kits from the bottom

A few weeks into the footy season now (I will go back and add the new third kits to parts one and two…), cynicism and apathy are creeping back in, but we continue our look at the 2015-16 Premier League with the last teams in the division.

PREMIER LEAGUE KITS: PART THREE, THE ‘LAST SIX, PLUS ONE’

NEWCASTLE UNITED Newcastle

Newcastle have been very unloved lately, even by their own fans. It’s the owner. The past couple of seasons it has seemed they were trying to create the most apathetic team in history (though overpaid apathy is all too common in modern football). This un-Newcastle-ness has been spreading into the kits, with the much-hated Wonga sponsorship, and this season’s home kit, which features far too much blue. The famous black stripes actually turn blue as they move south, and the reverse of the short is plain white with blue accents, no magpie black at all. I don’t mind a blue trim on Newcastle (think the blue star, or their Asics kits from 1993) but this feels like too much. I’d love for Newcastle to get a different owner and come back with a massive roar, but it isn’t going to happen in this kit. The white away kit is handy if they face any teams who play at home in black (which is exactly none) while the third kit features half a salmon pink sash.

SUNDERLANDSunderland

Both Tyne/Wear teams are in the Premier League, what a joyous time to support a club in the northeast oh never mind. Sunderland were pretty pitiful last year (how on earth did they and Newcastle both stay up?) and so far this season have looked deeply uninterested to the point where the manager Dick Advocaat said all the players are for sale. I have to say though, their home kit is pretty snappy this season. Wider stripes look good on Sunderland (though I’d love a return to the super-thin 80s stripes), and it is a smart cut. The away kit is green, green and green. Green is very popular for an change colour this year. By the way, I think both Newcastle and Sunderland will stay up again, because no matter how little they try, there’s always someone a bit more rubbish.

ASTON VILLAAston Villa

Which brings us on to Aston Villa, who are always a bit more rubbish. Yet paradoxically, no matter how awful they are, they never seem to get relegated, ever. Sherwood arrived to fire them up last season and they stayed alive, but already this year they look like they will run out of ideas fast (they’re above Spurs at the time of writing though…). Their kit supplier, however, will not. I like Macron kits, they’re always a bit more original, and Villa’s kit is sweet, with a collar reminiscent of the 1970s. The away kit is clean, and I’m always a fan of Villa’s yellow away kits (I like most yellow away kits, in fact) (did you know, for example, that Tottenham’s yellow change kit tradition stems from the fact that they had to ditch their usual navy kits when the it was deemed too close to the black shirts of referees? It’s why black kits were so rare until the Premier League era, when refs started wearing green, followed by other colours; Man United started the modern black kit trend in the English top flight in 1993-94, and many, many others followed, while yellow kits have been seen more rarely, only once every few years now at Spurs). Villa’s traditional away colour, incidentally, is white.

BOURNEMOUTHBournemouth

Oh sorry, I was doing Premier League clubs, I’ll get rid of this one.

What? Bournemouth are in the Premier League? BOURNEMOUTH? How did this happen? Well, they damn well earned it, that’s how. Eddie Howe, in fact, their brilliant young manager, created a free-scoring team that topped what was a very difficult Championship (what a season last year was! More interesting than the Premier League by a long way). I hope they do well, and hope they stay up. We’ve had some teams that joined the Premier League over the years that were pretty gobsmacking additions but did reasonably well for a while (Fulham, Barnsley, Wigan, Reading, Swansea) (by the way, how good are Swansea this year?!) but none have suprised me as much as Bournemouth. Ok, enough gushing, their residents have to be in bed early. The kits are nice, black and red stripes being the Cherries’ modern tradition since the 90s (though they had them for a while in the 70s), and there’s the Mansion sponsor again. The blue away kit is alright, while the pink will really stand out – less Cherry, more Strawberry Milkshake.

WATFORDWatford

I remember when John Barnes was young, Graham and Elton having so much fun, playing cup finals and wearing red shorts…I can only go so far with this. I’m so glad Watford are back in the Premier League. I grew up roughly halfway between Watford and Tottenham, so have always had an affinity for the Hornets not as a second team exactly, but because I’ve known a few Watford fans, and they are a lot nicer than Arsenal, Chelsea and QPR fans. So, they’re back, and yeah, it isn’t going to last, and they may go through a few managers, but they have a very nominative-deterministic home kit. They are the Hornets, you see. Oh and they have a red stag as their badge. Black shorts is the tradition, but I like red shorts on them, because it reminds me of the glory days of the 80s. The away kit is all black. They are also sponsored by a betting company  – do you notice that more teams in the ‘lower half’ as it were have sponsorship by betting companies? I’m sure there’s no correlation, and betting companies don’t hold the game in its sway or anything. Newcastle are sponsored by loan sharks, while Villa are sponsored by accounting software, and Norwich by an insurance company. Money money money.

NORWICH CITYNorwich

I love Norwich, because I have family up there. but I also like their kits when they are made by Errea. Errea make smart designs in the Italian fashion, and this year’s Norwich kit is interesting, bringing more green in to make halves. IT uses up all the green and yellow at the cliub though surely…oh no, the away kit is green with yellow pinstripes. Ok, maybe the home kit feels more yellow, so this is sensible, you know, it will look good against Watford, or Sweden, but in the unlikely event of playing the Nantes team of 1995, they must have a third kit that is blue or white or OH WOW. Ok, um, the third kit is yellow and green. And gold? With black shorts. Right. Er…it does actually look fantastic. No seriously, I LOVE this kit. Norwich and Errea have done it again. This kit reminds me of the style worn in the 1870s by those early teams  such as Wanderers or Royal Engineers, or later teams like Bradford Park Avenue.

…and an honourable mention for:

OXFORD UNITED (LEAGUE TWO)Oxford

Oxford aren’t in the Premier League, don’t worry. That would be as ridiculous as saying Bournemouth were in the Premier League! (Hang on…) But their kit this season gets an honourable mention because it harkens back to the mid 1980s, when Oxford were not only in the old First Division (hey kids, that’s what we used to call the Premier League) but were actually a pretty decent team, even winning the Milk Cup (hey kids, that’s what we used to call the, um, er, what is the League Cup called nowadays?) John Aldridge played for them, so did Ray Houghton, in fact you might say the Oxford of 1986 beat the Italy of 1994. Dean Saunders played for Oxford in the 80s too, and Malcolm Shotton, er, Trevor Hebbard, you know, the list goes on. This season’s home shirt is made in-house and resembles that 1985-86 kit, which was made by Umbro. They’ve been promoting it with an 80s-style Subbuteo theme. The red and black away kit is a throwback to an away kit worn in the mid 1990s when they got promoted from the old Division Two to the old Division One. Yeah, those past glories.

