We’re less than two weeks away from the Euro 2012 Championships in Ukraine and Poland, and national teams from around Europe have all come out with their new kits for the upcoming tournament. John Devlin, author of the books True Colours volume 1 and 2 (and publisher of the True Colours blog), is an expert within the field of football kits and their history. The football magazine When Saturday Comes rated John Devlin books to be; “an exploration of kit design…a combination of measured analysis and warm nostalgia.”.
I recently interviewed John Devlin to get his thoughts about the football kits for Euro 2012:
Q: So John, now that Euro 2012 is getting closer, what do you think about the kits of the major countries this — nations like France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Holland? Which one stands out?
John Devlin (JD): For me, the best kit of the tournament is without doubt the French home shirt. After many years of studying shirts, it takes a lot to really impress me, but this shirt has it all. Style, sophistication, and originality. Plus, it manages to combine a classic, traditional feel with a modern approach; the hallmarks of a great kit. Nike has really reinvented the French strips since taking over from Adidas a couple of years ago and for my money France will be the best dressed team at the tournament. The Holland and Sweden kits are also interesting. Plus there are some good offerings from Adidas including Greece and Spain.
Q: You normally have the biggest brands — Nike, Adidas and Puma, but which brand do you think has the better designs for this summer?
JD: Overall, I would say Umbro. They only have three teams in the tournament (England, Republic of Ireland and Sweden) but each kit they produce is quality; carefully considered designs executed in an immaculate fashion. Adidas designs are better this year than they have been for a while in my view, but they are still tied and restricted by the three stripes on the shoulders. Nike has some stunning designs as I explained earlier but also some that are very mediocre.
Q: Every fourth year, the designs seem to change from brand to brand. Do you think that we are in a particular trend now… If so, why?
JD: I sense that colour is the key at the moment as opposed to stylistic trimmings and embellishments. So many strips are playing and pushing boundaries with colour choices and application with an emphasis on tones and tonal variation. The ‘shadow stripe’ effect is coming back which is also connected to this design. Examples include France, who have abandoned their traditional royal blue in favour of navy tones, Holland who also have incorporated a two-tone orange into their kits and of course the England away kit that sees the side sport navy instead of red. UEFA regulations and sleeve badges, numbers etc. necessitate a relatively plain design so subtle variations in hue help the designs’ individuality. UEFA also prefer teams to wear single colour kits, presumably from a refereeing perspective, which makes the designers work harder in their colour selection.
Q: On your website, you seem to focus on the shirts of the national teams in Great Britain. It has mostly been England who has been in the Euro’s but this year Ireland has qualified as well. What do you think about Irelands EURO 2012 kit, and how is it different to the previous kit Ireland wore in 1988 when they qualified the first time?
JD: The Irish kits are great. The home is so classy and so Irish with its subtle blend of greens, a motif that is continued on to the away kit in the form of the tonal vertical stripes on the left hand side. They’re very good designs and quite a move on from the continental Adidas strips they wore in the 80s, with the away a simple reversal of the home. The Irish’ unique colour scheme of green and white also help them stand out.
Q: England’s kit has changed a lot from the first time they qualified for their first tournament. If it was World Cups or European Championships, every decade people have been excited for the new kit that would be worn for the next tournament. England have had white, red, gray and striped shirts and so on, but for this tournament they have gone for the all-white with red trim. What do you think of their new design this summer?
JD: It’s a good kit, not the best England has had in recent years, but still very good. All white certainly has a heroic feel about it and Umbro and the FA have taken a brave move in ditching blue and opting for red as the contrast colour. I’d have liked to have seen a coloured neck rather than white and I’m still not certain about the all-red badge. There is such a danger at all times of teams losing their individuality in ever changing kit designs and for me the badge is a sacred part of the team’s brand and its colour integrity should be left intact. My overriding impression of the kit was that with its leaning towards the national flag it epitomised perfectly the spirit of the English nation…but did it sum up the character of the English football side? I would suggest that perhaps these are two different things.
Q: So the final question is: What is your favourite European Championship kit of all time, and what is your favourite England Euro kit?
JD: So many to choose from! However, I’m so bowled over by the 2012 Nike French kit that I would go for that one as my all-time favorite. As for an England kit, I would go for the 2000 home and away kits, which I thought were superb and also the ‘cycling jersey’ style home strip as worn in 1988.