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The Modern Football Shirt: Fashion Faux Pas

By John Nicholson

There are few more unpleasant fashion creations than a modern football shirt. Comprised of those melt-into-the-skin-in-a-fire polymers which feel like a cross between your grannies old nylon stockings and liquid plastic, they’re cheap and nasty and yet incredibly expensive.

It’s not even as if they’re especially flattering to wear.

Almost no man who isn’t an athlete looks good in a football shirt. If you’re even just a kilo overweight everyone is going to know as the shirts reveal, caresses and emphasises your lovely man boobs and shows off your lovely big, soft, flabby belly.

A lot of shirts now offer what they call ‘wicking’ properties. At first I thought this was Wicken properties which would have been much more desirably Pagan. But no, wicking fabric draws sweat away from the body apparently. However, the flaw in the thinking on this is that the only reason you’re sweating like a wart hog in roll neck sweater is because the bloody shirts make you feel so hot in the first place.

Amazingly they offer no protection against a cutting north easterly winter wind and yet in summer make you feel hot as a fox in a forest fire. And then there’s nipple rash! Now, I know some people would pay good money to have their nipples rubbed until sore, but even they would take exception at it happening while you play football.

This is why all players have to wear some sort of under garment these days. No not a bra, though some would love to I’m sure. They usually wear a t-shirt. I would call it a vest, but I know this confuses everyone in America because a vest is a waistcoat, and no footballer would ever think of playing in a waistcoat, though it’d be an excellent sartorial statement, especially if it was made of a nice tweed. What I mean by a vest is what most Americans would know as a tank top. But look, you’ve got it all wrong and it’s our language so we make the rules, right? A tank top is actually a sleeveless sweater, unless you’re in the Marines where a tank top is the big metal swivelling thing with a large gun on it. I’m glad we got that cleared up. Next week I shall explain why we English laugh so much at American’s who wear fanny packs and who look so astonished when we ‘smoke fags.’

So there you are, strutting around the pitch feeling like a boil-in-the-bag fillet of cod and hating every moment of it. You’ve paid upwards of 50 GBP for the pleasure of wearing this piece of tat that is manufactured in China for pennies, but at least you’re supporting your club. The club you’ve loved since birth. The club you’ve followed through thick and thin and thinner.

But what’s this on your front? In my case, wearing a Boro shirt means I am also wearing a huge ad for the world’s biggest online casino and poker room. I’ll be honest with you, I really hate it. I do not want in any way to be associated with 888. I have no interest in gambling or in poker unless women are disrobing as a consequence of it. And I really bloody object to my great, old club being used as a tart for or any of their successors. In fact, even if I had a passing interest in 888, their cluttering up of my clubs shirts would put me right off them anyway. I can’t be alone in that. I already deliberately avoid buying anything that is sold to me in an advertisement that annoys the hell out of me.

It doesn’t seem to occur to clubs that the sponsors they so hungrily suck cash from in return for putting their name on the front of the shirts, might actually offend the fans who they expect to buy the shirts.

I know sponsorship of clubs in Britain is over 25 years old but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Personally I’d pay extra not to have the sponsor on the shirt. In the same way that I would pay a premium on my TV cable service to have the ad breaks deleted and replaced with something more interesting and less annoying such as a film of paint drying or a picture of a dog wearing a hat.

Fans have no choice in who sponsors their clubs but I’m willing to bet that the growth in the unbranded retro shirt market is in part due to the fact that you don’t want to be seen walking the streets with an ad for gambling, insurance companies or sanitary protection. As an added plus, retro shirts are usually 100% cotton and don’t make you feel like you’re wearing a polythene bag. This isn’t too much to ask from clothing is it?

So here’s an idea for free. It’s radical. But it makes sense – which means it will never be adopted. Why don’t clubs produce a shirt without branding, made of cotton and costing 10 GBP more for fans with taste to wear. And one other shirt made of the usual cheap and nasty polystyrene, plastered with advertising for the players and perverts who like nipple rash to wear. That way the club gets the money from the advertising and it gets extra money from the fans who don’t want to wear advertising. Good idea isn’t it?!

And you thought I was a drug addled old fool didn’t you! And now I’m off to put vaseline on my nipples.

John Nicholson is a guest columnist for EPL Talk and will be contributing articles on a weekly basis capturing his observations and humor. To read more of John’s work, be sure to pick up a copy of his book entitled Footy Rocks, which combines 50 of his most interesting columns about football, music, birds and extracurricular activities.

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  1. Anonymous

    December 9, 2006 at 3:06 am

    ive been going back and getting loads of old united shirts with the old SHARP on them. great quality and not the new feel. having said that, the newest united shirt is a more traditional mesh feel…not the underarmor style that is mentioned here. funny read though.

  2. Anonymous

    December 8, 2006 at 10:39 am

    I think wearing a t-shirt underneath would solve some of your problems in the winter. Summer you’re on your own.

    I agree about the hideousness of most of the advertisements. Some of them blend in with the kit, like on Chelsea’s or Arsenal’s. But Boro’s make me want to vomit.

    Also, if you check ebay you can find a number of cheap replica kits online for a greatly reduced price. Particularly, for international squads as stores are trying to offload excess world cup memorabilia. I got 2 France Jerseys for $25 each, including the $10 it cost to get them shipped.

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