So Millwall have got a new shirt. And it's pretty good. Little wonder. It's orange.
Some of the best shirts have been orange (or "tangerine". It's the last time you'll see me call a shirt that) and it just makes a mockery of Graham Taylor's dislike of the colour. "Do I not like orange". Do I not like orange? Yes. Er, no. Yes I do like orange shirts.
Millwall have gone with the colour of kings, pseudo-literally speaking. The Dutch royal family is known as the House of Orange-Nassau and, despite what Graham thinks, Holland have had some of the best orange shirts over the years. Their 70s number was one of the first to feature adidas's three stripes down the sleeve. That is until Johan Cruyff got his hands on his and tore a stripe off in an apparent show of support of his sponsor Puma (Adi/Rudi Dassler etc). Unwittingly he created a two-striped classic and Puma have recently shown their appreciation in shirts such as this season's Spurs away.
In 1988 the victorious Dutch team of Rijkaard, Gullit & van Basten won the Euro with one of that period's most iconic kits and the patterned design has recently featured (inverted) in adidas's Originals range, despite the Dutch now having an equally superb Nike-manufactured kit. From the flag detail on the neck (echoing Ruud Gullit's horizontal tricolour captain's armband) to the beautiful socks in nassau blue (how many colours does that royal family want?!) Nike have created a masterpiece. Even the bizarre shirt numbers add to the effect.
But in the nineties and early naughties orange kits had mixed fortunes. Firstly, and almost inexplicably, Umbro decided to release an orange Republic of Ireland shirt. I say "inexplicably" because, for mainly political and historical reasons, an orange shirt was - rightly or wrongly - never likely to be a colour that Irish fans in the Republic would take to. However, I say "almost" because the Irish tricolour features green, white and orange so having an orange away shirt is akin to England having a red one. Irish fans are proud to wear shirts that represent the three colours, just maybe not the third so predominantly. RofI haven't worn an orange shirt since.
Secondly, Rangers released a bright orange away shirt. Immediately as popular as it was controversial, the general consensus from onlookers was that this was shameless exploitative marketing by Diadora (and the club) in the belief that many Rangers fans' affiliation with or sympathetic leanings towards the Orange Order in Northern Ireland would lead to massive sales. Whatever the reasons, the shirt sales were astronomical but still it was pulled after only one season with conflicting reasons being given.
At the time of the shirt release I was personally appalled by the move. Both sides of the, supposed, "Old Firm" regularly tread a fine line in their kit designs, for example Celtic wearing away shirts which appear to reference the aforementioned Irish flag (but with gold rather than orange. Yet another controversy but I won't go into that) and Rangers releasing shirts with Union Jack details and away shirts that nod to England designs (we really don't have the time) but from my less-than-impartial position I thought the orange shirt was a step too far. So when I found myself with one of these shirts in stock for the shop and, as I often do, tried the shirt on (prior to rewashing) to check the fit, my girlfriend of the time received something of a panicked and aggitated text. All that said, from a design point of view, the shirt was great. It just should never have been released.
Going forward, orange shirts made me feel a little uneasy. No one can deny the beauty of a classic Blackpool shirt (I know. I don't care. See my earlier comments) or suggest for a second that the coolest Arsenal fans at either Bergkamp Day at Highbury or Dennis's testimonial at the Emirates weren't the ones wearing the Orange Arsenal shirts (which reference the 1950 Cup Final) but it took Marseille's release of The Greatest Football Shirt In The World Ever to get me back on board. Though I loved it (and still do) I really had to do some soul-searching before instructing, nay ordering, my mother, who was in Marseille, to purchase it and bring it to me. I haven't looked back since and the orange Millwall one may be next.