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Random Ramblings

Sartorial Soccer: The Art of the Football Shirt

ARTISTRY, FLAMBOYANCE & FLAIR were on display on London’s Brick Lane as the Old Truman Brewery played host to a celebration of football shirt culture.

The Art of the Football Shirt, a pop-up exhibition from Jacket Required, delivered a gloriously nostalgic trip through football’s flirtation with graphic design and fashion, whilst looking at the game in it’s social context and place in popular culture.

Juventus, Napoli, Sampdoria, Style, football, culture, art, design
Classic Italian styling

From the elegant cut and slim stripes of classic 80s and 90s Italian styling to garish efforts from Japan and Mexico, curator Neal Heard explored football’s relationship with music, politics, fashion and design.

Football, politics, East Germany, CCCP, St Pauli, Fiorentina, Che Guevara, Stockport County

In an age of Nike led functional uniformity, where Chelsea’s away strip is just a shade away from Tottenham’s home kit, the collection reminds us of times where football shirts were bespoke creations embracing graphic design and inspiring streetwise fashion labels.

For those attending the two-day exhibit, the items on display transcended sportswear and were more akin to religious artefacts. On entry, visitors were treated to a view of eleven of the game’s most iconic designs.

Football, art, design, culture, kit, England 1966, West Germany 1990, Brazil, Milan, Celtic, Argentina, classic
The Art of the Football Shirt’s most iconic designs

There was the instantly recognisable rose-red 1966 England World Cup winners shirt. Unsullied by corporate sponsorship, the triumphant top is burned into our collective consciousness even if Bobby and the boys lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy many years before our births.

We wistfully admired the classic West Germany shirt from Italia 1990. A classic from Adidas’ heyday and a shirt so good that even sworn rivals acknowledge it was a bit special.

The brilliant orange of the Dutch 1988 European Championships winners, Denmark’s Mexico ’86 Hummel humdinger, the light blue and white of Argentina and the Brazil 1970 shirt that brought Pele and  joga bonito to the world’s attention in vivid technicolor. All iconic international strips, all rightfully held in the highest of esteem.

Football, the international language of playgrounds, public houses and boardrooms has the incredible ability to prompt middle aged men to openly talk about fashion.

Classic football shirts, design, Peru, Luton Town, Everton, Bedford Trucks, Aston Villa, Scotland

“Oooh. Sampdoria,” they drooled.

“Ah. Nagoya Grampus Eight,” they knowingly nodded.

“Is that bloody Oxford United?” they choked.

Art, design, football, Tottenham, Oxford United, Ipswich, Saudi Arabia, Everton, Newcastle United, Sampdoria

The most iconic football shirts are instantly recognisable and familiar the world over. To the initiated, an Ajax or Boca Juniors home shirt is easily identifiable a mile away and although often imitated, the all-white of Real Madrid or the Blaugrana of Barça stand for more than just sport.

For the nostalgic amongst us, the functional template designs of today’s sportswear brands wildly miss the point. Who draws pride in a shirt that’s sole purpose is to draw sweat away from the body? The uniform blandness of modern designs leads us to the unwritten rule that no man past voting age should ever wear a football shirt in public other than to watch his team at a major final. Give me Umbro’s Euro 96 grey of Gareth Southgate over Nike’s navy blue of today’s England away strip any day.

The Art of the Football Shirt was an opportunity to celebrate rivalries and tribal colours where the majestic Manchester United “snowflake” sat shoulder-to-shoulder with the silver sartorial elegance of Liverpool’s “Candy” away shirt.

Manchester United, Liverpool, adidas, classics, away kit, snowflake, Candy, silver, blue
Tribal colours: Classic graphical football shirts from Adidas’ late 1980s/early 1990s heyday

As much as there were glaring omissions (who could ignore the 20th century’s greatest moment of design flair? No not the Coca-Cola bottle. The QPR home shirt?) this was a chance to marvel at our game at its most beautiful.

The Art of the Football Shirt ran for two days between 26/27 July 2017. Neal Heard’s book, The Football Shirt Book: A Connoisseur’s Guide will be released in September.

Bob Marley, Nantes, football, design, art
The Nantes home shirt was apparently a favourite of Bob Marley’s

Flamengo, Lubrax, Dennis the Menace, QPR, BrazilThe fantastic Flamengo “Dennis the Menace” shirt

Tampa Bay Rowdies, Belgium, Rodney Marsh, soccer shirt, Admiral, Adidas, classics, design, art

New Order, Oasis, England, Bob Marley, Manchester City, football kit, design, music, world in motion
From Bob Marley to the Goldie Lookin’ Chain, the links between football and music are strong
Aberdeen, adidas, 1984, double, shirt, design, culture, classic
Commemorative shirt celebrating Aberdeen’s 1984 double-winning season

Grampus 8, Inter Milan, USA, classic football shirts

Politically inspired football shirts, Tibet, St Pauli, Fiorentina, art, design

Graphic design, football, arsenal, away kit, yellow, Liverpool, Manchester United

Classic football shirt design, art, fashion

The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London, art, design, culture, fashion, football
The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London

Is this London’s most sexist sign? 