There will be another kit-related post soon, looking at some of the teams from around Europe. But fear not! Drawings of Legos and streets and buildings will be back soon…

i just want your extra time and your kits

Part two of my guide to the 2015-16 Premier League football kits. This is the middle section, the seven teams too good for relegation but not quite good enough to get into the Europa League, much to their relief. The exception was West Ham, who got into the Europa League as an ‘award’ for their Fair Play record, and they responded to this indignity by getting promptly knocked out last week by Astra Giurgiu, with a red card in the first leg and their angry manager Bilic getting sent to the stands. They won’t be giving us the Fair Play Award this year, they said, we’re not going to be tricked into the Europa League again. Astra Giurgiu indeed. But we are not here to talk obscure Romanian teams, we are here to talk about obscure English teams and, more specifically, their kits.

Alright, they’re not that obscure, but I live in America now and most teams are obscure who aren’t Barcelona or Manchester. Yes, I said ‘Manchester’. And so, here comes part two…

PREMIER LEAGUE KITS: PART TWO, THE ‘HAPPY-TO-BE-HERE SEVEN’

SWANSEA CITY

SwanseaThe Welsh club in white have been great since joining the Premier League a few years ago, playing nice football with the right attitude, and long may they stay up. They’ve worn adidas for a few years now, and in Real-Madrid-fashion have played with their trim colour a little bit. They have discarded the usual black trim this year for ‘copper’, which is a reference I presume to Swansea’s heritage in the copper industry and nothing to do with the police. The away kit, like Southampton’s, is a venture into garish green and dark blue. The template used is nice though, but the colours probably look better at a rave.

STOKE CITY

Stoke CityStoke, like Liverpool, have switched to New Balance following the decision of Warrior Sports to stop making completely bonkers football kits and go back to Lacrosse or whatever they were doing before. I actually really liked Stoke’s Warrior shirt from last year though. The New Balance shirt is alright, run of the mill, while the away kit experiments with breaking its sash into pieces. Black and green. Green is back this year in a big way isn’t it? As for the team, they were pretty good last year under Mark Hughes, and I reckon they are going to press onwards and upwards. Stanley Matthews still plays for them, doesn’t he?

CRYSTAL PALACE

Crystal PalaceA couple of years ago I couldn’t wait for Palace to get back into the Premier League after so long away, another London club, one that I like, and a nice easy six points for Spurs, I thought. then they got Alan Pardew away from his Newcastle hell and they have been amazing, a team I don’t want us to play because we might well lose. Palace are a very decent team and I hope they can keep it up. Their kit this year, made by Macron (who make smart shirts), are of the classic variety, with the away kit being a nod to their old predominantly white shirts of the past. And they are sponsored by Mansion, too, who used to sponsor Tottenham. Looks better on a Palace shirt, and they are both references to types of big houses.

EVERTON

EvertonEverton and Umbro just makes sense to me. Last season their kit was the best in the division, and this season it is another tidy affair, with a collar reminiscent of the 1980s glory period. The shorts have an odd feature, a blue section at the top that makes it look as though a shirt is not tucked in. Other kits seem to have more going on at the top of the shorts or the bottom of the shirt this year, extra bands or unnecessary features.  The away kit is nice, with grey bands on the arms. Classy Umbro as usual. Both kits were released by showing a picture of a baby dressed in the kit. O-kay. The third kit is a strange colour, another odd green, albeit more of an army green. The orange along with it reminds me of a bomber jacket. It was launched with a comic-style illustration, but it isn’t clear why. As for the team, well they aren’t going to do much this year, and will probably get worse. They’ll become Martinez’s Wigan, and will flirt with relegation all season before bravely, triumphantly just staying up, because Everton Don’t Go Down.

WEST HAM UNITED

West HamThis is West Ham’s last year at Upton Park (the Boleyn Ground, that is). Next year they will be Olympic Stadium residents (cheers, the taxpayer!). To commemorate their historic time at an entirely appropriate stadium before moving into an entirely inappropriate arena, the Hammers have turned to classic shirt manufacturer Umbro to recreate a generic classic shirt from their past (it seems like West Ham do this every single season). There’s no kit exactly like that one though so we’ll just say it’s generic ‘the past’. Similarly their away kit brings to mind one of their original kits worn either when they moved to Boleyn Ground or just before, but with tiny little diagonal pinstripes that weren’t there at the turn of the century. Ok, so West Ham have Slaven Bilic in charge, and on the field will want to round off their time at their home ground with a classic year, so expect them to come, I don’t know, tenth. They beat Arsenal on day one, but see above regarding the Europa League…

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

West BromLast year Adidas decided West Brom didn’t need stripes any more (except those tiny pinstripes), and what followed were years of civil war, rebellion, strife, leaving thousands of lives ruined for ever. Actually that didn’t happen, one year later stripes were back (because there is no ‘forever’ in football shirts, except that West Ham will recreate ‘old’ shirts forever). West Brom have their classic stripes on front and back (wow, Adidas, you don’t do that any more), with a dark red trim which is a nod to their dark red away kit (which, by the way, has the classic “WBA” instead of a badge, just like, you guessed it, the Olden Days). West Brom (or WBA as I called them in the Olden Days) were good in the 80s, I always appreciated the tone of their blue stripes, and as a club are slightly eccentric, nicknamed the Baggies, with fans who do this weird ‘boing boing’ chant (at least they used to, when they could jump up and down in the terraces). I always assumed it was referring to their habit of bouncing up and down between the deivisions, which I’m afraid they will probably be doing again.

