How are Football Shirts Designed?
Football shirts change each and every season, of course, you know that. But who exactly is making the changes and how do they make each kit?
Put simply, each team works with a designer (most likely, a team of designers) to come up with at least three new kits each year — the home kit, the away kit and the keepers kit. The design team works in tandem with a history of knowledge to get the best materials, patterns and colours that make sure that your teams’ kits aren’t just nice to look at, but can actually influence the players’ abilities on the field.
Who Designs Football Kits?
Football kits have long been designed by a range of sportswear designers, but they actually started out much like soldiers uniforms. Matching kits help you recognise your team just like the soldiers in the Boer war were identified by their beige getup – in fact, the first branded kit back in 1884 was designed by Butka, who also created the aforementioned war uniforms for the British.
Nowadays, team kits take inspiration from the traditions, ethos and culture of each team and are more tightly fitted to discourage grabbing players and allow sweat to evaporate from the body quicker. Lots of manufacturers make shirts, but the most popular are instantly recognisable to any football fan.
Most Popular Football Kit Designers
For years now, Nike, adidas, Puma, Joma, Macron and New Balance have been the manufacturers to turn to when designing new shirts. The design team from each manufacturer works with the team to utilise the full capabilities of scientifically designed materials to make shirts from polyesters, wicking fabric (which keeps water at bay) and a mixture of high density fibres that pull moisture off the skin and disperse it over the materials’ surface area.
A good shirt can keep players cool, allow them to get the most out of their speed as well as keep them warm in those matches when the snow shows up and refuses to stop. In fact, the density of the fabric can enhance player performance in many ways. The UEFA regulation stipulate that each sleeve has a ‘free zone’ where no manufacturer can put their logo as it’s used for badges and armbands (like a captains’ band).
Popular Football Shirt Designs
There’s much debate about the best football shirts of all time. Whether you support a local team or are a fan of Mexico’s 1978 kit, shirt design can be controversial or sought-after like the England 1990 kit.
The most popular designs tend to be classic – like the Manchester United 1990 Away kit. With muted colours and representative not only of the team itself but also the time period they are designed in. Who can forget the sleeveless Cameroon 2002 kit with its bright colours and completely unique look? For our rundown of the best vintage kits, check out our picks for the best retro football kits of all time.
Details are Important
Even though the design of shirts is important to make the most out of a players’ fitness, the designs on them can immortalise them in sporting history. One of the most memorable designs is the famously awful retro Man Utd shirt from 1993/94 and rightly so. The horizontal stripe design was actually popularised from the beginning of football itself, when people used to play in their cricket whites and identified the players of each team by a sash over their cricket whites. Since then, there have been a lot of key details in kits that have made them a fashion hit amongst fans.
For example, in the 2012 Euros, the now-legendary name and number logotype was actually influenced by gaffer tape, Puma used the design in conjunction with their slogan for the tournament “make football anywhere” to encourage people to play no matter where they were.
Another set of famous shirts came from Jorge Campos, the Mexican national teams’ goalkeeper. Campos actually worked with Nike themselves to design his own kits, which produced some of the most eye-catching shirts in footballing history.
Who Designed my Team’s Kit?
Each team has their own relationship with their kit designers, every season, the design team talk to the squad, backroom staff and managerial team about the numbers, colours, sponsors and the club culture. In 2021/22, the manufacturers working with your teams are as follows:
This year, Nike and Liverpool are working together to create a more sustainable approach to kit design. Using recycled polyester and plastic bottles, even the replica fan kits have been created from sustainable materials.
This season, Manchester United’s kit was inspired by the home kits of the 1960s. Taking the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law and bringing their spirit into the modern age of the club.
Newcastle have switched up their manufacturers this season. After an 11-year relationship with Puma, the Magpies have traded in for Liverpool-based designers Castore.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the now iconic 1971 ‘bruised banana’ kit, Arsenal’s third kit has taken the form of a yellow number. adidas themselves have added their trademark stripes in navy across the shoulders as a nod to the kits the Gunners had in the 1990s.
Nike worked with the local community to do workshops about what their area meant to them, which led to the third shirt “N17” design. N17 is the teams area code and the design team worked with young creatives going all the way back from 2019 to create new shirt designs inspired by the local textile industry.
Featuring their own abstract zig-zag design, Chelsea’s 2021/22 kit has bright flashes of yellow added by the Nike team to give a fresh look to the traditional blue.
That’s our guide to football shirt design! Here at The Football Market, we are dedicated to bringing you high quality retro football shirts. For the rarest shirts of all time, read our article about the eight most difficult to find shirts in the history of the game.