It's not easy to innovate the same piece of clothing, year after year—sooner or later, the inspiration is going to run dry. Here to assess some of this season's top scores and biggest misses we rundown the best and worst football kits of the new season.
Replica kits are major money spinners for most football clubs. Top Premier League teams usually earn somewhere between £20-30 million a year from kit suppliers, the exception being Manchester United, who will bag an incredible £75 million ($115 million) a year from their new partnership with adidas. Real Madrid, meanwhile, are said to sell an average of 1.5 million shirts every season.
With each individual shirt costing fans roughly £50 ($80), football clubs are all-too-willing to exploit the blind loyalty of their fans by trotting out three new outfield kits every summer; after all, who ever said no to more money? While designing a football kit might seem like the easiest job in fashion, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, and many manufacturers are guilty of some truly outrageous acts of sartorial complacency (as well as some moments of downright genius).
With the first kick-off of the new season fast approaching, here’s a rundown of this year’s best—and worst—designs.
Inter Milan (Nike)
Inter revert back to their traditional black-and-blue bars (after last season’s pinstripe number) with a kit that epitomises why Nike is the industry leader in replica shirts. Nike’s designs are kind of like iOS – simple and intuitive. They do what comes naturally and occupy a sort of middle ground that forces their competitors into making bizarre and unnecessary decisions just to differentiate themselves.
Just look at their league rivals, Juventus, whose near-identical design has been butchered following their switch to adidas. The edges of the stripes are zig-zagged, the shoulder patches look sewn on and the stripes don’t extend to the seam, making the design look incomplete. One look at Inter's kit and it's clear Nike are master's of the KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid.
West Ham United (Umbro)
Switching from adidas to Umbro for their final season at the Boleyn Ground, the Hammers’ latest kit design is probably the finest of all the names on this list. The Manchester-based manufacturer has taken the reliable decision to go back to the old school with a design inspired by the very first kit West Ham wore at their long-term home, way back in 1904.
Retro football kits are big business these days, and it's no surprise that Palace chose the 1990–1992 England shirt as the basis for their Umbro collaboration rather than that mess the Three Lions wore in their failed Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. This look is something football fans have been crying out for for a long time, and Umbro is the only manufacturer to really give it to them after switching to smart, clean-cut designs in 2010 with their “tailored by Umbro” series.
Brentford FC (adidas)
After criticising adidas for their new Juventus kit, the German sportswear giant proves here just how good a job they can do if they stick to the basics. There’s a lot less happening in the design of Brentford’s latest offering than other examples adidas has produced; they don’t try to emphasise the three shoulder stripes with any unnecessary highlighting or perimeter, and the shoulder patches aren’t as noticeable as they’re blended into simple, single-colour sleeves. Lastly, the whole design is tied together nicely by the black collar, which accentuates the branding without cluttering anything else.
ACF Fiorentina (Le Coq Sportif)
With most teams putting out a new kit every season, manufacturers always need to change some sort of detail (no matter how minor) to give fans the illusion that they’re getting something new for their annual investment. That said, switching things up is a little bit difficult if you’re working with a single-colour kit (which is probably how Chelsea ended up with boob patches a few years ago).
It’s not impossible to do it right, though, as Le Coq Sportif illustrate with their latest Fiorentina design. Here, sleeve and collar cuffs add subtle contrast, while the fleur-de-lis from the club badge appears in a slightly darker shade of purple on the sleeves. It’s understated, yet eye-catching, and the detailing is a justified addition as it has some actual relevance to the club and the city.
The Bad and the Ugly
Tottenham Hotspur (Under Armour)
Since employing Under Armour as their kit manufacturers in the 2012–13 season, Spurs have consistently had some of the worst kits in the Premier League. This year's isn’t any different. The home shirt features a sash reminiscent of flattened roadkill, while the away kit seems to have been inspired by that divisive Tumblr dress (which could turn out to be a stroke of genius if it makes the opposition stop and debate its colours mid-match).
Advertising guru Charles Saatchi always said that it’s easier to complicate than simplify, and this is exactly why Under Armour are a case study in poor design. Sure, you can make a shirt stand out by pasting on mismatched shapes and skid marks, but only a great designer can create a kit that's both iconic and minimal, because good minimalism demands absolute perfection.
Norwich City FC (Errea)
Shirt sponsors are the scourge of many a modern day football kit. They’re usually grafted-on eyesores that clash with the shirt design and rarely feature brands that any fan would feel affinity towards. Yokohama tyres? Azerbaijan, Land of Fire? AIG Insurance? Seriously? No one wants to be made to look like a NASCAR driver by Wonga.com.
In Aviva (another insurance company) Norwich City have not only gone for a bigger sponsor logo than most clubs, but the whole kit seems to have been designed around it. An empty perimeter around the Aviva logo decimates the symmetry of the home kit, while the third kit looks like a field with a crop circle (or square, rather) carved into it. It is slightly redeemed by its resemblance to Will Smith's Fresh Prince of Bel Air T-shirt, but not much.
Genoa C.F.C (Lotto)
Italian footballers and fans are consistently subjected to some of the worst kits on the continent. Napoli, Lazio and Sampdoria will all step out on pitch in some real abominations this season, but Genoa’s really takes the cake. Although their home kits aren’t that bad (if you ignore the fact that they’re skin tight and look like cycling jerseys) their three goalkeeper kits seem to have been lifted from third-rate rejected designs for the adidas ZX Flux. Two of them feature photo-realistic water ripples in differing shades, while the third looks like a monochrome Instagram snap of Genoa’s local lighthouse. Everything about it feels like a phoned-in job at 4am on deadline night.
Kawasaki Frontale (Puma)
To mark the unveiling of their stadium’s new main stand, the latest home kit for Japanese team Kawasaki Frontale features an architect’s render of the structure emblazoned across the chest. The reverse side, meanwhile, features a similar sketch, only this time of the stand under construction. We get that they're proud of their latest investment in their fans, but really, this is the equivalent of you turning up to work wearing a massive picture of your brand new conservatory. Pretty sure no one has ever thought that was a good look.
Still, equally dishonourable mentions go out to their J-League competitors V-Varen Nagasaki, who will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a tuxedo kit reminiscent of those Hot Topic t-shirts so popular among shopping mall emo kids a decade ago.
Words by Aleks Eror for Highsnobiety.com