Wearing football shirts – why? – GAME OF THE PEOPLE
A FEW years ago, my wife and I were at a game in Prague, at the very atmospheric Bohemians stadium, with the famous Mr Panenka sitting high in the stand. Opposition fans were in full voice but most were as naked from the waist up as Vladimir Putin on his horse. You could almost smell the testosterone as the bald, burly gang of ultras demonstrated their masculinity in the autumn wind. ” Why ? I asked, shivering as the streetcars roared past on the floor. “Maybe their football shirts don’t fit so they take their clothes off?” my wife replied wryly.
That was a good point, because on virtually every football pitch in Europe, beer bellies and bald heads crowd into football shirts, testing the strength of the fabric and instantly turning pinstripes into wide stripes.
You could say that the replica jersey is a piece of clothing that makes us all equal, that it introduces a form of democracy into the football experience, but nothing could be further from the truth. The thing is, football shirts are for young people, they are the costumes for a costume drama. But somehow, putting on a football jersey creates a form of sporty “dad army” in most of us.
It’s understandable that fans want to show their allegiance, but wearing a football shirt is, if you think about it, vaguely comical. You’re basically wearing a footballer’s uniform, a fit and agile image of vitality. We all want to step back in time and challenge the aging process, but dressing like a 22-year-old isn’t necessarily the best way to show you’re still relevant.
Indeed, when you look at the way designers are decimating club colors, from what look like blood splattered kits to hideous new kits that include the club name and no crest, why would you give any credence to some really horrible creations? And then, of course, there are the unflattering fabrics, showing off every hill and valley of the body. Still want to wear that Liverpool third kit?
There is also a moral issue, notably the source of the shirts themselves. Are they created in small sweatshops in places like Cambodia, Indonesia or China? Are they the product of cheap and exploitative labour? Most people don’t want to know, but in this age of visible displays of social responsibility through football, shouldn’t we want to know how these products are put together?
Maybe it’s time for a kit maker to come up with something very innovative and sensible – the plain blue or red shirt. With more and more people trying to embrace a more simplistic lifestyle, embracing minimalism and basics, how wonderful would the plain shirt be in the TV interference that is shirt design ? The most iconic stripes of all time have included Real Madrid’s all-white kit, Arsenal’s red with white sleeves, Inter Milan’s blue and black stripes and Brazil’s yellow, among others. I would definitely applaud any kit company that brushes off the nonsense and says, “Here we are, our new look – blue and white (red and white)”. Forget about graffiti, splashes and tricky shades, let’s really bring back the identity of the club.
It is entirely possible that kit makers deliberately make their latest offerings as complex as possible, partly to justify marketing a different shirt for each club and partly to make counterfeits more difficult to achieve. . The latter is understandable and we have to accept that for clubs, shirt sales are an important part of their business.
Fans are complaining about ‘another shirt for Manchester United’, but they’re still buying them and queuing for the latest abomination. In other words, they continue to feed the beast, spending large sums of money to ensure they stay on trend.
But is it really important? If you want to show your allegiance, buy a sash or badge. Not convinced? The next time you put on a replica shirt, look at yourself in a full-length mirror. Ask yourself what part of your torso looks fat in there and I bet you’ll be tempted to put that shirt back in the drawer. I know, I tried.
This article appeared in the latest edition of Football weekends.
Game of the People was founded in 2012 and is ranked in the top 100 football websites by various sources. The site regularly wins awards for its work, across a wide range of topics. View all posts by Neil Fredrik Jensen