LEICESTER CITY

LeicesterLeicester sacked Nigel Pearson, the hard man with a haircut like the eraser on a pencil, and brought in Claudio Ranieri, a familiar face in English football (the Italian “tinker-man” who was shuffled out of Chelsea in favour of Jose when the Russian money came pouring in). Leicester were relegation favourites for most of last year (despite having a very nice home kit) but pulled it out of the bag to finish mid-table (due to their very stylish home kit). This season’s kit is alright, a little gold v-neck added to the front of the collar, and shadow stripes in the blue. Blue shorts again after the more traditional white, but otherwise nice and safe. WHAT HAPPENED, FOOTBALL? WHERE ARE THE LOUD GARISH FUSSY KITS OF THE 90s? Leicester to be fair have never had loud garish kits. West Brom and their traditional stripes will do well to remember their kit from 92-94 which looked like a hand-drawn barcode. Leicester’s zaniest home outfit of recent times was probably the one worn by Lineker in the early 80s, because it had pinstripes, that’s it. How will Leicester do this year? Well, they’ll either stay up (happy Lineker face) or they will go down (sad Lineker face).

Join me next time for the bottom of the barrel, the three teams of narrowly avoided the drop and the three teams who have been promoted.

new kits on the block

After a summer of boring friendlies, fun Fifa arrests and a pretty exciting Women’s World Cup, the Premier League is finally back this weekend and the football machine cranks into full gear. My team, Tottenham Hotspur, the Mighty Spurs (so called because we Might Be Good This Year, but we Might Not), play the Van Gaal led Manchester United in what is another dawn raid, as the kick-off is at 4:45am my time. That’s too early for me, but at least I can go back to bed afterwards. Anyway, you may recall from the 2014 World Cup I am a little obsessed with football kits (soccer uniforms, as some of you call them, “lol”). I made, if you remember, a definitive guide to all the kits of the World Cup with little illustrations in the old version of MS Paint. It was in three parts, which I’m calling Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I really liked doing that, and so I am revisiting the idea with a run-down of the Premier League kits for 2015-16, along with a few bonus Johnny Foreigner kits too. I really want that Sampdoria kit.

I wasn’t sure how to organize them at first. ‘Alphabetical’ seemed too boring, Chronological as to when the kits were released was pointless, and while ‘autobiographical’ seemed like the most ‘no f***ing way’ choice it was ultimately impossible, so I went for ‘placement in last year’s Premier League’. Without much further ado, we will start with the 2015 champions.

PREMIER LEAGUE KITS: PART ONE, THE ‘MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’

CHELSEA 

ChelseaJose Mourinho’s team won the league quite comfortably in the end last year. That pleased Jose. Will they win it again this year? Probably. The new kit is slightly different this year, with a button up collar, and a very thin red and white trim. I like Chelsea having the red trim. I don’t like Chelsea though. They have a new sponsor this year, Yokohama Tyres, whose spelling will confuse and hopefully alienate the American market. The away kit is nice, a pretty simple style, all white except the blue socks. I’ve always loved that Chelsea have white socks in their first kit, it’s almost obstinate, like Jose went back in time and made white socks a Chelsea tradition just to annoy Arsene Wenger and make Arsenal change their socks when they visit Stamford Bridge. More Mourinho mind games.

MANCHESTER CITY

Man CityManchester City. They should be the epitome of the whole billionaire oil barons buying football thing that I hate…but I can’t hate City. For too many years they had it so, so bad, while United gobbled up mountains of silverware. They made Spurs’s fallow years look likethe Belle Epoque. Will they win the league. Yeah maybe, I don’t care. The kit though is lovely. I’m a huge fan of those rugby collars that Nike (and previously Umbro) are so fond of now, and it works best with the white trim. No more black trim please, City. This is a smart kit. The black and aqua-blue away kit is interesting, because the arms feature lunar topography in blue and black, because of the whole ‘Blue Moon’ thing. I like the song Blue Moon too, but it always reminds me of that scene in Grease.

ARSENAL

ArsenalI’m a Spurs fan, so naturally Arsenal are the enemy, but I have to admit they are looking pretty good for a run – but they wonn’t win the league because they don’t o that any more, not since the mega-billionaires entered the Premier League. I do like Wenger (especially when he is throwing water bottles onto the ground); his time at Arsenal is equivalent to the current tenures of all the managers in England put together, I think. The kits are nice this year, another button up collar (I like those) and a stylish Puma design. The away kit is the classic yellow (gold) and navy blue with funny shiny diamonds. There’s a hint of that awful zigzag away kit from the early 90s if you ask me. Maybe they should bring that back.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Man UtdUnited are back with Adidas, who they haven’t worn since before the Premier League started, ie back when they spent years never winning the title. Rather fitting since they are starting a new and probably similar era. Hey remember the old Adidas kits, yeah they were great, Ron Atkinson, Fergie before he was good, Gordon Strachan, Peter Davenport, Paul McGrath, Robbo, yeah great but no league titles. Will Van Gaal drag them and their multi-million pound players back into Fergie-era winning ways? I can’t see it.  It’s back to the 80s alright. The kit itself is based directly on their kit from 1983 (they won the Cup that year! Beating Brighton & Hove Albion in a replay!). As of today, hours from the new season’s kick-off, they haven’t even bothered to release their away kit. Can’t imagine it will be earth-shattering.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

TottenhamI don’t have very high hopes for my beloved Spurs this year. We’ve gotten rid of some of the dead wood (Paulinho) and bought more Belgian, but if we are some sort of quiet dark horse, we must be Black Beauty wearing slippers and a gag. We’ll finish about where we have been finishing. I predict young Harry Kane will probably score a few goals. Pochettino will be hoping Daniel Levy has switched off the ‘Sack Manager’ reminder that will come up this November, as it does. I love the kits though. Under Armour are doing a good job of making us look different to all the other template teams. The sash is interesting on the home kit. I will get that one. I like the blue away kit, but my wife doesn’t so I probably won’t get that one, unless I get it in secret and only wear it when she’s out. The purple one is lovely too, but I can’t spend all my money on football shirts now can I. Can I?

LIVERPOOL

LiverpoolLiverpool struggled post-Suarez and did well to come sixth but could (and probably should) have placed lower. Thankfully, Warrior Sports have given up making football kits (last season’s were probably the worst kits I’ve ever seen). So this year Liverpool’s kits are being made by…New Balance. Ok. On the face of it the designs are simple. Not super interesting. White away, black third, bespoke designs but, nothing to write home about. Move along.

