Minor British Institutions: The replica shirt

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The Independent Online

The replica shirt of support for a football, rugby or somesuch club originated in 1975 with the Admiral sportswear company and the canny Don Revie at Leeds United as a way of getting more out of the fans.

Whence to the rest of football and the world, where no uprising is now complete without an incongruous Beckham- or Rooney-wearer. In this country, according to thesis, it's expressing a tribal instinct threatened by social and geographical mobility and economic change. Or, it's a funny working-class thing, darling, which wouldn't be quite so bad if they were not walking billboards for foreign airlines, financial services and paint.

But the British have always loved a uniform: so helpful for distinguishing the foe, external and internal. But it's also a fine romantic thing, a declaration of love and wistful dream that, if things like skill, age and pot belly had been different, it could have been the man inside's name on the back.

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