Watching Joe Hart in the England game last week and his inky black shirt (pictured), decorated with almost unperceivable St George crosses, is verily the football shirt's answer to Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, so discreet and even opaque is its beauty. And that is not surprising. Because if Peter Saville's original claim to fame was to turn the album sleeve into an art form he's now turned his hand to doing the same for the uniform of the nation's best-loved sport.
Not everyone is impressed. On my sofa and with regard to the white shirts worn by the entire team as opposed to Hart's one: "Why's it got no collar and buttons? That's dumb." It's also not necessarily the great man's work though. The tiny crosses, this time in rainbow colour but still so minimal they're barely there, clearly have the hand of Saville all over them, however. "They look like dandruff," the men chez Frankel argue. This, by now, is a cliché, I tell them. See also hundreds and thousands.
Here's Mr Saville speaking to Creative Review about his use of this particular emblem. "It's beautiful but it's very loaded. I was frustrated, along with many others, by the marginalisation of the cross of St George. It has acquired connotations that some of us don't associate with and I find that frustrating because there is nothing wrong with it as a symbol. [The design] is a provocation. It's not negative. It's not aggressive. It's not critical. And I think it feels like England 2010. This is a country of lots of different people, get on with it."
So far, so pretentious. And who would expect anything less? For the most part, and any notions of re-appropriation aside, isn't the shirt in question just very pretty? And shouldn't both Saville and Umbro, who had the nerve to approach him in the first place, be applauded for that?
I personally wouldn't wear a white football shirt. No matter how charming its appearance. Having seen a snap of the black women's goalkeeper's shirt, however, I'm enamoured with it to the point where I'm currently contemplating an uncharacteristically dramatic change of career. The competition is hardly stiff. And if goalkeeping is good enough for Albert Camus and Pope Jean Paul II ...
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