The kit parade: When football clubs launch their latest strips

It gives fans the chance to indulge in some sporting style. Or at least it gives them something to stay occupied with until the season finally starts, says Will Dean

Poor Tim Howard. Widely agreed to be one of the smartest and nicest men in football, the Everton goalkeeper found himself in the eye of a laugh storm this week when kit designer Le Coq Sportif unveiled its new design for the Merseyside club's new goalkeeper jersey. A camouflage-style monster that, at best, will allow Howard to disguise himself after a gaffe.

Howard's kit and a naff new England goalkeeper number were the trigger for numerous galleries of crap kits in the nation's sports pages. If nothing else, they proved that the Nineties were a standout era for grim strips.

But as these new releases from the sportswear giants prove, football kits don't have to be grim.

Their most common wearers – sweaty men with lager bellies – ensure that it's culturally acceptable for them to be worn only by under-15s and five-a-side players. But every year, there are enough nice strips to counteract the garish ones, and you don't even have to have the body of Xabi Alonso to pull them off.

As these new kits for the 2011/12 season emerge – to the sound of the chopping-up of credit cards by parents nationwide – they prove that new football kits can be beautiful. All right, often a lot of them aren't. And having the name of a foreign airline or online casino (or in the case of FC Getafe, a giant Burger King logo) doesn't help in the sartorial stakes. But there's something pleasing about wearing a football shirt as a man-child. Especially if it's your own team's colours.

As a Manchester City fan, I've had the choice of some of the nicest shirts in football for the past few seasons. We've had some monstrosities in the past – a black and neon away shirt from 1998/99 springs to mind – but since switching manufacturers two seasons ago, City strips have regularly been voted the Premier League's most stylish. An added bonus was that last year's third strip even had a tiny, badge-sized sponsor's logo.

If your team has gone down the Everton route, at least you can make the pseudo-classy decision to buy abroad – like most Premier League managers. Whether it's continental clubs or international sides. France's new Breton-striped away kit is both gorgeous and on-trend ("timeless", the fashion desk assure me). And Puma's strips for African nations – from Cameroon's vest to the Ivory Coast's bright orange – are often a delight. International kits have the added bonus of not making you look like a walking billboard for Walkers Crisps or Wonga.com.

The lack of a sponsor was always a reason why cultured fans bought Barcelona's unsponsorable jersey – but a recent deal with the Qatar Foundation has put paid to that tradition. (A current sponsor-free shirt of note is newly relegated Birmingham City's – get them before a local car dealership brands its name on Barry Ferguson's chest.)

Another rule of thumb for cultured shirt buying is: the more obscure, the better. As nice as some of the kits here are, you're more likely to get a nod from a fellow jersey aesthete with a Kaiser Chiefs top than with a Real Madrid one.

With clubs now relaunching many or all of their kits on a yearly basis, rather than have a two-year life cycle, a number of fansites (such as Football Shirt Culture) have sprung up trying to chronicle the releases of new ones – whether it's via all-singing, player-led launches or a leaked cameraphone shot from a Chinese factory, or whether it's designs for Oldham Athletic or Atletico Madrid, they post pictures to be chewed over by kit-addict friends. It's not quite The Sartorialist, but it's something to keep us going as we count down to the new season.

Only 29 and a half days to go...

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam