My first football shirt: Rob Warner

Imagine designing a World Cup winning shirt and then adding in the colours of your favourite team, just because you can. That’s exactly what Aston Villa fan and former football shirt designer Rob Warner did.

We spoke to Rob for the launch of Your First Football Shirt, an illustrated book of interviews with footballers and famous fans raising money for CALM and Willow. You can still grab a copy of the book today, and here’s an excerpt from the book to whet the appetite.

Q: What was your first shirt? Is there a story behind it?

My first shirt was the 1987-88 Aston Villa home shirt made by Hummel. It was an absolute belter. I had it for Christmas. Full kit. I was allowed to be a full-kit wanker because I was eight. I drew an “8” on the back (for David Platt) with a marker pen.

Q: What is your favourite shirt? Why is it your favourite?

I would have to say Peru because that sash is so identifiable from the Seventies and Eighties. The best was the Adidas one with a honking great big crest on it from 1978.

Italy 2006 away was probably the favourite shirt I’ve designed. The technical brief was to get the players to run faster.

We collaborated with designer Neil Barrett and he came up with the aesthetics of superheroes. We added navy lines to the appearance of the home kit to make it look like the players were moving, even when still. The white away shirt was meant to be an alter ego to the home shirt. It was like a superhero costume with a V-neck t-shirt overshirt.

I put the coaches and goalie in claret and blue because I’m a Villa fan. And I could. So Italy won the World Cup in Villa colours.

Q: What is your favourite football moment?

My old man is quite a bit older than me. Villa got to Wembley in 1996 and he’d never been. I was a season-ticket holder and I managed to get him a ticket. I met him outside the stadium and he was crying.

In terms of one memory, I remember being able to stay up for England v Belgium in Italia 90. When Platt scored that volley, as a Villa fan, it was super special.

Thanks to Rob for sharing his stories with us, not least the fact that Villa basically won the 2006 World Cup by proxy!

Rob spoke to us more in a recent interview, bringing us up to date with what he’s been up to in 2021. We talked about Spark Design Academy, an initiative set up by Rob Warner and his long-term partner Craig Buglass which aims to educate and inspire budding kit designers, as well as more behind-the-scenes stories from Rob’s time at Puma and Umbro.


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