A friend of mine has a football shirt on sale on eBay. In fact, you might be aware of his work; it's Rich Johnson from The Football Attic (and now the Attic Life podcast).

You may, also, be aware of the football shirt. It's the adidas Netherlands Away (or Third) shirt from the 1988 European Championship. You know, the blue and white one? The one they never wore?

This is where football kit folklore comes into play. I'm not sure why, when or how it has become received wisdom that the Netherlands had a blue and white version of their famous isometrically patterned Home shirt - worn in each of their fixtures at Euro 88 - but this is now seemingly accepted. Rich, I assume, bought the shirt as seen - it's got a very authentic looking KNVB crest on it - and accordingly sells the shirt "caveat emptor" too, but do we have any real evidence of its authenticity?

Or, did someone, many years ago, take an example of what is probably a teamwear design from the time, add on the crest, and hold this shirt up to be the real deal? Not Rich's, of course, but one of its many predecessors on the market. People join the dots, and the Netherlands have had plenty of blue shirts since, and many teams have change shirts which reflect the design of the Home. There's a logic to it, so it's accepted.

But is it true? Does that even matter?

Irving: I want show you something. This Rembrandt here? People come from all over the world to see this.

Richie: Yeah, he's good. Yeah.

Irving: It's a fake.

Richie: Wait, what’re you talking about? That's impossible.

Irving: People believe what they want to believe. 'Cause the guy who made this was so good that it's real to everybody. Now who's the master -- the painter or the forger?

Richie: That's a fake?

Irving: That's the way the world works. Not black and white, like you say. Extremely grey.

American Hustle had it right. People believe what they want to believe. I've seen the happiness in people's eyes as they eagerly demand that I shut up and take their money for a shirt the value of which I'm playing down. In these terms, that Netherlands Away is one of the greatest football shirts in history - it's rare, it looks great, it reminds you of a veritable classic of huge iconic status and it ticks an individuality box in a world of old, retro and even training shirt approximations of replicas seeing sales skyrocket.

But what makes it real? Never forget that our reality is reality. Try as it might, science will never be able to comprehensively explain away first-person perspective and subjectivity. Just look at #TheDress (literally)! Science - them again - tells us that faith requires us to "suppress areas of the brain used for analytical thinking". You know what else we have to do? "Engage the parts responsible for empathy".

You'll note that not a lot of my blood, sweat and tears have gone into researching the Netherlands 1988 Away shirt for this article. You can try to find out if something is true - with no guarantee of answers - or you can believe it is, because if it is, the world is a better place. I know what I prefer to do.
 

Written by Jay (follow on Twitter).

Keep up to date with news from the world of football design by following @designfootball on Twitter and Liking the DesignFootball.com Facebook Page.

 

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