An indispensable guide to sartorial excellence on the footy field
Football kit designers can get it terribly wrong, but when they get it right, the results can be very cool indeed. We've gone through the history of the beautiful game to find the most beautiful kits for you to admire and appreciate.
It's no surprise that many of these are associated with classic moments in the game's history, or with being worn by the greatest exponents of the game. Sadly we couldn't quite fit in Iain Dowie's Southampton shirt from the 1992 Zenith Data Systems Cup Final, which fulfills both criteria - though we did try.
A simple, classic design for Holland’s premier club, and the legions of legends that have passed through it. We’ve gone for the TDK-era shirt, as not only was it the time of goal machine Marco Van Basten, but TDK used to make blank cassette tapes which you could record the top 40 on. Jumpers for goalposts…
Simple and beautiful. And, naturally, the best was the long-sleeved 1978 version, as modelled by goal machine Mario Kempes, in a ticker-tape strewn final against the plucky Dutch.
Another classic of English football, Arsenal’s iconic red shirt and white sleeves is recognised all over the world. This is our favourite, with the Gunners logo, double sleeve stripe, and the image of Michael Thomas streaking clear to seal the title in May 1989.
Not only is this one of the coolest shirts in world football, but Barcelona in 2010, in addition to ruling Europe, were also so morally-superior to everyone else that they had Unicef as their ‘sponsor’. Absolutely ridiculous.
Founding members of the football league, and with an unbroken kit record of blue and white halves, we salute you Blackburn. The 1992 kit is our pick, Alan Shearer’s first season for the newly-promoted side, and a kit that suitably screams ‘underdog’ and ‘cheap lager’.
Quite simply a glorious colour combination; the 1994 is our favourite for the good old thick stripe design. Also useful as it doubles up as a Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf.
Let’s face it, this is the king of kits. England may have invented football, but the Brazilians turned it into the ‘joga bonito’ and not just in terms of skills. The iconic Brazil shirt is still the best, with the 1970 version surely the pinnacle. Pele, Rivelino, Carlos Alberto Jairzinho, Tostão and Gérson all wore this: it doesn’t get much cooler than that.
Brighton & Hove Albion
This shirt is cool on several levels. Firstly, it’s a classic kit. Secondly, Skint - Fatboy Slim’s dance label - were one of the coolest brands around, and Brighton-based to boot. Thirdly, the club really were skint at the time when the sponsorship began, so it was a wry acknowledgement of their problems. Well done everyone.
One of three African shirt designs in this list to incorporate something of their identity on their shirts, it doesn’t get much better than having a lion’s face on your chest does it? The Cameroon kit has been cool ever since they burst onto the international scene with Roger Milla et al in 1990, and this is the best yet.
The ‘reverse-Barcelona’ for South London’s finest - and never better than this 1990 FA Cup Semi-final era shirt, as worn by twin goal kings Ian Wright and Mark Bright.
Sponsors normally detract from a shirt’s beauty, but sometimes they’re a crucial part of its charm. None more so than with Carlisle United’s pure blue shirt with the Carlisle-based Eddie Stobart trucker company logo. Glorious.
They’re Belgian, and their adoption of black and white stripes led to their nickname becoming The Zebras. Naturally, it should follow that at some point they would actually have a zebra-style shirt - and so it proved in 2012. While we didn’t rate the Hull tiger kit (bit too Del Boy), we do rate the zebra kit, so in it goes.
The Croatia Euro ‘96 kit was one of the best-selling football shirts of all-time, but we slightly prefer the more refined World Cup ‘98 version. Using the design from Croatia’s coat of arms, on a single quadrant, this brings back memories of Davor Šuker stroking in goal after goal en français.
When the dance-punk legends Prodigy heard that an Under 13s football team from Hampshire were using their track Warrior’s Dance to fire themselves up for matches, they immediately got in touch and offered to sponsor them. And thus, one of the coolest kits of all-time was born. Unfortunately you have to be a) 12 years old, and b) a member of Eastleigh Reds to get hold of one. Dammit.
How could we not include this. Pure red, no messing, three lions on the chest and Bobby Moore holding the trophy aloft on the shoulders of Geoff Hurst and Ray Wilson. No, we’re not crying, we’ve just got something in our eye…
This is just brilliant: not only is it purple, but it’s got the Nintendo logo on it. And Bati-gol used to wear it. Possibly the second coolest (after Brazil of course) shirt on the list.
AKA the Dennis the Menace shirt. Unleash your inner Romario and your outer naughty schoolboy by investing in one of these.
An undisputed classic. A red band, three thin white stripes and a proud gallic rooster. Puff out that chest and pretend you’re Michel Platini in his glory days. Pure class.
