When a club makes the leap from Nike to adidas, or someone like New Balance swoops in to grab a big contract, my mind will instantly begin imagining the possibilities the new relationship will bring.
We’ve now had a few months to come to terms with the latest kit manufacturer switches of this year, and though there will be a smattering of yet-to-be-released 4th kits to round off the complete 2020/21 collection, now is as good a time as any to assess how brands have done in year 1 of their new deals.
Here are my top 10 favourite brand changes of 2020.
1. Everton x hummel
I was generally quite high on Everton’s spell with Umbro, but hummel’s takeover brought with it high expectations for shirt greatness. The Danish brand have more than met those expectations in my opinion, producing 3 fantastic shirts which feature a wide range of colours and a pleasing amount of chevrons.
Though not so much to my personal taste, the soundwave-adorned goalkeeper kits also offer a memorable, bespoke touch to proceedings, and despite my reservations the keeper shirts offer a great alternative to the more understated home, away and third kits.
And that’s exactly what I like about hummel’s debut collection; first year kits are typically quite plain (given the shorter turnaround for designs), but each of the designs look strong in their own right without the need for overly-forced, ‘disruptive’ patterns.
Things are shaping up very nicely for the next few seasons.
2. Boca Juniors x adidas
Boca Juniors are one of a number of teams on this list who have a distinctive style which should never be deviated from (see also Celtic, Sampdoria), and yet despite these ‘limitations’ adidas have found beauty in familiarity this year. I’d go as far as to say the home kit is a better sponsor away from kit perfection.
But of course, we have to get on to the away shirt. adidas have channeled the most famous design in their vast back catalogue, the Germany 88/90 pattern, with a striking Boca twist. The look is in fact one which the club enjoyed themselves in the late 80s, and though the oversized yellow section (to accommodate the sponsor) of the 2020 kit is ahistorical and a little jarring, it also adds something of a novelty value to the new look.
3. Watford x Kelme
Kelme have made a huge splash with Watford in 2020.
On paper, the move from adidas to the relatively smaller Spanish brand was a downgrade for The Hornets, but on the evidence of their 2020 kits I’d say the move has been a very successful one.
For all my occasional hate for disruptive designs, I can’t help but appreciate the wild, sunburst graphic on the home kit which feels very anime/comic book to me, in a good way. It’s not a perfect design, and the marl sleeves are a particularly unfortunate addition, but it’s a statement piece for a brand making a rare step into the world of English football.
In a rather shrewd move, the crazy home design has been complemented with a clean white away shirt, though even that has more going on that might appear at first glance, with an intricate knit texture seen throughout the body. A black third kit rounds things off very nicely.
4. Liverpool x Nike
(previously New Balance)
Without a doubt, the biggest brand switch of 2020 was Liverpool’s transfer to Nike. In fact, you could justifiably argue the new deal for the English champions was one of the biggest manufacturer changes we’ve ever seen, especially if you factor in the messy legal dispute that unfolded with previous partners New Balance.
All those things aside, were the new Nike kits actually any good? Mostly yes.
For the home kit, I was very happy to see the return of teal/green trim. The simple move was long overdue in my books, and though many people complained about the back of the collar and the simplicity of the overall aesthetic, I’d argue it was a good starting effort to build on in future years.
I’m similarly high on the away kit, which leans heavily into the experimental corner with a busy pattern in a vibrant teal colourway. But then there’s the third kit. The design is solely responsible for Liverpool being outside the top 3 in these rankings, and I’ve not grown any fonder of the clumsy look since its release. All of Nike’s worst construction features from this year have come together here (the collar, side panelling), and the checkerboard pattern does nothing for me either.
5. Celtic x adidas
(previously New Balance)
Celtic’s move to adidas was arguably even more anticipated that any of the other deals on this list, and the relationship has started off on a good note.
It’s a mercy that we’ve not seen any shenanigans with the hoops of the home kit (I was worried the Condivo template would be utilised to full, devastating effect), and the subtle touches of gold (and the clover detailing on the back) are welcome additions.
Both the away and third kits offer interesting alternatives, with the standout black third kit being a highlight with its simplified crest design and almost fluorescent details. I’m not as excited by the green on light green away kit (which leaves the collection feeling a bit too green), but it’s not a look you often see which is a positive for a brand like adidas who often stick closely to the rules.
6. PSV x Puma
Pound for pound, PSV’s home shirt could easily stake a claim as the best individual shirt on this list.
The club’s traditional stripes are joined by a quality matching black and white cuffs and collar design, and there’s even a subliminal pattern throughout the stripes themselves. It’s a textbook home shirt, and more bespoke than I’d expect for a 1st year effort.
In the away and third corners, both designs fall more in the middle of the pack. It’s the home that carries this set, but at the same time the other kits aren’t holding things back too much.
7. FC Twente x Meyba
(previously own brand)
Meyba are back in football.
The return of the storied brand at Dutch side FC Twente sent the football shirt world into something of a frenzy this summer. Twente are a great ‘stepping stone’ for the company as they make their way back, and though it seems unlikely they’ll ever return to the heights of Barcelona, the ambitious brand have all the tools to make something great happen.
It’s easy to overlook the home and away kits, but the retro taping design on the sleeves of both kits is a hint at what’s to come. The third is more of a talking point, with it’s asymmetric green and black look and a gradient fade, line-based pattern on the front. Though not as aesthetically pleasing as many of the other kits on this list, it’s good to see that Meyba don’t plan on solely relying on their vintage kits for design inspiration moving forward.
8. Leeds x adidas
The third adidas club on this list, Leeds’ new set of kits can be firmly placed in the ‘wait and see’ category. The home kit is a no thrills approach, the kind of which is common in year 1 of a new deal, and as has been a theme on this list I’m expecting more in future seasons.
I should also mention the away kit which, despite its relatively simple design, is a striking colour combination evoking memories of the blue and green kit the club had in the early 90s. It makes up for the lacklustre third kit which needlessly introduces maroon into the Leeds colour palette.
9. Fiorentina x Kappa
(previously Le Coq Sportif)
Fiorentina shirts are almost always top tier, but we’ll have to wait at least another season before we can consider a current Viola shirt in that category.
It’s admittedly quite a personal gripe, but I’m not keen on the flappy neckline seen on all three kits, and even though there’s a bit of a late 90s/early 00s vibe with the away shirt, and there are a pleasing amount of Kappa logos to be found across the board, I’m still left feeling quite underwhelmed as a whole.
Even a memorable ‘reverse Inter Milan’ cross kit can’t save this collection for me, although I’m generally a fan of Kappa’s work and (as much as I’ve said it a lot in this list) am expecting great things in years to come.
10. Sampdoria x Macron
I’d love to see one of the big three (Nike, adidas, Puma) tackling a Sampdoria kit, but for now we have to be content with the club moving just a rung or two up the brand ladder, switching from Joma to Macron.
Though it’s good to see Macron avoiding the sort of monstrosity we saw from the last Joma away kit, I’m not keen on the lower bands of colour for all three kits. I could forgive the move if the shirts were then left sponsorless, but the fact a very large (and very ugly) sponsor then occupies the space between the top details and the Sampdoria pattern is something of a shirt crime.
Check out our recent Season Overview series, which saw us take a look at the best and worst from all the major shirt manufacturers in 2020.