There are several categories that must be assessed to be able to consider what a favourite shirt is. The look, the club and the history. A favourite shirt doesn’t have to have all three, but these are certainly the elements of what makes a great shirt, the best.

The look

Whether it’s a tight-fitting Arsenal puma shirt, a baggy 90’s ‘keeper kit or anywhere in between, the fit is always crucial. A lot of players today are not given the choice and must wear slim fit shirts as per their sponsors, but as fans of football kits we can pick our favourite. For me, it’s baggy – maybe an undershirt if you’re playing or something that can be worn out with a jacket, the fit is crucial.

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Then we have the colours. A bold pink like the 2015/16 Juventus Jeep shirt, the sleek blackout AIK Fotboll from earlier this year or maybe the new wave of mash-up kits takes your eye. It is all down to personal choice. The simplicity and vibrancy of the Germany Italia 90 kit will always be a winner in my book.

I don’t think many people are confined to one colour. When looking at a shirt collection it is always the variety that makes them exciting. Bold, classic and different are three things I look for.
The manufacturer is a big factor as well. Again, I don’t think too many collectors are confined to a single brand but the swish, three stripes, chevrons and countless others do have strong fan bases. Manufacturers come and go, and their popularity rises and falls.

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Admiral England shirts are a thing of beauty and the old-style Adidas Originals kits are more widely appreciated than current Adidas shirts. The iconic Barcelona Kappa and Denmark Hummel shirts are a lot more popular than modern attempts from both manufacturers. The new Nike Third shirts will grow in value due to their rarity and retro design. The point being brands can grow and diminish in popularity depending on eras and designs of their shirts.

Finally, for the look, sponsors can make or break a kit. Speaking to my Dad, he was horrified when Liverpool had ‘Hitachi’ printed on their shirts, similarly I wasn’t a fan when the new arm sponsors came to the Premier League. However, sponsors are crucial today and they make a shirt or jacket great. The 2003/04 Atletico Madrid ever changing Columbia pictures sponsored kit was an amazing example of the power of sponsors. Atletico practically had a new kit every week as the next blockbuster film hit the big screen. West Ham had the opposite luck when their sponsors XL went bust, they had to do a patch up job over the sponsor before they printed shirt numbers on the front of the kit.

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Finally, they reached a deal with a new sponsor, but the debacle caught attention. When purchasing a shirt or jacket now, I wouldn’t necessarily choose a shirt on a specific sponsor, but I would opt away from a sponsor-less shirt. I would never want the Brazilian or Scandinavian style of multiple sponsors on a kit, nor the hoax Paddy Power design with Huddersfield this pre-season. However, a sponsor is key to a shirt, the new Newcastle home shirt would be beautiful if it had the classic Newcastle Brown sponsor. The sponsor must follow the colour scheme and add to the shirt aesthetically. The Candy sponsor for the old Liverpool kits (particularly the 88/89 grey away shirt) were the perfect example of a shirt, manufacturer, crest, sponsor and colour scheme working in tandem.


The club

This may seem obvious, but a club is huge for a kit collector, admirer or just any football fan. No matter how nice a Manchester United kit could be I would never wear it, purchase it or even admit it. Football is tribal and if it represents a rival tribe you won’t like the shirt. You could have been an Ajax fan with a penchant for Tottenham and their London map 3rd shirt last year, when Lucas Moura scored his 96th minute winner that could very soon end. Your team will always come first, and football loyalties are more important than fashion to most fans.

The history

Finally, in my opinion, the only other thing that can elevate or diminish the value and appreciation of a shirt is the history. This doesn’t just mean the age, although the older the shirt is would normally increase the value, but the history of what was achieved in the kit. Any team that wins a trophy will always see a spike in sales and fans will want a physical reminder of that occasion. In the same way that a great kit that is surrounded in a disastrous moment will diminish in value. Any World Cup winning shirt will be valuable as they will always hold a moment in history. A shirt worn by a side suffering a humiliating defeat, relegation or cup final loss will hold a permanent reminder to the fans of that day. This is more of an emotion felt by supporters of the club in mention, a fan of 90s Serie A shirts won’t care what was won or lost in the kit. However, a collector of cup winning shirts would dismiss the losers despite its beauty. As a holder of three European Cup winning Liverpool shirts, they will always mean more than a 90s kit despite the increased beauty of them. It is all subjective, but a historic moment will always impact the monetary and emotional value of a shirt.

So, what is it that makes a shirt, the favourite in a collection? I believe it is a combination of all the above. The best-looking shirt ever, for me is not an easy question but the first thing that comes to mind is the Italia 90 Germany home shirt (despite the lack of a sponsor!). The best Liverpool kit, I always jump to the famous 1996/97 ecru away shirt. For history, I look to the World Cup in the year I was born, and I am a proud holder of the Brazil ’94 World Cup winning shirt. The best-looking Liverpool shirt that has history attached to it, the 1988/89 grey away shirt. All these shirts, and many more, all have a special place for me, and I think it is all these categories that must be considered for a great shirt to be the favourite in a collection. I’m sure there are other categories or reasons why people love a shirt but that would have to be mine.



Words by Peter Kenny Jones



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