Fashion for wearing replica football shirts was driven by fans rather than manufacturers, research finds – Archive – News archive

Fashion for wearing replica football shirts was driven by fans rather than manufacturers, research shows

  • The study analyzed more than 2,000 crowd photos, advertisements from 1960 to 2000 and interviewed more than 4,000 fans
  • The results showed that the first big increase in the number of replica shirts predated the most frequently cited times for football’s renaissance, such as the 1990 World Cup and the formation of the Premier League.

According to new research from the University of Sheffield, published in the journal Sport in History, the fashion for adult fans wearing replica shirts – now an integral part of the visual and economic landscape of football – was initially created by fans rather than by manufacturers or marketing.

Using statistical analysis of crowd photographs, club manufacturer and store advertisements, and a survey of over 4,000 fans, Dr. Chris Stride, a statistician at the Institute of Psychology University Labor found that the first big wave of replica shirts predated the more commonly cited times for football’s renaissance, such as the 1990 World Cup and the formation of the Premier League.

Although replica shirts have been produced since the late 1950s, they were initially produced and promoted for children. In the early 1970s, kit makers entered into contracts with clubs and introduced copyrighted designs, allowing them to market their shirts with the added appeal of being exclusive and authentic. This led to a boom in the kids replica kit industry.

However, adult sizes were not widely produced, and even more rarely worn as leisure wear. Wearing sportswear in public still seemed odd to some adults and childish to others. The exception was during cup finals, where replica shirts became part of the big game’s costume tradition.

soccer adThe study found that in the early 1980s a small number of fans began to wear replica shirts to games more regularly – mainly young adults who had grown up with replica kits and wore large sizes. for young people. However, the fashion did not spread beyond a small subculture for most of the decade, due to the lack of production or promotion of adult-size swimwear, the risk of being attacked when of a game and the lack of football merchandising infrastructure.

In the late 1980s there was an increase in the purchase and wearing of replica shirts, linked both to the decline of hooliganism and the growing popularity of football – which, due to the rise of culture of football fanzines and fan activism, was again seen as hip by young adults. . This change in football’s fortunes was further spurred on by the 1990 World Cup, when thousands of replica-clad fans were seen both at home and at the tournament.

Such wider adoption encouraged clubs to enter into much more lucrative shirt deals with kit manufacturers who, keen to recoup this expense, were now producing larger adult sizes and proactively marketing their products to adult fans of all ages. This marketing coincided perfectly with the introduction of the Premier League and the focus on new demographics of older, middle-class and family-centric fans, creating a second jump in the number of replica shirts. for matches.

Dr Stride said: “Several factors were behind the shift from sales to children to sales to adults: it was as much about the gradual removal of obstacles such as widespread hooliganism, growth and professionalization retail outlets selling football products and the feeling that sportswear was acceptable leisure wear. for both adults and children, this has allowed the replica shirt industry to grow.

“The timing of replica jersey adoption fits perfectly with the gentrification of football as a whole. Just as the fan activism of the late 1980s helped create the initial, if often overlooked, revival of fortune football before the formation of the Premier League, the increase in the number of shirts worn by young adults during this period helped create a market which manufacturers then exploited and expanded.”

Read the article in Sport in History

Further information

Dr Stride will speak on Adult Adoption of Replica Kits on Monday 25 February 2019 at 5.30pm at the University of London. FREE ENTRANCE.
For more information visit or

Watch a short film about adult adoption of replica shirts

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For more information, please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
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