SOUTHAMPTON

SouthamptonSouthampton did well to come seventh but could (and probably should) have placed higher. The last time they were adidas, they inexplicably got rid of the stripes (Umbro technically did that, though they had white pinstripes if you want to quibble), but worse (in my opinion) was making the shorts red. Red shorts? Southampton? Are you insane? (ok, Umbro were guilty of introducing that too). It looked so many types of wrong, and to top it off they had a gold trim. However for all the outrage, kits only ever last a year and so the next season, adidas were out and Southampton produced their own kits, with stripes, with black shorts, all was right in the world. The kits themselves were rumoured not to be great quality but who cares, the players were great on the pitch (despite Spurs et al raiding their manager and best players before the season). This year they have Jordie Clasie, so I think they will do well again, but adidas are back on board and have given them a bog standard template for their home kit (“you want stripes? Fine here’s some other team’s old kit, we don’t care”). The away kit though is in a highly radioactive shade of green and navy blue.

And there are last year’s top seven*. Next year’s too probably.  One thing I’m not doing this year is giving a list of predictions. I did that for years, under the direction of a cosmic entity called Mystic Pete (I was Mystic Pete’s representative on this planet, don’t ask, it was a long story). Mystic Pete was often hilariously wrong (Mystic Pete predicted Newcastle would win the league once, the actual league title), so I stopped asking. But if pushed, I’ll say one of the teams in this list will win the league.

Enjoy day one, footy fans, and I’ll be back with more kits soon. Lots more Urban Sketches first, but then some more footy kits.

*Originally this was the top six. But I forgot about Liverpool originally so this is the top seven. Next post there will be the middle seven, then the last six plus maybe one from the lower leagues. Then it’s Johnny Foreigner.

the kits are alright (part 3 of 3)

The World Cup Final is upon us. The semi-finals were a little unbelievable: Brazil, oh Brazil. Didn’t I say, “keep the white shorts“? Didn’t I say that? I think I did. “Those white shorts look better Brazil, they’re lucky, don’t change back to blue!” Brazil wore their proper combination of yellow / blue / white, and…um…. let’s say the last time Brazil suffered a home World Cup humiliation, in 1950, they wore their once-traditional white shirts…and never wore them again. It’s safe to say their 7-1 defeat to the Germans (a scoreline which flattered Brazil) was a little bit more humiliating, given their galactic history since the Maracanazo against Uruguay. Maybe it’s time to change to, I dunno, all green or something. Germany wore the nicer of their two kits, the black-and-red Flamengo kit, but I think they could have run around in big frilly Victorian dresses and still score at least four goals. And then there was Argentina vs Holland, the polar opposite. I got very excited when I saw Holland in orange shirts and white shorts, against Argentina in their proper black shorts with the blue and white striped shirts. They looked right, finally. Unfortunately it was a match so boring, not even the proper-ness of the kits could rescue it. Who won again? I don’t care.

And as we prepare for the final (Germany against who was it again?), an all-Adidas, all-wrong-shorts affair, here is my run-down of the rest of the World Cup kits. I promise to post some of my recent out-and-about sketches very soon, but the World Cup month is nearly over, and boy will I miss it. I’m sure you won’t!

