Think of a 90s shirt and it probably has some sort of flamboyant pattern. Perhaps it’s incredibly baggy, or makes use of excessively large brand marks or logos. Or maybe it features a heart dose of taping.
In today’s Collectors Club Encyclopedia I want to explain exactly what shirt taping is, a feature which is unmistakably retro and eternally popular.
What is taping?
In the context of clothing, taping simply refers to a piece of fabric applied to a garment to cover a seam.
Though the area covered by the fabric can be any number of places on a particular piece of clothing, taping typically refers to the area along the arms between the neck and cuffs in the context of football shirts. This can also be referred to as shoulder-to-shoulder taping, even if the taping technically extends beyond the shoulders to the cuffs.
Shirt taping is not to be confused with athletic or kinesiology taping, which refers to the practice of applying tape to areas of the body in order to maintain stability. Think the often colourful examples that pro players use in the modern game.
Is a pattern down a sleeve considered taping?
Many football shirts over the years have featured patterns extending down the full length of the sleeves. Think hummel with their iconic chevrons, or brands like Kappa repeating their logo on sleeves.
Are these patterns or details considered as taping? Strictly speaking, if there hasn’t been an additional piece of fabric applied these sorts of patterns aren’t technically taping, and are more of a sort of ‘faux’ taping. However, when you have something like a repeating pattern or brand logo across the central portion of the sleeves, it is often referred to as taping.
Which brands are famous for taping?
Two brands immediately spring to mind. The first is one we’ve already mentioned, Kappa.
Images of late 90s Kappa x Real Betis shirts jump to mind immediately, where the repeated Kappa logos on the sleeves created a busy but memorable aesthetic. Though many of the shirts featured subliminal logos in a ‘faux taping’ style rather than taping in the strictest sense, the Kappa x Betis era is symbolic of the design approach and often referred to in the modern game.
For another famous brand, how about Champion? There’s only one team we can talk about when referring to Champion, and that is of course Parma. The legendary Italian side looked unstoppable in their iconic blue and yellow hoops, and many a Parma home shirt from that time featured taping bearing the Champion logo.
Why do we not see as much taping?
The biggest reason we don’t see taping anymore like we did in the 90s is quite simply due to the much tighter restrictions brands are faced with in the modern game.
Most leagues and continental organisations force brands to adhere to strict guidelines surrounding the size and placement of any brand marks. We’ve even seen subliminal patterns that featured brand marks banned, even though these logos are considerably harder to see compared to the sorts of things we saw in the 90s.
In one sense taping can still be found in the form of non-brand specific patterns, but even these are hard to find as a lot of competitions require free real estate on the sleeves for things like patches or sponsors.
Where can I find shirts with taping?
All hope is not lost, though. Despite the rarity of classic taping when it comes to match shirts, many brands have taken it upon themselves to utilise the style throughout their training wear.
The most famous example is our old friends Kappa, who have majored on retro 90s aesthetics to great effect over recent seasons. Many fans have swooned over various Kappa training jackets and shirts, which have been free to add as many Kappa logos as they like because of the lack of restrictions when it comes to training wear and even pre-match wear.
So, if you want to get your taping fix and you’re not ready to invest into a vintage piece, you’re best off looking out for training or lifestyle pieces.