Team manager Gary Weight was an old friend of Lemmy, the singer from legendary metal band Motörhead, and decided to email him one day to ask for help: and thus an amazing sponsorship deal was arranged. The Lincoln boys ran out for the 2006 season sporting black (naturally) shirts, with the band’s ‘Snaggletooth’ mascot on. Amazingly cool.
You cannot argue with orange. Like many of the national shirts featured, you could pretty much pick any of their kits over the years, but we’re going for the ‘88 version, with a natty pattern, and Van Basten, Rijkaard and Gullit in full flow.
A proper kit. Blue chest, white arms, a proper local sponsor and the bootlace v-neck which was all the rage for a few years. Truly Suffolk.
Much like Brazil, the blue shirt of the Azzuri is almost always cool - with the notable exception of the Euro 2000 skin-tight shirt, which did not look on anyone apart from the toned figures of the players. We’ve plumped for the Italia ‘90 vintage - a deep blue, with nice Italian flag style collar and arm trims. Pretend you are Toto Schillaci.
A truly awesome kit: the team which gave its name to Leeds’ finest indie merchants brings us this fantastic bee-meets-sunshine outfit.
Alex Ferguson may have later claimed that playing in grey meant that his players couldn’t see each other, but it didn’t stop Liverpool winning everything in sight (ba-boom) wearing this number. Nice pattern, nice red trim, nice old-school sponsor, a textbook away kit.
A kit that definitely takes some inspiration from the French ‘84 jersey, this is classy, minimal and very, well, French. We j’adore it.
Their nickname is The Flames, and they have a flame on their firey red shirts. What’s not to like?
There were a raft of ‘three-stripe’ Adidas kits around this era, but this is our favourite, with yet more French flair, courtesy of Marseille. Just try to forget that Chris Waddle’s mullet was in close proximity to this stylish jersey.
A modern retread of a classic design: the braces kit. Originally worn in 1977, the Os issued this update in 2005. Ideally rounded off with a red bow-tie.
Paris St Germain
Not many teams could pull off a brown shirt - Coventry City are certainly not one of them - but it’s the French we’re talking about here. The white speckles and simple design turn this into a very cool kit indeed.
A bit of a cult classic here, but Peru popularised the sash in the 1978 Argentina World Cup. It was pretty much the only thing that was popular about them though, as a highly fishy 6-0 defeat (allegedly preceded by a delivery of a large grain shipment to Peru by Argentina & the unfreezing of a Peruvian bank account) in their final group game allowed the holders to progress to the next stage.
It’s a Mexican team so it’s already pretty cool - add in that they’re called Pumas, and - you guessed it - they’ve got an awesome puma logo on the front of the shirt and it’s manufactured by Puma and it’s a shoe-in for our shirt list.
Pure, beautiful, unspoilt, elegant. You cannot get cooler than this vintage Real Madrid top. It’s never been the same since sponsors were added, but this is it back in its prime.
Classic azzurri blue, simple club crest and a three-colour chest band: this is Italian design up there with Ferrari and Prada.
Following in the footsteps of Barcelona’s UNICEF ‘sponsorship’, Pelé’s old side Santos decided to team up with the World Wide Fund for Nature, thus creating a classic football shirt. Look at it - it’s got a panda on it! (and the Panda is even wearing Santos’ colours - now that’s branding synergy)
Another of the 2013 African shirts, this one is simply tree-mendous.
A typically patriotic effort from the Americans when they hosted the World Cup in 1994: a nicely stylish way to incorporate the stars and stripes of the famous flag. Also, it’s impossible to see this shirt and not visualise Alexei Lalas’ flowing locks and mighty beard, so for that reason alone it deserves a place in this list.
An absolute, all-time classic. Countries have always shied away from writing their actual name on the front, or back, of their shirts. Not the Russians. “We are Союз Советских Социалистических Республик and we’re proud of it”.
Germans and fashion sense do not normally go together, but this number is a superb piece of design. Brehme, Klinsmann and Matthäus sported this during Italia ‘90: the last hurrah for their country before unification and the East Germans came in to drag down the style.
It’s a pretty cool shirt anyway, but the fact that bassist Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap wears it during the infamous body search scene blasts it into the realms of the super-cool. Just remember not to wrap your cucumber in tin foil everyone.
An incredibly distinctive kit, the light and navy blue colours were actually adopted from the Varsity duo of Cambridge and Oxford. First sporting quarters in 1929 (2 years earlier than Bristol Rovers), they returned in 1990 to coincide with the Martin O’Neill glory years. A classic design.