Nostalgia is something I love to revel in when it comes to football. A quick glance through my blog archive proves as much. Whether it’s reminiscing about the football heyday of the 1990s or focusing on a particularly historic team or player, there’s something about looking back through rose-tinted glasses at times gone by that makes me love the game all the more.
But there’s one particular area of nostalgia that really can bring the memories flooding back. As you’ll know, I write for The Gentleman Ultra, a blogging site that focuses on Italian football. Part of the great work done on the site is their ‘Art of Calcio’ series, which includes numerous ‘Classic Calcio Kits’ pieces. These focus on some of the best football kits to have featured in Italian football throughout the years and represent one area of football nostalgia that I love the most. Pieces such as the one focussing on Parma’s ’95-’97 kit explain the significance of the kit for each club and why they have come to evoke such positive memories for fans and neutrals alike.
Lillian Thuram sporting a classic Parma shirt during the club’s 1990s heyday
For me, there’s nothing quite like the image of a long-since forgotten shirt, shorts and socks combo to start a highlight reel in your mind’s eye. Goals start flying in, haircuts come screaming back and players who adorned the (sometimes garish) colours of your favourite teams are remembered with fondness.
But what exactly is it about kits that evoke such strong memories. In some cases, it’s the simple, aesthetically pleasing design of a kit that makes them so memorable. One I always remember is a kit worn by Celtic back in 2001/02, and one I was luck enough to own myself.
Celtic’s 2001/02 away kit, as shown on classicfootballshirts.co.uk
The simple, clean design of the shirt was always pleasing to the eye and was worn by one of the great Celtic sides of the early 2000s. Led by now Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, the team that wore this classic white shirt featured players of the quality of Johan Mjallby, Chris Sutton and, of course, Henrik Larsson and won multiple league titles and other trophies during a dominant spell for the green half of Glasgow. This shirt was in use only a year before Celtic’s famous trip to the UEFA Cup final in 2003 – and my particular one was embelished with the name and number of my favourite player at the time, Stylian Petrov.
In the case of that particular shirt, it had two things going for it. Not only was it pleasing on the eye, but it reminds fans of a high point in the club’s history. Kits can, of course, be simply well designed and be aesthetically pleasing, regardless of the performances of the team on the pitch. Take, for example, Manchester United’s away kit from 2013/14.
Man Utd’s away kit 2013/14 (via manutd.com)
A smart kit, I’m sure you’ll agree. But one that’s unlikely to have any lasting place in the hearts of Red Devils fans’. Why? Because it was worn by United during perhaps their worst season in recent memory. It was the kit worn by a United team led by David Moyes who, in a post-Ferguson era, found themselves lost and unable to match the glories of teams past. Moyes led the team to a lowly 7th place in the table before being axed, less than a full season into the job he’d dreamed of having. This kit is proof, if every it were needed, that a team’s performance is inextricably linked to the kit they wear at the time. Just as a kit can bring back brilliant memories, it can also evoke flashbacks of moments in football history fans would rather forget. Regardless of the pleasing design of this fashion-forward kit, I’m pretty sure no United fans will be looking back on it with much fondness in years to come.
Equally, though, kit can provide great memories, even if the strip itself is an ugly one. Take Manchester United again for example.
Man Utd’s 1992-’94 away kit, worn by the great Eric Cantona (image: pintrest.com)
Not a nice kit, I’m sure you’ll agree. The clashing yellow and green shirt along with the black shorts and socks would not win any prizes on the catwalks of Milan or New York. And yet, I’m pretty sure it would place higher for United fans in a poll of their favourite away kits, despite it perhaps not being as pretty as the previously-discussed black and blue number. Why? Because it was worn by United at the start of their period of dominance in the Premier League.
Worn by players including greats such as Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona and Bryan Robson, as well as a young Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, United won two consecutive Premier League titles and an FA Cup in the seasons they wore this shirt. It would mark the start of a trophy-littered spell for the club, in which manager Sir Alex Ferguson would build and re-build the team, winning 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League titles and one FIFA Club World Cup before retiring in 2013.
One of my favourite kits to fall into the ‘ugly but great’ category, is the luminous yellow kit worn by Borussia Dortmund in the 1990s. Again, not a great kit to look at – even if you were able to look at it directly without wearing sunglasses. Nevertheless, I love it to this day because of the team who wore it.
Here it is, worn by one of my favourite players in that team, Andreas Moller. A garish number, it was worn by one of the club’s greatest ever sides, featuring players of the ilk of Moller, Matthias Sammer, Stephane Chapuisat and Scottish midfielder Paul Lambert. Led by manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, it marked a peak point in the history of the German club, where they captured their first (and so far only) Champions League title, having been crowned Bundesliga champions the season pervious.
So, you see, classic kits can provide memories for a number of reasons. They can be appreciated for their sleek, simple design or their utter ugliness. They can provoke wonderful memories or horrible nightmares. Regardless, they act as a portal back in time for all us football fans. There’s nothing quite like a nostalgic shirt to bring memories out of the woodwork and have us reminiscing for hours on end.
I’ve included a video from below of YouTuber MattHDGamer‘s favourite kits but be sure to let me know in the comments or on Twitter which kits you love – I’d love to hear from you! Also, don’t forget you can buy your favourite classic football kits from classicfootballshirts.co.uk or follow the guys on Twitter here.