There was mock outrage in London today as female visitors to the capital were apparently instructed to remove their underwear by a railway information sign.

Continue reading Is this London’s most sexist sign? 

Embrace your inner-Portillo

This week saw the return of Britain’s favourite ex-Tory government minister as Michael Portillo takes his pastel jackets stateside for the second series of Great American Railroad Journeys.

Since publishing Help me, I’m becoming a Trainspotter I’ve been taken aback by the literally half a handful of people who have confided a shared love of trains to me.

Continue reading Embrace your inner-Portillo

“Celebrating” the first two years of kieranrobinson.com

TWO YEARS AGO I found myself between jobs and in need of something to keep me out of the pub.

Occupying that period of time some men call “gardening leave” with actual horticultural pursuits was never going to be an option, so on May the 1st 2014, I accepted a challenge to write 500 words on the “positive aspects” of the Lance Armstrong affair, and so kieranrobinson.com was born.

Since then, my ramblings and half-baked observations have received some really positive feedback from many people with brains much bigger than my own and led to some quite interesting invitations. In fact, I’m proud to say that articles from this very website have been seen by people in no fewer than 118 countries across the globe from Zimbabwe to Albania (though strangely we still await our first visit from North Korea). 

Continue reading “Celebrating” the first two years of kieranrobinson.com

Football needs no fanfare

There was a time not so long ago when going to a game of football was an altogether different experience to an evening at the theatre or the opera.

Continue reading Football needs no fanfare

Foxes’ title tilt “result of hunt ban”

Leicester City’s unexpected Premier League title bid is a “natural consequence” of the ban on fox hunting according to a leading pro-hunt figure.

Claudio Ranieri’s men have upset the odds this season, coming from 5000-1 outsiders to Premier League favourites, in a title campaign which has forced pundits and fans alike to challenge everything they thought they knew about football.

But Mike Hunt, 69, of the Highbury & Islington Hunt, has a theory to explain the Foxes’ audacious title bid:

“Leicester City’s title bid is a natural consequence of the ban on fox hunting.”

“Since the Hunting Ban came into force in 2005, we have seen a proliferation of foxes in our towns and cities. They have become less fearful of humans and more confident in their environment.”

“Last season we began to see a more confident Leicester City, though at the time, their focus was on survival. Yes they hunted well but mainly in Leicestershire,” Hunt continued.

“This season, the Foxes have become more confident in urban environments making successful raids into Manchester and London. It is the sheer audacity of these Foxes which has surprised most people.”

“It’s as if they do not know their place in the food chain.”

In a season of unprecedented unpredictability, the Foxes have so far out-foxed Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and with just 8 games to go, they are 5 points clear of the chasing pack.

The emergence of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté have been obvious factors in the Foxes’ rise to the top, but much credit must be given to Ranieri and predecessor Nigel Pearson for moulding a squad of players hungrier than their more fancied opponents.

In contrast to his “tinker-man” reputation, Ranieri has kept a settled team throughout the season allowing players to form instinctive partnerships and foster a team spirit which has translated itself to the stands where the King Power Stadium has become a fortress for the Foxes.

Leicester have played to their strengths, utilising the pace and power of Vardy and Mahrez in a counter attacking 4-4-2 formation, these days a rarity in Premier League football.

Whether Leicester City can win the title remains to be seen but this season will be remembered as the year the hunters became the hunted.

Help me, I’m becoming a trainspotter

I’m 36 years of age, I’m a father with a responsible job and friends and family who love me, yet recently I’ve found myself watching programmes about trains on BBC4.
Continue reading Help me, I’m becoming a trainspotter

Time’s No Chain: 20 years under the influence of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Twenty years have passed since Oasis released (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Which means that 20 years ago, you and I were listening to Champagne Supernova for the first time and had probably never even heard of a Wonderwall.

Oasis poster (What's the Story) Morning Glory? Noel Gallagher, 2/10/1995, 2nd October 1995
Oasis release poster for (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

Continue reading Time’s No Chain: 20 years under the influence of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Lanky Londoners will be too tall for Tube

A SOURCE CLOSE TO CITY HALL has claimed that sections of the capital’s Underground network will be “obsolete” within 20 years if the average height of Londoners continues to grow at current rates.

Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London have been in secret talks to plan for a “taller passenger time-bomb” and have identified the Northern Line as particularly vulnerable.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, Tube, Underground
Boris Johnson: Tube

“Lanky Londoners”

Lanky Londoners like England footballer Peter Crouch are reckoned to have grown by an average of 4 inches in the past 100 years and at current rates of growth, many will find it hard to move but for the unpleasant smell of their fellow Englishmen’s blood.

Continue reading Lanky Londoners will be too tall for Tube

A Saturday at Saltergate: Where were you when you were shit?

As a lifelong QPR fan and an optimist who expects to be disappointed by life,  I’ve grown to expect little from away games than the inevitability that in the end, football will get in the way of a good day out.

On the very rare occasion that Queens Park Rangers play well enough for opposition supporters to ask “Where were you when you were shit?” my mind instantly takes me back to one cold and wet afternoon in Derbyshire . . .

Chesterfield 4, Queens Park Rangers 2

Continue reading A Saturday at Saltergate: Where were you when you were shit?