THE WORLD CUP KITS: PART THREE

  • MEXICO: (Adidas) mexicoMexico’s kit is a winning design this time around. Mexico have had some crazy outfits in the past (not to mention the fluorescent day-glo highlighter pen costume of their 1994 goalie, Campos), but this one has little lightning strikes on the home shirt, and little zigzags all over the red away shirt. No plain white shirts, no not-well-thought-out black shirts, just classic and unique designs. My son was a big fan, so I got him the green one, and it’s a really nice top, very well cut both front and back. Mexico were unlucky to go out.
  • NETHERLANDS: (Nike) netherlandsOrange is the new Orange. This is a very simple design from the Oranje this time around, nothing interesting but it is clean and thankfully not all one colour, with the white shorts (though all-orange was worn three times, which I think looks a bit too much like a Tango-taste-sensation, Tony). The proper outfit eventually came out against Argentina in the semis…ah yes, they lost that on penalties. The away kit got a couple of outings, an all-blue number in varying shades, which was bloody difficult to reproduce in MS Paint, I do hope you appreciate that one. This was forever be the kit worn when Robin Van Persie scored that header as they destroyed Spain.
  • NIGERIA: (Adidas) nigeriaOne shade of green isn’t enough. Two shades work much better. Nigeria have a mixed kit history, their best in my opinion being the 1994 home and away outfits. This is a decent effort, in the current Adidas template of choice, with a unique enough colour scheme. Nigeria played pretty well in the end and it was a shame to see them go out, but France just had a better kit. Not that quality of kit is what sees a team through (cf: Germany in the World Cup Final, if they wear white). From the TV screen though this shade is conveniently football-pitch-coloured. The away kit is all-white, I suppose.
  • PORTUGAL: (Nike) portugalRonaldo Ronaldo Ronaldo Ronaldo. If only. This was a very do-not-adjust-your-sets design from Nike (remember when you had to adjust your sets? Ah, the olden days) in two shades of red with a little green trim. I preferred the one they had at the last World Cup, the red with white shorts and green socks, but they were just so abject in this one that they did not even get a chance to wear their white and navy away kit, which is a shame as it was very nice. This is how England’s kit should have looked. Now, both this one and that one are in the out-first-round bargain bin.
  • RUSSIA: (Adidas) russiaI’ll first talk about the away kit, whose design is based upon how Yuri Gagarin (I think, or it may have been that dog Laika) saw the Earth from space. Funnily enough this is the same view Germany got of the field when they played against Brazil, miles and miles of space. I think it’s one of the nicest shirts at the tournament, though a bit disappointed it doesn’t come with big space helmets. The first shirt however is back in the USSR. Well, it would be if the USSR ever wore shirts like that, which I’m pretty certain they didn’t (preferring a more communist shade of red with a white trim and CCCP across the shirt; FIFA probably wouldn’t approve of that now). Nice try, Russia. They did move back to all-red a few years ago when they decided the Russian-flag-inspired white-blue-red wasn’t really their thing. I wonder what they will go for when they host the next World Cup. Hopefully a different manager, who actually likes football.
  • SOUTH KOREA: (Nike) south korea Korea’s kit was a pretty decent effort from Nike, which gave the effect of a French schoolkid wearing a backpack. That is a reference to when I was a teenager and you could always tell the foreign exchange students by the way they wore their backpacks, ie, with both straps. English schoolkids always wore backpacks with just one strap, as though it was so uncool to have both straps on. The away kit goes for what I can only think is a reference to a hitherto-unknown sub-culture who wears two backpacks one-strap at a time.  That must be pretty uncomfortable. It’s a tidy short though that would have looked nice on England, but alas both are now in the gone-home-early bargain bin.
  • SPAIN: (Adidas) spainOh dear. End of an era. Don’t mess with tradition Adidas, it never, ever works (except for Germany and Argentina to name two completely obvious exceptions). Ok, so Spain ditched their blue shorts, and plumped for a golden rather than yellow trim. They are the reigning World and double-European champions after all. They can do what they want, even include little pinstripes all over the shirt (what is it with that this World Cup?). But I mourned the loss of blue shorts in this design. Not for long though, as they’ll get them back next time no doubt. Now here’s a thing, Spain had three kits this World Cup, played three games and wore all of them. Their black second kit, a striking Chelsea-esque design with an ‘electric yellow’ trim (what is it with ‘electric’ yellow, electricity is blue*, or white, you have got a very funny electric company if your electricity is yellow) (*ask David Bowie if you don’t believe me) was apparently too dark for their opening match against Holland (who play in orange, but in that match they played in blue, I’m so confused) so FIFA told them to make a white kit, not available in the shops. This white one has little pinstripes too. Spain, the intergalactic-everything-champions, were the first team out. End of an era? Yes, but they’ll get the blue shorts back, and the good players too.
  • SWITZERLAND: (Puma) switzerlandRed home, white away. What do you want? It’s Switzerland, it’s what they do. They aren’t going to suddenly go all experimental and mess about with tradition and add whole new swatches. Or Swatches, for that. But don’t be deceived into thinking this is a boring kit. Those white stripes down the side actually open up to reveal a whole array of camping knives, tin-openers, nail files, corkscrews and other obvious cliches. No I actually like this shirt a lot, it’s pretty neat and timeless without being boring. 
  • URUGUAY: (Puma) uruguayThe collar of La Celeste’s famous sky blue home shirt looks as though a bite has been taken out of it, can’t imagine who’d do that. Yes there really is only one thing that can be talked about with regards Uruguay in this World Cup isn’t there, and it’s such a shame because they could have been so much better. They did well to get out of the groups after all. The Puma kits were pretty nice, with a cool little Uruguay flag-inspired bit on the arm. “Bit on the arm?” Oops, slip of the tongue there.
  • USA: (Nike) USAUSA! USA! Livin in America, coast to coast, across the nation. This World Cup, with its heroic team of endless tryers and its superhuman goalkeeper, has been massively popular over here in my adopted home. It’s funny that nobody will remember the home shirt, which they wore more often, but the Captain America-like away kit (maybe it’s more Iron Patriot) became an instant classic after their opening victory against Ghana. At Soccer and Lifestyle this shirt sold out very quickly, and I regret not getting it now. The home shirt is very stylish, like a polo shirt, one of the nicest they’ve had in a while. I live in America. I feel good.

And so that is that. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Oh, you didn’t? Well never mind. It’s back to nice sketches of little downtown buildings very soon. For now, there’s a World Cup Final to watch.

shirty business (part 2 of 3)

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WORLD CUP FOOTBALL KITS: Continued…

And so after another pause in posting (due this time to moving house) I return with more from my run-down of all the kits from all the teams at this spectacular-except-for-the-quarter-finals-which-were-rubbish FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014. There will be ten looked at here, then another ten which I will review at the end of the tournament. Before I go on though, a few points about kits so far…

