From Sportswear to Leisurewear: The Evolution of English Football League Shirt Design in the Replica Kit Era




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Taylor and Francis



Peer reviewed



The football shirt is of iconic significance, defining a club's visual identity through its role as sporting uniform and fan identifier, providing a canvas for commercial interactions and increasingly acting as the focus of nostalgia and collector culture. In this article we focus on the football shirt's extension from sportswear to a replica product worn as cross-generational leisurewear. We first consider how a replica's authenticity, its principal attribute, exists in objective, constructive and existential contexts. We then demonstrate how the subsequent focus of kit manufacturers and clubs on satisfying these differing interpretations of authenticity has influenced football shirt design. For two decades, replica kits were marketed as sportswear to children, with attempts to enhance the football shirt's authenticity through distinctiveness and exclusivity leading to copyrighted designs, manufacturer's logos and increased patterning. However, as the replica football shirt became adult leisurewear, the changing customer base led to retrospective and recycled shirt designs proclaiming a club's distinct identity through its heritage, fulfilling fans' nostalgic interpretations of a club's authentic kit, and reflecting fans' use of replica shirts to display their authenticity as a genuine fan. These ideals have also inspired a parallel retro-replica industry and, we argue, caused stagnation in the development of the aesthetic elements of contemporary kit design, which had previously demonstrated innovation interspersed with periods of consolidation, but had taken few retrospective turns. Genuine innovation in football shirt design has increasingly become restricted to technological advances and marketing strategies.



football, shirt, Premier League, Football League, replica, colour, branding, design


Stride, C., Williams J., Moor, D. and Catley N. (2015) From Sportswear to Leisurewear: The Evolution of English Football League Shirt Design in the Replica Kit Era. Sport in History, 35 (1) pp. 156-194


Research Institute