The new Liverpool kit was recently unveiled. Well, it wasn’t all that new as, so adidas tell us, it was heavily influenced by the kit worn by 1990 league championship winning team. To be perfectly honest, its watermark bears a stronger resemblance to that season’s away shirt but we take the point: winning is in its makeup. Incidentally, said “new” kit was unveiled ages ago but I’m a busy man so allow me some artistic licence.
So a kit for winners worn by, well, some of the biggest losers in the history of Liverpool Football Club. Not my opinion per se but rather all that can really be taken from what was witnessed the season just gone. However, things are scripted to change in line with the receipt of this new attire. Certainly Jamie Carragher feels they have to as he welcomed the launch with the words "The kit's lovely. But ultimately you always remember the shirts you win things in, so we'll have to win something in this."
A wise philosophy indeed. Far be it for me to make assumptions about Mr Carragher but comments like that can suggest that a footballer cares more for the job in hand than what type of collar he’ll be wearing whilst carrying out his duties. Nonetheless, it’s worth exploring his informed premise from the point of view of, as we are, devotees of the shirt on their backs.
So does a kit become memorable due to its design or due to the feats of the 11+ men that wear it? Tediously, it’s most likely a mix of the two. When I wrote about my favourite shirts of all time the balance was well in favour of success of the on-pitch variety over the sartorial kind. The Cameroon kit of 1990 wouldn’t have turned the heads of many before Italia 90 commenced and France’s white away from 2006 may well have turned heads away.
But the latter shows that a kit can become iconic even when not synonymous with absolute success. The shirt was made famous by Zinedine Zidane through his almost single-handed dismantling of Brazil and then threatening to do the same to Italy (before turning his attentions to Marco Materazzi). So what of that Italy shirt? The shirt of the World Champions? Somehow it still doesn’t hold the kudos that its adidas opposite number oozes. To paraphrase Coco Chanel, look for the man in the shirt. If there is no man, there is no shirt.
Therefore, is the secret ingredient infamy? Not necessarily, as the squeakiest of squeaky-clean combined in victorious glory to create perhaps the most iconic kit of all time in 1966. Similarly, Arsenal’s 2004 strip will be remembered much more for the invincibility it accompanied rather than any disciplinary shortcomings of the team (handily, the side were decked out in their away kit for The Battle of Old Trafford). But these are two more examples of unremarkable templates launched to significance by exploits on the field of play.
So which kits will be next? Pre-South Africa 2010, the releases of Puma, Nike, adidas and Umbro have all divided opinion but will those opinions change as the hundreds of (multi-)balls are kicked in anger? Classic Football Shirts, by way of twitter, will have us believe that even Blackpool shirts are now priceless as the club prepares to figure in the top flight. If Play-Off success can empower those designs then the sky must be the limit for outfits put together by the world’s best designers, for the world’s best players.