparel contract to one single company, whoever happens to be the highest bidder, of course. The NFL's kits are made by Nike, the NBA has Adidas, MLB has Majestic, and the NHL has Reebok. There are definite benefits to this kind of a system. Uniformity of design standards and distribution channels to name two of the most important. But we here at the Football Kit Blog feel that the benefits are outweighed by the negatives of not having a league in which clubs can negotiate their own contracts.

For one, the overall value of the combined contracts would surely be more than one bid to outfit the entire league. In football, you have Nike and Adidas warring for Man United, Roma, etc, bidding up the contracts, which just translates to more money for the clubs. Clearly in Europe and beyond the more important clubs get the higher value contracts. But in a league like MLS in which there is a lot more parity, this is not as much of an issue. Now, I'm not an owner, but I can see the benefit there.

But the most important reason to let each club control its own contract is creativity and aesthetic variation in design. MLS is a rather ho-hum league aesthetically. Adidas has done a poor job of giving MLS clubs a unique identity. Portland, Colorado, KC, and Seattle are some of the better programs. Philadelphia has a decent Ajax-style home shirt(but the colors and sponsor are dreadful). The majority of the league however, is woefully under-designed. There is very little "visual sizzle" to most MLS match-ups.

Opening up the designs to other manufacturers would surely create some variety and interesting visuals for a league in sorely need of them. The rest of the world realizes this, and MLS did once too, so now its time once again for a change. If its good enough for the rest of the world, its good enough for us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Memo to New Balance: Don't Muck Up the 'Pool

For most fans of the world's game, Liverpool FC is one of the world's iconic clubs, and their all-red kit equally so. Granted, if you are a supporter of Everton, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, etc, you probably despise the Reds. But those of us outside the Kingdom with no dog in the fight appreciate the club's storied history and proud legacy. Liverpool FC is football. We're talking about Bill Shankly, 18 Leagues, 7 FA Cups, 5 UEFA Champions' Leagues, the Kop, Hillsborough. And of course, You'll Never Walk Alone, which, when sung by Liverpool supporters at Anfield(and abroad) before important matches, can be one of the most spine-tingling moments in world football. Mind you, all these plaudits are coming from an AC Milan supporter, who Lord knows should still be bitter about a certain tragic night in Istanbul...

I bring up Liverpool because this is a club that has recently lost its way in the kit department. Starting with the 2012-2013 season, Liverpool entered into a contract with new-kid-on-the-block Warrior Sports. The result has been a decidedly mixed bag of kits, with the good ones being few and far between, and the bad ones being really, really bad.

Warrior's best effort in my opinion was their first Liverpool home kit for 2012/13. I enjoyed the simplicity of it and I also liked the retro feel of incorporating the simple "Liverbird" logo as the crest as opposed to the more intricate badge of recent decades. I do love that intricate badge with the Shankly gates, the Hillsborough flames, and the "YNWA" inscription though, but a change for one season or a couple of seasons is not a big deal. After that, I really cannot say that I liked any of Warrior's other Liverpool efforts, be they home, away, 3rd, or keeper. Some of those designs are really garish and I have a hard time understanding how Warrior expects someone to wear that outside. There's always the die-hards, I guess. Also, the piping on the current home jersey just makes the shirt look ill-fitting somehow. It's really just a mess with this club right now and it is really unbecoming of a club of Liverpool's stature. Just look at some of these Adidas designs of the 90's. Those are some tremendous shirts with some fabulous detailing. I've had my issues with Adidas in the past, but it must be said that for the most part, Adidas outfitted 'Pool with the respect and reverence that the club deserves. Warrior's been trying to make them look like a red version of Bolton Wanderers.

Now comes word that Warrior's parent company New Balance will be folding the Warrior brand and incorporating it into New Balance. This means that starting with the 2015/16 season, Liverpool shirts will be made by New Balance for the remainder of the contract. We here at The Football Kit Blog hope that this change will provide New Balance with an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and give a club as big and important as Liverpool some class shirts that the supporters can be proud of. We are intrigued at the prospect of the New Balance brand entering the football kit market and will be monitoring developments closely.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Best of the Strange Kits: Arsenal Away 91-93

Here for your viewing (dis)pleasure is the Arsenal 91-93 away shirt. This is the infamous "bruised banana" shirt. No great imagination required to see why that name stuck. On the pitch, it was the days of David Seaman, Ian Wright, and George Graham's "boring boring Arsenal." This is a truly ugly, ugly football shirt. If nothing else, one has to say that it was a ballsy shirt for a club of Arsenal's magnitude. The early 90's was a period of brash experimentation for most kit manufacturers, who implemented wild, vividly colorful, geometric designs on their kits to make them stand out. It seemed like the most liberties were taken with away kits. I think any rational human being can agree that this Arsenal shirt is truly dreadful. But the question is...why do I love it so???

For starters, there's the nostalgia factor. This kit was used in an era during which I was in my adolescent years, when I first started following club football deeply. My initial exposure to football was through the World Cup. Once I found out about club football and the rich traditions of all these global clubs, I just got more and more hooked on the game and the culture of the game. I remember thinking how cool it was that the north Londoners were simply called "Arsenal" in a league full of F.C.s, Uniteds, and Citys. So I gravitated towards them as I first immersed myself in the English league. Perhaps that is one reason I am partial to the shirt.

Another factor for me is that I have always believed that the away shirt is the right place for experimentation. Most clubs have iconic home shirts, and the vast majority of these designs are quite simple(see Liverpool, Real Madrid to name a couple). And that's the way most of us supporters like it. You don't mess with icons. But the away shirt(save for one glorious club) is another matter entirely. Why not have a little fun?

At the time, there were no blogs, no Bleacher Report to put this shirt in a "Top 10 worst kits" article. In fact, football kits were barely covered at all by the media save for the occasional snide remark by a commentator during a match, and I was not exposed to much live football at the time. So instead of having "tastemakers" influence my opinion, I was just left to my own sensibilities when assessing this or any other kit. And I must say, something about this kit appealed to me. Perhaps it was the "so ugly it's beautiful" frame of mind that also comes into play when looking at ugly dogs like pugs or a Jackson Pollock, for example. Or maybe I just liked the way the yellow pops when contrasted with the red and navy blue. One qualifier: this kit looked completely different and did not work for me at all when paired with the yellow change shorts. It is truly extraordinary to me how such a slight change could alter the whole look so.

This shirt is also a historical footnote for Arsenal as it is the first away shirt the club wore in the the Premier League. That was in the inaugural season of 92-93(notice also how the kit had a life cycle of two seasons). Nowadays, unanimous consensus seems to be that this is one of the worst if not the worst Arsenal shirt of all time. However, according to John Brewin, author of True Colors: Football Kits from 1980 to the Present Day, this shirt "became a major fashion must-have in early 90's London." So somebody must have liked it along with me!