  1. Brazil keep wearing white shorts with yellow shirts. This is due to FIFA’s paranoid ruling about ‘contrasting colours’ which is utter nonsense if you ask me. If it confuses referees when a team wears blue shorts with a yellow shirt then perhaps you need to select better referees. When they wore white shorts against Columbia, who were kitted out in red shirts with very dark navy shorts, the referee seemed to be completely blind to such things as serious career-threatening fouls but heaven forbid Brazil wear their proper outfits. Three times in this tournament, in Brazil’s home tournament, have they been made to wear this ‘off’ combination, they who have the most recognizable kit combo in world football. It is to the point where, in years to come, what people will remember is not the ‘classic’ kit but the wrong kit. At least in the semi against Germany they should wear the proper combo – except of course Germany will again wear white shorts, and again, everything is wrong. Wrong, wrong wrong. At least Southampton are back in red and white stripes.
  2. No, that’s it, that’s my main point.
  3. Actually back to this point on kit combos, would it have really been so confusing for France to wear white shorts with their navy shirts and red socks, and for Germany to be the ones to change into their now-not-official black shorts? Come on FIFA, that looks RIGHT. I’m surprised FIFA don’t have a ruling on national anthems not being too similar as well, and national flags cannot be waved that have too many contrasting colours, so perhaps countries need FIFA-endorsed versions perhaps in the colours of FIFA-sponsors. Ok, rant over. YEAH RIGHT…read on for more ranting.
  • ENGLAND: (Nike) englandOh dear. Look, England were Umbro for a very long time and that was good. Some shirts were a little underwhelming, but on the whole they were unique and fairly stylish. Last year they switched to Nike after Nike sold Umbro (which they’d bought a couple of years earlier with the intention of taking all of their contracts from them and driving them out of business – which thankfully they have failed to do). Their first Nike shirt was very plain with a round navy collar – and navy shorts. This has been followed less than a year later with an even plainer white shirt with a much plainer collar and FIFA-friendly white shorts. Design-wise it’s almost exactly the same as my old school team kit, minus the scratchy fabric but with just as much “hoof it away!” tactics. England did therefore look rather like the 1987 first-year Edgware School team, who may have at least put in a better showing than this rabble. The plain-ness of the shirt ws supposed to be inspired by England’s football history (you will note the big empty space all over the shirt). If you look very closely though, you will see tiny little pinstripes. The red kit has them too but they never got a chance to wear that. And of course, the kit (as they all are these past couple of years) way more expensive than the last ones. At least they were, before an early exit means you will probably find them in the bargain bins, while Nike prepares to bring out another, with slight variations, for like 500 quid each. 
  • FRANCE: (Nike) franceAnd then Nike comes up with far and away the BEST kit of the tournament. So good in fact, I just had to buy it. Allez les bleus! I must say that while Adidas and France seemed so natural for so long, during their waning years the French Adidas shirts were looking ever more desperate. As were the on-field antics of the team. When they switched over to a nice, clean Nike outfit it was like a breath of fresh air. This now is their third one so far, and their best, a classic rugby-shirt style top in navy blue, white shorts and red socks. Rugby is very popular in France so this feels pretty natural. The away kit has the mariniere look but with muted grey hoops. The FFF have also gone for the more olden-days badge reminiscent of the Just Fontaine era, making this look more like an old Tottenham shirt. And it feels really nice to wear as well. I’ve never been a massive fan of L’Equipe de France, but I used to avidly read France Football when I lived over there and I love this kit so much. So it’s time to dust off the Johnny Halliday song from 2002 and sing, “Allez Les Bleus, On Est Tous Ensemble!” Though unfortunately, they never got to wear the whole ensemble, being made to wear navy shorts with the home shirt each time at the World Cup. As Del Boy would say, “Cordon Bleu!”    
  • GERMANY: (Adidas) germanyDon’t get me started. Oh alright then. We go from the bland England non-kit, to the amazing super-kit of France, to the downright falsch of the Mannschaft’s 2014 kit. I go on about the colour of shorts as if the global economy depends on it but there are very few absolute unchanging constants left in world football. As we’ve seen, the Brazilians have had to suffer the indignity of white shorts with yellow shirts. Oh the shame! Spain as we’ll see are in all red now, no more lovely blue shorts. But Germany…Germany must be white shirts, black shorts, anything else just isn’t Germany. It just isn’t right. Das ist nicht cool. So when Adidas announced Germany would be in all white? Ich don’t think so! but it gets worse. All white, with a massive three-types-of-red chevron. There is a slight golden band but it looks pretty clear, this is a red and white with a bit of black Germany. Not a good kit at all. In my opinion the worst that the DFB have ever had (and I’m a big fan of the crazy 1994 kit). As for the away kit…I prefer traditional green and am sceptic of black and red away kits for Germany, but this one is actually lovely. A nice button-up collar-less neck, but the black and red hoops are actually a Brazilian reference – an homage to the great club Flamengo, Brazil’s most popular team, and that rescues this kit. Sehr toll.
  • GHANA: (Puma) ghanaI do like Ghana’s kit. Made by Puma, who have been producing some incredible individual African kits over the past few years, this is another which blends in Ghana’s colourful culture with the classic white kits of the famous Black Stars, so popular during the 1960s hey-day. Ghana have had a great if aging group of players for a while now and I’ve wanted to see them progress in world football, but this year it was not to be. Their home kit though has colourful touches on the collar, and a nice patterned red away kit.
  • GREECE: (Nike) greece“Meh.”  Greece used to wear all blue as their first kit, but after winning the Euro 2004 tournament they switched to all-white. An imaginative decision. This is a decent kit, I suppose, nothing to write home about, it just “is”. Greece never spends any time at all thinking about their football kit design. And yet in all this it still looks a great deal more exciting than England’s. You might say design-wise this isn’t too far from my lovely France kit? Yet in truth it feels a million miles away.
  • HONDURAS: (Joma) hondurasThe only Joma kit at the World Cup, thankfully. Remember when Honduras had those nice blue and white stripes? We need more stripes in world football. Well they don’t have them any more. Not an awful kit, maybe more detailing than Greece’s effort and I like their big Rimmer-esuqe ‘H’ badge, but it’s all very underwhelming. It’s a bit like being at a festival and there being two or three epic bands, but you have to stand through a bunch of utter dross which does little other than sober you up thinking, why do I even like music? It’s just dull repetitive noise coming from an amplifier. Kits like this make me feel like that.
  • IRAN: (Uhlsport) iranThe word on this kit was that it apparently shrinks. Made by Uhlsport, the Iranian officials apparently could not bring too many with them to Brazil and asked their players not to swap them, but due to a defect in the design they apparently got smaller as they got wet – not great for sweaty Brazil. Well, I didn’t see much evidence of that, and despite them being by Uhlsport – which reminds me of UHL milk, in that it’s not as good as normal milk but doesn’t go off for weeks – these are actually decent designs. They both incorporate the rare Asiatic cheetah, to highlight the plight of this endangered Iranian species (whose population is, um, shrinking).
  • ITALY: (Puma) italySkinny is the word! When these were first modeled by Balotelli, Pirlo and so on, they really showed off their highly toned masculine frames. Made by Puma, the home shirt has a nice cut and a thin collar, with little flashes of the Italian flag amidst the lighter blue of the Azzurri. The away kit has nice pinstripes. Perhaps it needed bite-proof shoulder pads as well. Or maybe it is just a really tasty shirt?
  • IVORY COAST: (Puma)  ivory coastOrange isn’t unique to the Dutch. The Ivorians of Cote D’Ivoire – aka the Elephants – have a plain orange outfit with some little orange details on the shoulder, a design which is repeated in the green away kit. They get a white third kit, a many teams do, in case FIFA start crying that they can’t tell the difference on their ancient black and white TVs.
  • JAPAN: (Adidas) japanAnother of Adidas’s more unique designs (except for the ubiquitous three stripes down the arms), this ‘samurai blue’ kit, the classic colour of the Japanese team, is also complemented by flashes of hot pink. You can’t see it but on the back there is what looks like a swipe of pink paint. The Japanese sun of the war flag is surrounding the badge in blue. Nice kit, I like it. The away kit is a rather luminous ‘electric yellow’ which would have been pretty easy to spot, if they’d been in the tournament long enough to wear it.

kits out! (part 1 of 3)

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WORLD CUP 2014 FOOTBALL KITS

As you may be acutely aware I rather like football shirts. Way more than I even like fire hydrants, which is saying something, I know, but it’s true. Every season I eagerly await news of any new kit release, clicking on links to reports of what Partick Thistle’s away shirt might look like, nodding appreciatively when teams like Nantes announce a new deal with Umbro, or shaking my head at the width of stripes on a new Milan jersey. The World Cup therefore is as much about the kits as it is about the players – I know more about the kits, for one thing (whereas I barely recognised half the England team, though that guy up front with the big mop of hair looked familiar, Dwayne Rodney I think he was called). So here is a helpfully-unillustrated run-down of the kits of each team at this year’s World Cup. Non-kit-enthusiasts, look away now (my next post will be a nice urban sketch I promise).

