Twenty-odd years ago, we just knew it – Alan Shearer was photographed on the steps of St James Park wearing a particular Newcastle United home shirt.
David Ginola (see below) wore a short sleeved one in the first half of matches, and a long sleeved one in the second, and recently it was voted the best kit of the Premier League era.
Back in the day, Adidas created a design that was lauded by the majority. The 1995-97 kit (see below) was stunning. Even the lads at work who support the chip shop bag wearing fellows from Wearyside thought this kit was a winner.
Hilarity at work now, with the pretty well received new Newcastle United kit, and the sighs of aghast from die-hard fans of Sunny D Land at the sight of their new shirts, had me thinking about design icons, and what might make a design classic. Not just kits, but footballs, boots, and the little things that make a football match a spectacle.
The Premier League Era, while now long enough to notice some huge changes in football, is nowhere near as long as the memories of some truly iconic moments and designs in our little world.
We have had lots of kits and bits that matter a great deal to us; some through the personal memories of our experiences, and some through collective moments of shared elation, euphoria, and very possibly, shouting at the pitch. And because of that, I’ll leave you to pitch in with the kits that mean something to you. Your memories of Bukta and white socks are probably different to mine.
So what are my favourite footballing designs, and the moments that throw a step over, back heel and slide rule pass? In no particular order, and in full recognition that this makes me a bit of a footballing nerd, here goes:
The 1970 World Cup Ball: Pele to Carlos Alberto, Goooooaaaaaaal!
This 32 panel ball looked amazing. It had black bits, and with some spin, appeared to be a planet in orbit. Simple, yet extravagant. Yes, it helped that one of the greatest footballing performances was accomplished pinging this little fella about; yes, it was even better if you played with this ball in the summer, because then you were Brazil; but it was more about this being the first design of a proper ‘caser’ football present for me and my brother. It made those white Bukta socks look good.
Adidas World Cup football boots. And Puma King.
I can see that modern football boots are lighter, with scientific placement of studs, and hidden laces aiding micro-placement of free-kicks. I can see that the modern professional might be able to pick out a fellow team mate by the colour of their boots –and possibly, embroidered name. But the sock bits look a bit like you’re nervous your ankles will get cold.
Now, the elegance of Adidas World Cup boots, and Puma King boots, cannot be understated. And nor can how cool Alan Shoulder looked on the Roy of the Rovers poster I had in 1981, or how difficult it is to focus on the Puma stripe as Cruyff, Pele or Peter Beardsley dance around an opponent before leaving them a twisted and confused heap on the pitch.
Black and white boots, kids. As they were, and ever should be. God, I’m old.
Newcastle United goalposts up to 1996.
Yeah, I know the angular ones look good; they look like the Tournament goals of the 80s; they remind me of 1996, possibly the best year of my life. But… nothing looked as good as watching the opposing goalie ungainly crouch down to retrieve the ball after we had scored in the old goals. The net seemed to billow more. They just looked good. When Kevin Keegan scored on his debut, the ball seemed to take ages to nestle in the faraway net. Mind, it was also a nice day.
Back to the real world.
Now, while I could be getting worked up about transfers, Rafa walking, Rafa sitting, and how much Sheriff Fatman is going to spend, I’m trying to hold onto some element of serenity. An element in which form and function are one.
So, we have a new strip that nods to the past. To the simple elegance of black and white. To the numbers on the back of Keegan’s Umbro shirt.
All of my little design icons paint an idyllic and, given that I can trap a ball further than I can kick it, somewhat unrealistic vision of football, and supporting Newcastle United.
There’s a little bit of hope with your new boots and ball as a kid, as you hoof it across the field and hope that you don’t stand in anything bad, or that your new ball lands in anything brown and sticky.
For every opposing goalie getting stuck in the old nets, there was a Teddy Sheringham kneeling down to celebrate ruining the day. Cool new kits are nothing without the moments to remember them.
I’m hoping that behind the scenes, deals are being done and brand new pairs of Adidas World Cup are being worn in. Where form and function are in harmony.
You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby
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