Very few items of clothing come as loaded with cultural significance as the football shirt, and the signifiers shift depending on the team and the year the strip was released. I’m sure there have been a thousand theses on the subject. However, when Liverpool FC unveiled their new shirt a week or so ago it had a design feature which felt a little different and more considered than the average shirt. It boasts a chequered pattern with differently sized squares that is “inspired by the red and white mosaic formed when supporters on the Kop hoist aloft their Liverpool flags and scarves on a matchday.” It’s a sweet nod to the supporters and their significance that feels particularly resonant considering the Hillsborough disaster investigations.
It reminded me of design legend Peter Saville’s 2012 England strip which also carried a message beyond the team. His design attempted to reflect a modern multicultural England with its pattern of multicoloured St. George’s crosses on the shoulders. It proved to be pretty divisive with some critics saying it looked like confetti or weird dandruff. I personally thought it was a really nice kit, with its heart was well and truly in the right place.
This idea of a kit with a conscience may have its genesis in the ground-breaking and unprecedented deal that FC Barcelona had with Unicef in 2006. In the deal Unicef agreed to have their logo on the FC Barcelona kit in exchange for a donation from the team of 1.5 million euros each year for the duration of the 5 year contract.
Football and ‘the feels’ seems like an unlikely partnership but the following year Everton FC launched a special edition pink kit in support of Breast Cancer Research. Of course this was never worn on the pitch, but you know, one step at a time. And the kit was a success, generating enough awareness through column inches that they created another one the following year. In fact, it motivated a number of other clubs who also commissioned special kits the following season to raise awareness and money for charities through autographed kits at auction or one off games.
It’s an added dimension to the beautiful game that still seems to be in it’s infancy, but which will hopefully score big as football’s reach and influence continues to develop.