Before I start, here are some kit stats:

  • BRAND WITH MOST TEAMS (GROUP STAGE): Nike (10). Followed by Adidas (9), Puma (8) and Burrda, Joma, Lotto, Marathon, and Uhlsport (1 each) – no Umbro this year!
  • BRAND WITH MOST TEAMS (ROUND OF 16): Nike / Adidas (5 each), followed by Puma (4), Burrda and Lotto (1 each)
  • BRAND WITH MOST TEAMS (QUARTER-FINALS): Nike / Adidas (3 each), followed by  Burrda and Lotto (1 each). Bad luck Puma!
  • MOST PREDOMINANT HOME SHIRT COLOUR: White (9)*, then Red (8)*, Blue (5)*, Yellow (4), Green (3), Orange (2).  *Croatia are red/white, so I didn’t include but are arguably predominantly red; Argentina have blue stripes but are definitely more white this year.
  • MOST PREDOMINANT CHANGE SHIRT COLOUR (WHETHER WORN OR NOT): White (14), followed by Blue (8) and Red (6)
  • COUNTRY WITH MOST KITS: Spain (3), and they wore all of them. Brazil have a third too but will not wear the black one.
  • COUNTRIES WITH ALL-ONE-COLOUR HOME KITS (official, not the matchday FIFA-enforced variants): 17 (out of 32). 9 are all-white.

And now for my thoughts on the countries. I’m going to give this to you in three parts. It will be alphabetical. And all of the kit illustrations are mine, created in old-school MS Paint…

PART ONE:

  • ALGERIA : (Puma) Les Fennecs (Dalgeria 2014esert Foxes) have been one of the popular teams in this tournament, and I like their kits. Simple design but with a nice shade of green trim, which from the TV viewers point of view makes them blend in with the pitch. Puma kits tend to be more form-fitting these days so muscular physiques show up more. Some very muscular players in this World Cup too. In Algeria’s green away kit they look rather Hulk-esque.
  • ARGENTINA : (Adidas) argentina 2014Controversial. For the first time ever, Argentina have decided to go with white shorts instead of black as their official home shorts – as have Germany, as you’ll see. Sure they’ve been made to wear white shorts before (1990 World Cup I think) but it was not the official combination. Still…it doesn’t actually look bad. The home shirt (with it’s black trim!) looks nice, the blue stripes being graded lighter at the bottom to apparently make them look like a flag in the wind (what?). But lack of black shorts? Controversial. I’m surprised Maradona hasn’t gone on TV saying it’s a Malvinas-based conspiracy by FIFA and the Sunday Mirror. I suppose we can blame Adidas. They’ve done this a few times this World Cup, as you’ll see. I love that graded blue away kit though, one of the top five in this cup.
  • AUSTRALIA: (Nike) australiaDecent 1st kit, with a yellow top reminiscent of one Brazil had recently, with dark green Shorts, and – excitingly – white socks! This is a big deal. Fans had campaigned for years to have white socks again, after more than two decades. And you think I’m crazy about these things. Well done Nike. The 2nd kit is nice, dark blue with gold trim, always a winning combination for me. The collar is very retro, 70s-esque. Think Prisoner Cell Block H.
  • BELGIUM: (Burrda) belgiumLes Diables Rouges have had some nice kits in the past, and Burrda have have some questionable kits. Burrda… it sounds like something Taggart would say in his tough Scottish growl. “Aye, there’s been another Burrda”. They’re a Swiss company apparently. These kits are alright. The massive crown motif is different. At least they are unique, no other Burrdas at this World Cup, or any. Black change kit a little zany, plus a yellow third kit based on the home shirt, all have that round Belgian flag collar which is nice. Allez les Belges!
  • BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: (Adidas) bosniaFirst World Cup for Bosnia-Herzegovina, who were previously in a Legea kit, but they obviously decided last minute that Legea were too non-league for them and switched to Adidas, who to be fair quickly gave them a template you’d probably find in the non-league. Boring. But World Cup kits aren’t always interesting.  Not like I devote hours and hours of my time to them or anything…
  • BRAZIL: (Nike)brazil It’s Brazil, what do you want? Well blue shorts for one. Twice in this tournament they have turned out in non-trad white shorts with the classic yellow shirts. That is WRONG! This is BRAZIL! Most recognizable combination in history. So, home kit is not bad, collar’s a bit “meh”, not much else to the design, nothing unique to say “this is our World Cup! We are spectacular!” The blue 2nd kit has nice detailing, though I prefer a white collar. For some reason they have a black 3rd kit (or is it dark grey?) which they won’t wear, which is a shame because the shorts have peculiar multi-coloured horizontal stripes. Which is not something you see every day. Now…the question is, if Brazil get to the final and lose in yellow, will they retire it? When they lost to Uruguay at the Maracan in 1950 they wore white, their usual colour. It was such a tragedy they swore not to wear white shirts again, and then had a competition to choose a new combination. The winner was yellow shirts, green collar, blue shorts and white socks. So I ask you, will they change kits again if they lose? Not likely!
  • CAMEROON: (Puma) cameroonThe Indomitable Lions have one of the most vibrant kits at this cup, with a very busy pattern that has their nickname repeated throughout. It’s just a shame the team were not as busy on the pitch. I’m surprised Puma didn’t make nice long pockets on the shorts for the players to safely stash their bonus cash. The yellow second kit has the same pattern, while the white 3rd kit was, let’s face it, a bit hopeful. Cameroon have a fun kit history though, always good for some innovation. Remember the full bodysuit one with the lion-claw slashes on the side? And who can forget the sleeveless top from over a decade ago, that looked like a basketball top, which FIFA said they couldn’t wear at the World Cup. They had to sew on black sleeves. Shame, it was a classic.
  • CHILE: (Puma) : chileChile have been one of everybody’s favourite second teams (along with Mexico, Algeria, and about half a dozen or so others), and their Puma kit is very decent. That collar looks like it’s going to be round and then in the middle it’s like, oh hello, pointing downwards. The collar on the away kit probably got worried it was too low cut and so added a little bit extra beneath it. Sorry, they’re not that interesting, I’m grasping here. But they are decent, and the home is one for the hipsters to wear on their Saturday morning kickaround before going to the barbers for a tattoo and eating a latte on their organic wind-powered bike.
  • COLOMBIA: (Adidas) : colombiaOk Colombia, we have to talk. Listen, everyone’s happy you’re such a great team now, even without Falcao, but your kit combo just jars a little. It’s the white. It’s those sloping lines. I used to like the old yellow Umbro kits with the blue shorts, Carlos Valderrama, Faustino Asprilla, and who can forget the goalie Rene Higuita with his metalist’s hair, long runs up the pitch and his scorpion kicks. However, I have a feeling this kit will grow on me considerably, and with a good World Cup it could be one to remember. In thirty years time adidas or whoever will be making their shirts then (under armour or someone) will be bringing out kits to look like this one. A future retro classic.
  • COSTA RICA: (Lotto): costa ricaNice to see Lotto having a kit at the World Cup. Actually it would be if it were one of those kits from back when Holland had them, 1994, around then. These days Lotto kits are a bit of a mess. Costa Rica has that wavy bizarro-Peru thing going on and the collar seems to stop then start again several times. Yet, like the team, I kinda like it. It kinda works. No 1990-era lucky black-and-white stripes from them this time, though they seem to have adopted their white kit as being ‘lucky’ this time. FIFA will be pleased.
  • CROATIA: (Nike): croatiaBefore every international tournament kit release season I say to myself, I’m going to close my eyes and imagine what Croatia will do, will it be red and white squares for home with a blue away kit that has those red and white squares along the trim? Oh yes, that again. Home kit is nice, but I prefer more white than the red on the sleeves, but what do I know. Apparently their first kit in 1990 had the red sleeves. Not too much you can do with an already memorable design so they keep it simple. I for one, in this age of attempted homogenizing international kits, am glad this kit exists. With blue socks (as they wore in the opening match) it works even better. 
  • ECUADOR: (Marathon) ecuadorA sunny kit, made by Marathon who are an Ecuadorean company which is very nice. The change kit is just a reverse. Another for the hipsters, though they didn’t make it out of the group stage this time around. Nice little sun element around the badge. Not much else to say really, it’s flag-coloured.

