Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona, Napoli, Inter away and seven other brilliant football kits...
It all started to go wrong towards the latter half of 1989. Strange detail started to sully the shirts of England’s old First Division - expressionistic flecks on Liverpool’s Candy sponsored jersey; a terrible zigzag effect making a mess of Manchester City’s; a strange bark-like pattern upon Everton’s; and a geometric mash-up staining Chelsea’s. Tottenham Hotspur went from beautiful plain white to go faster stripes.
Abroad there were similar crimes of fashion as Adidas, Umbro and their lesser rivals all went a little mad, churning out sartorial atrocities replete with excessively silky fabrics, ultra wide v-neck collars, and thick misplaced stripes.
Football shirts began to resemble something you’d wear to a Happy Mondays gig.
Prior to such abominations we were treated to classic templates that flattered the most incongruous of club colours; simple collars, minimal trim, and pared down club crests that adorned shirts that actually flattered the physique.
Whilst the eighties was the decade that taste forgot in football the opposite applied, as pitches were graced with some of our finest ever creations. It was our golden era for kit design and I make no apologies for including ten of the very best in this all-time list.
Tottenham Hotspur 1980-82
Not only a huge improvement on the preceding Admiral kit but as pure and unadulterated as a football kit gets. All white, blue trim and a lone cockerel on the chest. Thee greatest Tottenham Hotspur kit ever.
You can take your pick form a number of Brazilian shirts, but 1982 just about edges it over both 1970 and 1986. Is their a finer footballing image than the sight of a bearded Socrates resplendent in yellow, blue and white? I’m not sure there is.
England: 1984 -1987
Forget 1966 – get up close to that and it will remind anyone of a certain age of their unforgiving PE fatigues – 1986 is where it’s at. The qualifying version was best because it had elasticated sleeves that matched the v-neck. At that year’s World Cup itself England wore an ‘airtex’ version with loose sleeves to aid with the climate, but still with the same dark navy blue shorts.
Never before has the traditional blue shirt/white short combo worked so well
Internazionale Away: 1988-1991
As if the home effort wasn’t breathtaking enough, the Germans at Uhlsport came up with this beauty. Emblazoned first with Inter’s short-lived Serpent logo during their victorious Serie A campaign of 1988-89, the Scudetto to commemorate the aforementioned triumph for 1989-90, before returning to Inter’s now familiar original signature for the 1990-91 season, it is a football shirt of rare simplicity.
Both these teams looked great in 70s and 80s, only for them to fall foul of the 1990s football shirt apocalypse. Arsenal showed admirable signs of recovery last season, wearing what was probably the best English shirt of 2010/2011. It remains to be seen whether this proves to a mere flash in fashion’s pan. Meanwhile, the sight of Johan Cruyff in his Ajax pomp poses a serious threat to Socrates’ reputation as one of the coolest footballers going.
Barcelona: 1982 – 1989
The Netherlands: 1978 & 1988
The Netherlands had been wearing quality kits for years when in 1988 Adidas forced this strange configuration upon them, but, oddly, it worked. In retrospect we can see this shirt as a harbinger of the experimentation that was to come – it’s no coincidence that Adidas was responsible. (West) Germany got to wear a green version as their away strip, and the Soviet Union a red one for their home.
Never before has the traditional blue shirt/white short combo worked so well – it’s the predominance of white that does it. This was the heyday of the British football strip with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal all making worthwhile contributions to the trend. Everton edge it, though, for their subtle reworking of the colour blue – these things matter.
Napoli: 1986 – 1992
To be honest, you could pick any number of Italian kits from this era – Fiorentina, Torino, Juventus, AC Milan – but there’s something about Maradona that pushes this kit into a higher realm. Regardless of what you think of the man, he was a colossus.
Vasco de Gama: 1988
White with a black diagonal sash, a huge red ‘Order of Christ’ cross acting as the club’s badge, and – on the classic Adidas 1988 contribution that has forced its inclusion here, at least – Coca Cola writ large as more of an emblem than a sponsor. Actually, Brazilian club shirts are generally of a very high standard, and it wouldn’t be hard to make a case for Flamengo’s inclusion in my top ten too.
It’s 1986: France are 1-0 down to Brazil and it’s approaching half time, when suddenly Michel Platini pounces upon a deflected Rochetaeu cross, side foots it into the net before peeling away to celebrate his equaliser. On his birthday no less. I swear he’s wearing a St. Christopher around his neck, but photographic evidence proves inconclusive. It’s another fine French shirt he’s wearing, but take your pick: Mexico 86, Espania 82, Euro 84… be it made by Le Coq Sportif or Adidas, as they invariably have been, it’s a kit with a fine pedigree.
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