Monday, October 08, 2007

Six Of The Worst

Some of you may recall the post that I put up on here last week listing my six favourite football kits of all time. On his excellent blog Pitch Invasion, Thomas Dunmore commented that he finds it easier to recall truly awful kits than it is to remember the great ones. With this in mind, I am using this space to humbly submit to you the six most execrable outfits that spring to my mind. It's worth pointing out that the the "six worst football kits of all time" is a considerably more competitive category than the "six best football kits of all time" could ever be. At some point in the mid-to-late 1980s, a kind of collective madness overtook football clubs and sportswear designers. This coincided (somewhat unhappily for the fans) with the rise to ascendency of the football shirt as something which was vaguely acceptable to wear in public places and the growth of sponsorship to every area of a club's existence. These days, a typical club with have at least three adornments on their shirts - for example, Brighton & Hove Albion currently wear sponsorship for Coca-Cola on their arms, Skint Records on the fronts of their shirts and local cheap and cheerful Italian restaurant Donatello's on the base of their shirts and their shorts. This may seem excessive, but club kits on the continent have often come to resemble little more than mobile advertising hoardings nowadays, with ads plastered everywhere. It's only a matter of time before a star player takes the pitch with the logo for a fast food company tattooed across his face. Anyway, here's my selection.

6. York City (2002/2003): Okay. The York City home shirt of the 1970s was a pretty nifty design, in maroon with a big white "Y" across the front of them. It was bold, and had the good fortune to coincide with the most successful period in their history. By 2002, though, they were thoroughly in the doldrums, and at the point of extinction. Enter stage left racing driver John Batchelor, who was presumably behind this atrocity. Even if you can see past the hideous chequered flag arm, take a closer look at that badge - yes, that's York City Soccer Club. The Minstermen's doughty supporters managed to dislodge him and these shirts, but were still left playing at... KitKat Crescent. Lord help me.

5. Doncaster Rovers (1992-1994): If you think about it, most football kits shouldn't be difficult to design. Very few consist of more than three colours, and most clubs have at least one "classic" design, which makes older supporters allow their eyes to glaze over at its mere mention. Take a bow, then, Doncaster Rovers, whose alarming design from 1992 looks as if it might have been designed by Peter Sutcliffe after a heavy night on the mescaline. Worse still, in an era when everyone changes their shirts every season, they contrived to keep this one for two seasons.

4. Newcastle United (1990-1993): Funny company, Umbro. They're the most successful British football kit manufacturers of all time and have supplied the England team, Brazil, Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs and Chelsea, amongst others. I don't know whether this breeds complacency, with they have been responsible for some sartorial disasters. This Newcastle United shirt marked the end of a fairly lengthy relationship. Again, you'd think that it wouldn't be too difficult to get black & white stripes, but Umbro managed it by trying to mix two different widths of stripes on the same shirts. Maybe the designer just got confused.

3. Mexico (1998 World Cup): Look, I'm all in favour in of maintaining tradition and heritage. I fear any sort of change, after all. You can, however, take these things to far, and I think it's fair to say that Mexico did this at the 1998 World Cup Finals in France. That face... is it looking at me? Is it staring at me? Is it laughing at me? Based on the Calendar Stone, this is possibly the only football kit I've ever seen that actually gives me the creeps.

2. Chesterfield (1892/1893): Now, there's a small part of me that still wishes that Chesterfield still wore this kit. I don't know the whys and wherefores of how this magnificently, umm, patriotic kit came about, but it only lasted one year before they changed it to an altogether dowdier white and black affair, before experimenting with various combinations of green & white,black & white and red and blue before settling on the blue shirts and white shorts that are now reasonably familiar.

1. Celtic Away (1991/1992): The only away shirt in this list but, my word, what a startling little number this is. I have a mental image of how this shirt came to be hatched (I was going to say "came to fruition" there, but "hatched" seems more apt, given the reptilian look of it). At some point early in 1991, the man that designed the aforementioned Newcastle shirt for Umbro was called to a sales meeting to discuss its plummeting sales. In his rush to get to a meeting at Celtic Park, he picked up the sales graph rather than his actual design and rushed off, handing it in by mistake instead. The Celtic board, amid many red faces, agreed that it was a "revolutionary" design and okayed it. Seriously, it's the only way that it could have happened.


Ed said...

Your choices are all splendid indeed. The York City one is spellbindingly atrocious.

Naturally, I'm also inclined to agree with Tom Dunmore's assessments. The 1990-91 away kit was bloody horrendous, but at least it WAS only an away kit. I think the 1988-89 home kit - blue shorts with white pinstripes, for christ's sake - is a particularly abusive scar on football history. Worse even than the 1991-92 Tesco Bag home kit, with even-width stripes all the way down.

I would also cast a vote for Hartlepool's lunatic checkered kit of the early 1990s. And any kit of a team who plays in striped shirts which features stripes of more than one width or in more than one direction. How hard is it to just make a striped shirt?

ursus arctos said...


You might be interested to know that quite a few NASL afficionados consider the Rowdies shirt the best that league ever produced (though I am not among their number, being more of a classicist in such things).

And that quite a few people loved the Tri shirt with the Aztec calendar dial motif (though the version with the calendar in red is a bit over the top).

Though what I like about your list is that it doesn't just hit the easy targets of that period in the late 80s and early 90s when pretty much every club in Britain had at least one away or third that was appalling. You've got a good range of periods, regions and alleged styles.

In that vein, you might consider the Colorado Caribou (fringe, anyone?):

Ajax' most hallucinogenic hour:

or Siena's hommage to bar codes (with atrocious Udinese third at no extra cost):

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