Our second interview in our Meet the Kit Professional series meets us with Dave Moor from HistoricalKits.co.uk. The site features all teams who competed in the English and Scottish Football leagues and it aims to to create the most comprehensive archive available – some kits on the site go back to 1870.
Q: When was the first time you started admiring football shirts and what pushed you towards this part of the world of football?
A: I was 13 when the World Cup was played in England and we watched all the games on black & white TV as a family with the official programme to hand. On the back of the programme were crude colour drawings of the competing nationsâ€™ strips andÂ I remember thinking, â€œI could do better than that.â€ Later that summer we spent a family holiday in Cornwall and, naturally, it rained constantly. My parents bought a fat sporting encyclopaedia and a set of new-fangled felt tip pens and my younger brother and I spent long afternoons making colour drawings of all the football club strips. There were no records of the socks so I asked Peter and he confidently made something up.
Q: Seeing you have researched English kits as from 1888, how do you think things have progressed from that time till now?
A: In fact we go back as far as 1870, when the first distinctive strips began to appear: prior to this, teams played in whatever the players had to hand but as competition between clubs increased. In the earliest days, matches were usually played between members of the same club and teams wore different coloured scarves or headgear to distinguish them. One of the aims of Historical Football Kits (HFK) is to track how strips developed from these earliest days. The most important development was the evolution of distinctive colours that became associated with individual clubs in the late Victorian period. For example, Aston Villa played in all sorts of different colours until they adopted claret and blue in 1887. Even then it was several years before the iconic claret jerseys with blue sleeves appeared: these remained substantially unchanged until Tommy Docherty redesigned the strip in 1969.
Everton are of course associated with blue shirts and white shorts while it is unthinkable for Liverpool to play at home in anything other than red. In fact, Everton wore all sorts of colours until 1901, when the famous royal blue and white strip was adopted and Liverpool started out in a set of light blue and white shirts that Everton had discarded when they moved out of Anfield.
Q: Is there any particular era that you think had the most beautiful football kits?
My passion is for the Victorian era. I love those old carefully posed team photographs and discovering a previously unrecorded strip or finding corroboration for an obscure club is very exciting. We are very fortunate that the HFK project has captured the imagination of so many experts and historians who have generously shared their research with us. One interesting fact to have emerged is the popularity of pink â€“ Iâ€™m reliably informed that in Victorian times pink was associated with masculinity. By the time of the Great War, however, this colour had fallen out of favour, possibly because changing fashion meant that blue was now associated with boys and pink with girls.
Q:Â Who would you nominate for the worst shirt ever?
There are many to choose from and we have a section of the site (Room 101) dedicated to the worst horrors.Â Newport Countyâ€™s players refused to wear the orange and black striped shorts forced on them in 1972 after constant barracking from their supporters. Arsenals yellow and blue â€œbanana shirtâ€ (1991) always comes near the top of fanâ€™s list of worst strips and Norwich Cityâ€™s â€œbird-pooâ€ outfit from 1992 is another popular favourite. In fact, most of the kits nominated for our own Room 101 section come from the 1990s, the decade when designers lost all sense of taste.Â My personal favourite, however, is the extraordinary tiger-print shirt that Hull City wore in 1992. I can just imagine some bright spark suggesting to management, â€œWeâ€™re called the Tigers and Iâ€™ve had this brilliant ideaâ€¦â€
Q: On a positive note, who gets your vote for the best shirt ever?
Again there are so many to choose from and we have another section where supporters can nominate their own favourites. Among the most influential are Villaâ€™s claret and blue, copied by numerous clubs, and the red and white Arsenal shirts designed by Herbert Chapman that remains the definitive Gunnersâ€™ shirt. My personal favourite is the all-white strip with green and black chest bands worn by Plymouth Argyle in the Sixties. This was introduced at a time when clubs were ditching their traditional strips in favour of all-white outfits that looked smart under floodlights. Argyleâ€™s version was truly distinctive and very elegant and I would dearly like to see this strip revived.
Q: Do you think kits nowadays still represent the clubâ€™s true colours and pride?
Football colours have now become strongly associated with the clubs we support, a visual way of establishing a clubâ€™s identity while the burgeoning market in replicas allow supporters to make a clear statement about their loyalties. Strips are no longer just a way to distinguish between two teams. Few clubs these days dare to radically change their home kit (a change of colours has sometimes been used to try to turn round failing fortunes or to mark a fresh start and a new images â€“ think of Crystal Palace, Coventry City and Leeds).
Q:Do you think clubs just regard shirts as a way to generate revenue?
There is no doubt that clubs exploit the replica kit market and the devotion of their supporters. Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with that in principle but I do object to the high prices they charge and the introduction of spurious â€œthird kits.â€ In 2003 the Office of Fair Trading found that several leading clubs and sportswear manufacturers were guilty of price fixing and also operated as a cartel to prevent supermarkets selling replica kits at discounted prices. Despite this, prices have not come down and supermarkets still do not have access to the market. Given the true cost of production (most replica shirts are mass produced in Pakistan or China), the profit margin is considerable.
Q: Do you agree with clubs changing shirts every season?
I welcome the voluntary agreement observed by several leading English clubs to retain their kits for two years, even if they do rotate their strips in order to introduce one new one each season. Further down the leagues, the sale of replica kits represents an important revenue stream to clubs that struggle financially with a small fan base, so I canâ€™t really be over-critical. I am concerned, however, at the insane financial management that is currently the curse of the professional game in England: too many clubs are getting into serious debt and falling into administration due to mismanagement and in this context, they risk alienating their supporters. Why should a fan shell out the best part of Â£45 for the latest shirt if the club he or she supports is being driven to destruction by greedy directors?
Q. We are compiling a list of the top eleven shirts of the last decade, what shirts would you suggest we include in the list?
I find this impossible to answer although Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re visitors will nominate their favourites worn by their own teams. Overall, I think the past decade has seen a distinct improvement in design after the ludicrous excesses of the Nineties. Puma and Nike have made a virtue of simplicity and produced some very fine strips but I am concerned that they are using their financial muscle, as are Adidas/Umbro, to squeeze out smaller companies by offering clubs deals that undercut the independents. Some of the best designs have come from Italian companies such as Lotto and Errea and it is sad to see clubs like Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Swindon Town dropping their distinctive designs in favour of bog-standard templates from the big global sportswear companies.
That said, the big players can produce excellent designs, such as the â€œAfrica rangeâ€ that Puma introduced ahead of the African Cup of Nations. Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing some of these original and colourful designs in the World Cup in June.
We would like thank David Moor for contributing his thoughts to our readers. For those who wish to visit David’s site, this can be found at:
Posted on March 09, 2010