Anyone who’s already listened to a even smidge of the podcast so far, will know how much kits play a big part of my memories of the era. Hell, they play a big part of my life in 2015 too, especially when the summer is full of shiny new releases. But the 1990s kits were special, both in their designs and uniqueness that somehow seems them locked into that decade, and none more so than two of the kits on show at Italia 90.
Every generation has ‘their’ England kit; for the 60s it was the 66′ winning away shirt, the 80s are synonymous with the 1982 Admiral and in the 90s it’s always been about the Italia 90 home shirt. As far as retro shirts I don’t think there’s a more popular one than this Umbro effort launched for the World Cup in Italy. Whether it be in reproduced templates from Umbro or real replica’s of their time from the excellent Classic Football Shirts. Just scan a crowd scene at Wembley or in a pub during a live game and I guarantee you someone will be sporting a version of this shirt – usually with the number 19 on the back.
Why is it so popular though? Well, firstly it’s nostalgic value is down to a glorious tournament for England and the man who donned the number so frequently worn on the back, Paul Gascoigne. As we discussed on this week’s podcast – an Italia 90 special – that World Cup was a renaissance for English football, led by the young Geordie and away from the dark days of the late eighties. Fans fell in love with football again that summer, buoyed by England team who came within a whisker of making it the World Cup Final. That shirt represents the feeling we had that summer, and a team that was full of bonified England legends like Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker and Stuart Pearce.
We as England fans like to celebrate that tournament, and feel the belonging we felt that summer. Of course it helps that the design of the shirt was also one of the very best Umbro offered during their long reign as the Three Lions kit supplier. It had the classic combination of being smart and simple, but with enough clever design touches that made it standout from the rest. The Umbro diamonds round the cuffs of the shirts were typical of that time, but made their debut on this shirt, while the smart polo collar meant it gave the shirt a smart enough reason to wear down the pub as well as the stadium – even now twenty-five years later. Like many Umbro shirts of that time, it had that shiny glow to the shirt, and the diamond pattern embossed into the fabric to really ‘bring it to life’. While the shorts had those 90s colour blocks that were repeated throughout the excellent looking training range.
In short, the kit was and still is one of the greatest England football shirts ever, and is rightly given iconic status in today’s football world….but it wasn’t alone in greatness at Italia 90.
Step forward England’s conquers that night in Turin, and both their home and away shirts of that tournament made by adidas. In a recent countdown on The Football Attic’s 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever, Germany’s home kit first launched in 1988 and worn at the 1990 World Cup, came in top of the pile. Whether you agree or not that it’s the greatest ever (for the record, we would plump for USA’s 1994 away kit), theres no doubting it’s atheistic beauty. A simpler rounded collar than England’s street-like style, with the more subtle three adidas stripes, the ‘piece de resistance’ of this shirt was the motif across the chest depicting the German flag with an abstract 90s twist. This shirt was complemented with a memorable mint green change kit, often overlooked due to his connection to the semi-final, but equally as pleasing on the eye.
Elsewhere during that memorable summer there were standout kits for Cameroon and the giant Lion over their heart, Austria’s Puma home shirt and the Scotland yellow and navy striped number. However it’s the kits of the two teams that met in that dramatic semi-final that remain some of the most iconic football strips ever produced.
You can buy genuine replica’s of both these shirts at Classic Football Shirts, who we proudly have as sponsor of Alive and Kicking.
Make sure you listen to this weeks Italia 90 themed pod, as Ash Rose is joined by journalist Ben Lyttleton, Seb White of Mundial Magazine and Paddy O’Sullivan. There’s also an interview with Ireland hero, and scorer of their first ever World Cup goal Kevin Sheedy.