How many kits do teams need? Greed is making iconic jerseys obsolete

Barcelona fourth offering is two too many and it's leading to a proliferation of items designed to rip off the die-hard fan

5:30pm on Friday 9th October 2020
Paul Macdonald

How do you make sure that no-one ever remembers any new kit that your team releases?

By producing so many that all of them blend into one. Iconic jerseys that stand the test of time in terms of design and what they mean to people are being obliterated by the proliferation of options available.

In November, Barcelona chose to release a fourth kit for 2019-20, a Catalan-inspired offering incorporating the region’s flag into the design. The problem here isn’t with the politicised approach but the fact that they knew they were releasing this kit five months ago but chose not to use it as a primary design and instead put out two other, inferior, strips.

Other than the obvious monetary reasons, it’s simply beyond the pale for a team to have four different jerseys in a single season. It doesn’t matter how many competitions your team is competing in, there will be no kit clash with two, let alone three, alternatives and the consequences of this (other than ripping off gullible fans) are that kits are being lost, forgotten in a mess of unnecessary airings and unwanted derivatives.


Towards the end of the 90s, what was then known as the Football Task Force applied a doctrine that English Premier League clubs should strive to only change their home kit every two seasons to give fans some value for their purchase. But note that it was never set in law and the clubs slowly but surely eroded it away until the beginning of the 2010-11 season, when all 20 clubs produced new home, away and third kits.

Kit launches used to exciting but now they’re leaked months in advance and a new strip is hardly out before info on its replacement is teased.Museum of Jerseys

The clubs deserve condemnation for going to the well on so many occasions at the behest of their sponsors and their ridiculous, long-term agreements, but that’s for another time. The incessant generation of kit after kit after kit makes it virtually impossible to remember which season a team wore what, let alone allow any time for said kit to mean anything to anybody.

Kits are linked to moments and what they symbolise across a season. Memories are forged of that period of our lives and we used to be able to treat them as a calendar, a record of our support in clothing. But Real Madrid, for example, have had an away and third kit in every conceivable colour under their current deal with Adidas, to the point where they will need to just cycle through every shade again, making modest tweaks.

Twitter account Museum of Jerseys catalogues and comments on kit usage on a regular basis, and they are firmly of the belief that we just let launches wash over us now, begging for the next one before the current has ever had time to resonate.

MOJ said: "A two-year cycle allowed a kit to become established and develop character. You could look at a picture and readily associate with a time period whereas now you look at one and can’t be sure which season it was taken. Kit launches used to exciting but now they’re leaked months in advance and a new strip is hardly out before info on its replacement is teased.

"When everything changes so much, nothing can become special. If your team has a bad kit, you know it’ll be gone soon but a good kit can’t be enjoyed as you know its lifespan is finite."


And there's even less chance of a kit meaning anything beyond a launch if it's barely - or never - worn. Kit Geek's research of the 2017-18 season found that Tottenham's camouflage third kit didn't get a single Premier League outing, while Brighton's third kit - remember, a team not competing in Europe and only facing domestic matches - wore theirs just once. What's the need to have these kits that are never worn? Other than the obvious sponging of the support, who are less likely to buy if the outfit is described as a training or warm-up kit.

And as noted this season, United have opted for six different shirt/shorts/socks combinations in their seven away matches so far.

This isn't a rant against the ability of the clubs to generate revenue - though it is, clearly, a cash-grab by throwing as many items as they possibly can at fans - but more an attempt to retain something unique about our designs. Nike has proven with their innovative Nigeria offering that it is eminently possible. Let us remember the good ones, eh?

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