I have a somewhat moderate collection of football jerseys. On one count because I am not a millionaire and can’t afford to throw a hundred and twenty bucks around willy nilly, and secondly because my allegiances are hard earned.
My darling wife added to my collection on Christmas morning with a brand new West Ham United shirt with all the bells and whistles of official merchandise and it didn’t leave my back until I hit the shower at around ten pm Christmas night.
The ‘Hammers’ are my team and despite being somewhat confused as a child watching Aston villa play, my loyalty and commitment to them has never waned.
The jersey now forms part of my humble collection of strips of which I am very proud. The green and gold of the Socceroos hangs proudly in my walk-in, as does my Sydney FC jersey and England home strip that I picked up recently. The quirkiest part of my collection is my recent addition, the Paris Saint Germain home strip.
For some reason I have always liked that strip. I love France, the French and especially the food and something inside me was drawn to PSG. Now, in possession of their jersey, I can walk around the house munching on a baguette, wearing a beret and humming Edith Piaf with more confidence and pride.
The England home jersey stems from a youth watching European Championships and World Cups and seeing the hapless English team fall time after time in quarters, semis and sometimes exit more disastrously at the pool stage.
Names like Chris Waddle, Glenn Hoddle, Gary Lineker and Peter Shilton were somewhat God-like in those big tournaments, partly due to the fact that there was little exposure in Australia of Division One football, as it was called in the 80s.
My bloodlines stem from the mother country and with the absence of an Australian team to support on the biggest stage, my allegiance to England was an obvious step. Needless to say, Australia’s emergence as a serious footballing nation has all but destroyed that allegiance.
Both the England and PSG jerseys were, therefore, purchased with the unthinkable in mind. Fashion. The White of England works with almost anything and the deep blue of Paris Saint Germain amalgamates beautifully with blue jeans or an earthy coloured dress short.
Yet my new West Ham strip, the Socceroos kit and my sacred Sydney FC jersey are all about loyalty. When I pull on each of those I feel a strong sense of pride and love it when non-football people ask me questions about them.
The jersey trade in football’s major leagues in Europe is currently estimated at over $930 million per year. Away strips as well as third strips are now carried by most teams and the options for fans appear endless. Manchester United tops the current list in terms of sales with around 1.7 million jerseys sold in 2015-16.
A jersey can also convey more than team colours. There is something incredibly powerful that occurs when players pull on something to which they attach history and meaning. However, to a fan not emotionally attached to a club, the colours can mean far less.
I always loved the Italian kit. A simple bold, blue that reeks of pride. Watching the faces of the squad throughout anthems and pregame formalities, creates intensity and an appreciation of the magnitude of the moment when one is presented with the Azzurro Savoia.
However, the kits of some other heavyweights of international football aren’t as impressive. Brazil’s kit never matched the on-field success, the Netherlands was simply far too orange and Germany, well, it was all a bit too German for me: little bit bland, a little straight up and down, well organised but not really providing much excitement.
The colours of Argentinian football became synonymous with success in the 70s and 80s. Diego Maradona led them to a second World Cup and another finals appearance four years later cemented their position as a powerhouse in world football. The Albicelestes is a beautiful strip.
Club football throws up some incredible, memorable and at times unbelievable strips. English football has its own Brazil with the comically awful Norwich kit that works very well with their silly moniker of ‘the canaries’.
The club seems to have taken on the design process as a challenge to top the lunacy of the year before.
From a fashion standpoint, Manchester City and the classy light blue is a standout, they must have copied Sydney FC, however the red of Liverpool and blue of Chelsea are both bland and dull.
The cream of the crop from a fashion perspective is Tottenham. A great jersey, wonderful emblem and it’s easy to create an ensemble with white as a focus.
Napoli has a great kit. I was exposed to it through the weekly SBS highlights package in the early eighties when Maradona was at his peak and is potentially only matched by Juventus. What a beautiful strip that is, the history of that club oozes through every fibre.
There are some real nightmares in club land that are often glossed over due to on-field success or popularity of individual players. Barcelona is not a particularly attractive piece of apparel; incredibly recognisable, yet not aesthetically pleasing.
Borussia Dortmund always look like some sort of travelling band of circus performers and Recreation Huelva’s 2012-13 away strip almost emulated the ‘King of the Mountains’ jersey from Le Tour: red with white polka dots.
It’s great to see more and more A-League jerseys starting to permeate the market in Australia. Every now and again I will see a Mariners or Perth glory kit, there are many Wanderers fans who proudly display their colours in wider Sydney and my smurf colours pop up quite regularly.
One day Australia might even evolve to the point where young kids label their shirts with the names of their A-League heroes. This, however, does appear a long way off.
European stars still dominate the market. Cristiano Ronaldo features prominently, as does Jamie Vardy after Leicester’s heroics and Paul Pogba jerseys have had a resurgence in their production after his move back to England.
Amongst older generations, Maradona still pops up around town every now and then, I’ve also seen Ruud Gullit and a few weeks back a short fella walked past me with Pele printed on the back of a retro Brazil jersey.
I think I saw Lionel Messi six times yesterday. My kids and I make a special note each time we see him. He’s all over the place that guy. He must have a private jet or something, I hear he is pretty well paid.
Football gear is much more fashion friendly and less ostentatious than the supporter wear offered by other codes. Rugby league jerseys look like exactly that, jerseys, as do rugby union equivalents and the incredibly uncool, sleeveless AFL wear is hideous from a fashion perspective.
Football, however, has the district advantage in that the jerseys actually look like shirts, nice casual supporters wear. They are cool, light and a perfect summer shirt for our climate.
I am planning an extension to my collection and might start with Glasgow Rangers. Not sure why, just like it and for some reason Roma catches my eye.
My rather paltry collection will be far exceeded by many, I’m sure, and the obscure and rare kits they possess would be fascinating exhibits at a football kit expo that someone should organise.
Perhaps the most fitting addition to my collection would be a seventies retro Socceroos jersey with ‘Warren’ printed across the shoulders. There could be no better tribute to Australian football than that.