Norwich show us all how it’s done with their 2021 special edition shirt

FSC Approved – 2021 Norwich City special edition shirt

When it comes to shirts, Norwich are often good value on account of their distinctive yellow and green colour scheme. I was already high on their 2020/21 efforts from Italian brand Erreà, not least for the creativity and diversity on display across home, away and third kits, but last month we saw a new design thrown into the already strong mix.

Norwich’s special edition kit is the perfect example of a special edition shirt done right.

The category of 4th kits is a controversial one in the footballing world. Given that virtually every team doesn’t strictly need a 3rd kit, and some could even get away playing the majority of their games in just their home kit, the growing number of 4th/5th/nth designs in a team’s stable is becoming something which even the most progressive of fans are questioning.

What Norwich have done however with their latest special edition kit is an example to all other brands.

For starters, any good shirt has a story attached to it and alongside a host of other clubs this season Norwich have taken the opportunity to nod to their fans.

Though fans have been unable to attend matches this season, the loyalty and commitment many have shown has not gone unnoticed. The passion of fans has been captured through a busy tonal graphic of the fans themselves at Carrow Road, and though the design will not appeal to all I’m a big fan of the finished product which has a sort of busy, camouflage like aesthetic from a distance.

Another key detail to highlight is the absence of the usual sponsors. In a move which deserves all the plaudits, club partners included Dafabet were happy to step aside for this shirt. Many sponsors are keen to keep their shirts on anything a club produces, and they are within their rights to do so, but a voluntary removal is great to see, especially on a shirt as busy as this.

I haven’t even got to the best bit; the price of the shirt. At just £30 for adults and £25 for juniors, the pricing of the special edition kit is something quite unlike what we’re used to seeing at the top of the game. Given that teams often charge more than double for a replica home shirt, let alone a limited edition kit, it’s an immense demonstration that there is more to football kits than just profits.

Of course, you could rightly highlight that this shirt is superfluous given its shared colour scheme with the home shirt, but we should then ask what a football shirt is supposed to be? Is it strictly to distinguish teams from one another, or is it something more? I don’t want to get into that for this piece, but given the proliferation of 4th kits this season it’s something we’ll have to address soon…

Looking back at the Norwich City special edition shirt, £5 from every sale was committed to local fan groups and initiatives, a further example that the club’s thanks to the fans was more than just lip service.

Crucially, the 2021 Norwich City special edition shirt was worn in a competitive game last week against Reading. 4th kit or special edition kits that aren’t worn in a competitive game always fall a little bit flat, as they could be looked at as little more than a training shirt or pre-match shirt. A design worn in even just one game automatically holds more value for fans or collectors, and indeed Norwich solidified the legacy of the shirt with a 4-1 win and subsequent promotion celebrations.

Before I finish, a brief note on the limited nature of the shirt. Many fans were understandably frustrated that they were unable to get their hands on the special edition kit, after a frantic rush which saw the shirt sold out in a matter of hours. It was no surprise given the price of the shirt, the strength of the design and the success Norwich have enjoyed on the pitch this season, and no doubt many people picked up the shirt who aren’t even Norwich fans.

Should a club release shirts of this nature to fans only, in a similar way to something like the Coventry City 4th shirt from this season which was only available to members?

In my mind, a combination of the two approaches would be best. Offer a shirt like this to members first (perhaps even with a discount, if it wasn’t already so cheap like the Norwich City special edition), and then do a limited run for general sale. That way you can give your committed supporters the opportunity first as a thank you, but also avoid excluding fans who perhaps don’t have a season ticket or club membership, or others who simply want to own the shirt.

Football shirts are not just for fans of specific clubs; the explosion of the replica market in the 70s is proof of that. But, fans are in danger of being left behind in the dust as clubs scramble to capitalise of the growing market of football shirts and football shirt collecting.

Regardless, I’m thoroughly impressed with what Norwich have done with the release of their 2021 special edition kit. It’s a creative, bespoke design which has been priced at a level which should force others to sit up and take notice.


What is FSC Approved?

What makes a football shirt good? It’s a purely subjective question, right?

Whilst there are indeed a lot of subjective elements when it comes to shirts, there are still factors to consider. Sometimes, a design is notable for its unique aesthetic. The colourway, pattern or construction may have gone where no shirt dared to go before it, or it might simply be a particularly good utilisation of a classic approach. Other times, a legendary player elevates a design to immortality, even if the design in question would’ve been hard to pick out of a crowd before.

Our series FSC Approved will be a lovingly curated list of shirts that deserve to be in the conversation as good, possibly even great football shirts, no matter who you support or what your taste in shirts is. Old classics, new contenders, if it’s FSC Approved it’s as close to a certified banger as you can get.

Phil Delves

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