Something that should be remembered when we talk about football design is that it doesn't always have to refer to association football. There are plenty of other sports, codes, whatever you want to call them, that come under the umbrella of "football". When I talk about football I might mean any one of them or maybe all of them. I'm lying of course. When I say football I mean the game where the prime donnes stick the pig's bladder in the onion bag and get paid squillions to do so, but let's just pretend for a while...
A few weeks ago, the Milan football - sorry, association football - team met up with the All Blacks, New Zealand rugby t- sorry, rugby football - team at Milan's Milanello training complex. Aside from the fact that Milanello is itself a triumph of architectural and technical football design, the adidas-arranged meeting reminded us of the classic kit designs in both football and rugby (I got sick of it). The timeless black and red stripes of Milan versus the imposing all black of, er, the All Blacks.
Obviously the modern day kits are covered in insignia and engrained with performance technology but, particularly in the case of the All Blacks, the basic and unchanging principles of the design are still the priority. Other than adidas, and at adidas's behest, no sponsor adorns the Kiwi shirt and the three stripes are surrendered in exchange for an association with one of sport's most recognisable and iconic outfits.
Rugby in general, for me, has some of the most wonderful shirts which rival some of football's most famous. Comparitively speaking, rugby union has only recently become a professional sport and this allowed the most beautiful and unsullied kit design to endure through to recent times. Most have finally been replaced with supremely functional sportswear but the classic white collar on the plain green of Ireland and red of Wales were prime examples. For me, a Cotton Traders retro shirt will always be preferable to the current styles.These old fashioned designs show similarities between football's best offerings and that of rugby. Compare The Barbarians shirt and its large club badge with the style worn by Rangers in the 70s. Both are beautiful examples of classic shirt designs and focussing primarily on crests/badges, who could decide between the Red Rose or the Three Lions? Whatever our manufacturers bring to the table, our teams' kits are defined by the basic colours and significance and history of our club badge. For every Red Devil there's a Springbok, for every Four Leaved Clover there's a Silver Fern and for every Cockerel there's, well, yes, a Cockerel.
When football and rugby come together as they did at Milanello I find it a little easier to remember what makes a great kit and that the sponsor and manufacturer's logo can improve upon or deface but are always merely temporary. As much as I have adored the influence adidas and Puma and umbro have had on shirts over decades and bemoan the fact that I still can't find a pair of Nike England rugby shorts, I know what transcends evolution. Boca Juniors wear blue with a yellow band, River Plate and Peru wear white shirts with a red diagonal band, Milan wear black and red stripes, the New Zealand rugby team wear all black and Arsenal will, one day, wear white sleeves again.