Rants and musings from the magazine team
Two decades of high-eyeball merchandising opportunities... sorry, team shirts have produced some crackers and some shockers. First, how it should be done...
Arsenal (H) 2000-2002The finite shelflife of modern kits help take you back to a certain time, and Arsenal's relatively shortlived sponsorship by Sega's ill-fated Dreamcast pins this kit to the dawn of the new century: Pires, Henry, Ljungberg, Vieira, Campbell, Cole and a third Double.
Aston Villa (A) 2009/10After two years of oppressively dark away kits, Villa's 2009 set paired simple dark blue shorts with a top of almost stunning simplicity: plain white with a subtle pinstripe and unfussy sponsor logo. The year after, they switched back to black and gained an ugly new sponsor. Never mind.
Blackburn Rovers (H) 1992/93Back to dark blue after a brief flirtation with a suspiciously sky-blue hue, Blackburn's first top-flight kit for 26 years paid much more reverence to the ancient halves than to the sponsors' red logo. Quite right, too: why bow to corporates when Uncle Jack's signing the cheques?
Chelsea (A) 2003/04Chelsea have had some awful away kits of late but this design was well-received. The central double stripe was eye-catching without being eye-watering, and even its slight similarity to an Embassy Regal cigarette packet was kinda retro.
Crystal Palace (H) 1997/98Few teams can have changed their colours more often than Palace, who have flitted between white, red and blue in various combinations. The late-90s dabbling with white shorts, socks and collars coincided with a top-flight season that begun with Steve Coppell and concluded with Lombardo, Brolin and ignominy.
Fulham (H) 2009/10After disastrous dalliances with asymmetry and overcomplication followed by back-to-basics plain white, Fulham got the balance right with this round-collared, black-sleeved effort. That it coincided with the greatest season in their history may be a happy accident or divine design approval.
Leeds United (H) 1993-1995New unfashionable sponsor, new unheralded kit-maker, new unprecedented horizontal stripe… it could have gone horribly wrong, but this blue-collared classic was a marvel of understated design. Sgt Wilko's team responded with two fifth-place finishes.
Leicester (H) 1996-1998A golden era for the Foxes, with the first silverware in a quarter-century and Martin O'Neill building a team featuring Heskey, Lennon, Claridge & Co. They lined up in this kit, with tasteful two-tone V-neck collar and cuffs and a sponsor logo yet to absurdly incorporate the sun.
Liverpool (H) 1995/96They like a bit of 'istoree at Anfield. After unfortunate early-90s kits majored on three intrusive diagonal white stripes, Adidas' final strip for a decade recalled the club's 70s pomp by relegating the manufacturer motif to a subtle sleeve-stripe and restoring the red hegemony everywhere except a bold white V-neck.
Manchester City (A) 2011/12If you have plans to conquer the continent, you can do worse than ape AC Milan. That was Malcolm Allison's idea in the late '60s, when City adopted Rossoneri stripes as an away kit – and won the league, FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup. This season's strip reverts to the popular theme.
Manchester United (H) 1998-2000Reeking of David Beckham, this kit strongly evokes the 1999 Treble-winning side – although in Europe the side wore a simpler version shorn of the black piping. The zip-up collar and elasticated cuffs even kept out the worst of the weather. Well, some of it.
Middlesbrough (H) 1992/93Although predominantly red since the 19th century, Boro have often been bold with wedges of white, and their kit for the Premier League's maiden season was a fine example. Lennie Lawrence's team wore proud splashes of white and that iconic ICI sponsor's logo.
Newcastle United (H) 1995-1997If the round white four-button collar lent this shirt a timeless quality, the Newcy Brown bottle label rendered its wearer almost a walking symbol of the city. And with attacking title campaigns, stunning record signings and dramatic managerial walkouts, everyone was watching Newcastle.
Nottingham Forest (H) 1992/93Compared to its magic-eye predecessor and black-swathed successors, this was a classy outfit for Brian Clough's final, relegation-doomed season. The buttoned red collar and subtle pinstripe were entirely suitable attire for Stuart Pearce and Roy Keane to wear while terrorising the division.
QPR (H) 1995/96The titular hoops have remained largely untouched, but this is our favourite iteration. The simple round blue collar and centralised badge marked a classy debut by kit manufacturers View From (who they?). Shame the team struggled without Sir Les Ferdinand and dropped out of the top flight.
Southampton (H) 1995-1997After two years of looking awful in Pony's first Saints kit with asymmetric stripes and a reverse tick at the top, Le Tiss & Co. were delighted to receive a back-to-basics affair with pleasing thin stripes and a retro collar. Just don't mention the Where's Wally socks.
Tottenham Hotspur (A) 2000/01You can tell a good away shirt when you hope for more kit clashes. Tottenham only had to wear this tasteful, regal dark blue outfit a handful of times and lost on each occasion – although they had unveiled it at the tail-end of the previous season with a home win against Sunderland. Oh well.
West Brom (H) 2002/03Boinging into their first top-flight season since 1986, the Baggies took kit design in-house and produced their best shirt in years. Tasteful stripes, no extraneous detail, simple collar... if only they hadn't finished 19th in it.
West Ham (H) 2001-03With Harry Redknapp, Rio Ferdinand and both Frank Lampards gone, this was a new era for West Ham under Glenn Roeder. With Paolo Di Canio looking more imperious than ever in two-tone round-neck, blue sleeves and white socks, the Hammers finished seventh, their second-highest position in 15 years… then got relegated the following season.
Wimbledon (H) 1993/94For the second Premier League season, Wimbledon acquired a sponsor and a new kit manufacturer, darkened the blue and added a tasteful yellow collar. It worked: fired by 24-goal Dean Holdsworth, the Dons finished sixth – as it turned out, their highest position.
And now the bad news: the 20 worst Premier League kits
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