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

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...

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before