Phew! Join me for Part Two, which will come when I’ve drawn more kits…

soccer, lifestyle and everything

Soccer and Lifestyle June2014 smSoccer and Lifestyle, 2nd Street Davis. Click on the image for a larger view. You’ll want a larger view, to get a look at all those lovely football kits – or soccer jerseys, uniforms, shirts or whatever your preferred vocabulary choice is. This is one of my favourite shops in Davis (actually it is my favourite shop), and was the first shop I ever came into when I first visited Davis. I remember chatting that day to the owner, Rami, about Spurs and also Charlton Athletic for some reason. I was just so impressed there was a shop here devoted to my favourite things – football shirts – that I told my wife “we have to move here!” and since I’ve been here ever since that is fairly big. Anyhow, I’ve sketched the window before (in 2010) but never sketched the store itself, so with it being the height of the 2014 Brazil World Cup I figured that now was the right time. I went down there one lunchtime, wearing my recently purchased dark blue France shirt (it is in my opinion the best kit at the tournament) and sketched while watching the first half of France vs Switzerland, a demolition of a match for France out tore the usually pretty strong Swiss up. The owner, Rami, is a friendly guy who knows his stuff (actually they all are, those who work there, always welcoming for some footy chat). I love standing among all the colours of the World Cup shirts; I bought my son the new green Mexico shirt, which he loves because of the little lightning flashes on it. With all the crazy colourful boots (cleats) and all the footballs (soccer-balls) from various World Cups, as a kit-nerd and a footy-fanatic, this is very much my kind of store.

And what a World Cup it has been! The most entertaining yet probably. Certainly the most random-statistic-filled yet. All of which means the knockout stages will be dull tired affairs, but then I said the whole tournament would be so, and I was wrong. England were poor, predictably so, but my adopted team USA has been heroic and will face Belgium in the Round of 16. Then you have the Suarez biting story, which is such a bizarre pantomime villain tale it is almost as if it was all pre-fabricated to give this amazing World Cup a proper bad-guy, to add drama to the plot as we enter the middle act. Who knows. Anyway, of the flags hung up on the wall, the following sixteen are left…

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So it’s “Get on the Plane, Spain”, “Get your Coats, Croats”, “You’re a Gonner, Ghana” (works better with an American accent that one), “Cote D’Au-Revoir” (come on, that’s pretty good), “Here’s the Door, Ecuador”, “Herze Today, Govina Tomorrow Bosnia” (I think I heard that one on the Guardian podcast so don’t blame me for that one, my original pun were “Everybody Herz” or “Who’s the Bos” but I wasn’t sure about either), “Iran Away”, “Export-ugal” (yes I know), and “Russian Home to Beat the Traffic”. Phew. (I actually couldn’t think of a good one for England) That is a very small sampling of what it is like living in the Scully household during the World Cup, or any cup for that, and I can’t apologize for that. There are so many punning opportunities I can’t help it. If you like hearing the very worst scrape-the-barrel World Cup punning perhaps you would be interested in following me on twitter, @petescully. Converseley if you absolutely cannot stand it and it makes your head want to explode, maybe unfollow me until after July 13 when my tweets will be all about sketches of little houses I promise you.

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And football shirts…I have been meaning to do a run-down of the kits at the world cup, and wanted to give illustrations while talking about (complaining about) each one. But that was too time-consuming, so you have to wait a bit longer. In short, I hate them all except France, Mexico and the USA (only kidding, there are some others I quite like). I think I will do that in a separate post. Tomorrow is Brazil vs Chile, and you’d better get your kit on, it’s going to be a great game. It’ll be followed by Colombia v Uruguay, and Colombia are the better team, but I reckon Uruguay will clinch it by the skin of their teeth*.

(*I actually don’t, I think Colombia will hammer them but the time period for using that admittedly feeble joke is running out and I don’t like wasting opportunities like that)