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  • by Phil Delves February 11, 2022 5 min read

    Let’s face it, in a few years time we might need to form some sort of ‘collectors anonymous. The football shirt collecting scene has exploded in a big way over the past couple of years, and with every new collector we have one more person potentially wandering dangerously close towards an addiction to polyester.

    Though I’m largely joking, addiction to buying football shirts is very much a thing, and today in Collectors Club I want to touch on the topic of addiction. Why are we so addicted to buying shirts, and what can we do if we feel like we’re losing control?

    Why is shirt collecting so addictive?

    Shirt collecting is addictive on a scientific level. Many of you will be familiar with dopamine, the neurotransmitter which our brains send out on a regular basis. When we purchase something we get what’s often referred to as a dopamine rush; a surge of chemical messages in anticipation of what’s due to arrive through our letterbox.

    This rush can be a great source of excitement, but that ‘high’ we get can be as much of a blessing as a curse. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves chasing that rush by buying something just for the sake of buying something. Sometimes the shirt we’re buying becomes secondary to the fact we’ve just bought anything at all, and if we’re not careful our interest can morph into an addiction (we’ll talk at the end of this piece about how to curb a growing addiction).

    A never-ending road

    new shirt collection

    With a lot of collecting hobbies, there’s a definitive end point. If you start a Panini album for a particular tournament, there are X number of stickers you need to collect before you can call it a day, until the next tournament of course. For football shirts though, it’s a little more complicated.

    In theory there is a number for all the football shirts that have ever been made, but in practice that number is virtually impossible to nail down. With so many shirts and variations of shirts around the world, even the biggest collectors will just be scratching the surface of what is possible to collect. 

    This could be seen as a negative; a frustrating fact which makes the whole activity of collecting seem somewhat pointless. I’d look at it the other way though and say that the never-ending nature of football shirt collecting makes it exciting. There is always something new to discover, something new to add. We’ll never exhaust the well because it is so deep.

    Of course, to help combat this you can look to collect particular sets as a collector, say all the home shirts from the 1992 Premier League season, or every Parma shirt that’s ever been made. These sorts of goals can be invaluable in giving focus and providing some sort of structure within the immense possibilities.

    The nostalgia of football shirts

    I observed a clear trend when the pandemic began. When everyone was having to stay at home, all sorts of people came out of the woodwork to enter the football shirt community. It was a joy to behold. Many people who had always had a fondness for kits were amazed to see that there were hundreds of us already talking about them online. When people were stuck at home, they went up to their attic to dig out that box of shirts from the 90s, they hunted eBay to try and recapture a lost kit love from their childhood.

    retro shirt collection

    One of the reasons football shirts are so enticing is because they hold so many memories. Whether from a game we attended or of a player we used to love watching, each shirt can conjure up so much emotion. This draw undoubtedly hooked many people a couple of years ago, and it has been a key reason for starting a collection for many more years before that.

    It’s funny to think that they’ll be kids growing up today who’ll one day reminisce about the shirts of the 20s. This cycle will continue and shirts will be there to tell the story each step of the way.

    How do you curb an addiction to shirts?

    Let’s finish with a serious question, how do you curb an addiction to buying football shirts? Though it might sound silly, a hobby of buying shirts can, if left unchecked, spiral out of control. I appreciate this might seem strange coming from a site that is centred around football shirts and buying shirts, but we owe it to everyone to encourage wise spending and healthy buying habits.

    The first and often most difficult step you ought to take is to take a frank, honest look at exactly what you’re spending. It’s easy to fall into habits of buying every shirt we see, without any consideration for how much the shirt actually is, but take a step back and see what your typical monthly outgoings are. Once you have a rough figure, you can then weigh this against what money is coming in every month. We’ll cover budgeting in more detail in a later Collectors Club, but hopefully this is enough of a nudge to take action in this area.

    football shirt addiction

    Once we know what sort of budget you’re working with, consider freeing up cash by parting with shirts you already own, rather than always buying new shirts. The next, new thing is often most attractive, but if you have several shirts sitting in a wardrobe which you’ve never worn you might be better off selling those shirts to fund new purchases. Many collectors like to keep hold of every purchase you make, but taking a more ‘fluid’ approach to your growing haul can reap huge benefits when it comes to being able to afford shirts.

    Though lots of people joke about keeping their spending habits a secret from their friends or significant others, one of the best ways you can curb an addiction to spending is to hold yourself accountable with someone else. Whether a fellow collector or someone who has no interest in buying shirts, being open about that mystery package on the doorstep can help you to self-evaluate whether a purchase is really necessary in the first place. 

    This doesn’t mean you need to provide weekly spreadsheets with all your incoming and outgoing purchases, but a simple text or conversation about what you’re thinking of buying can help you avoid impulse purchases which you’ll regret later.

    Finally, if you feel out of control when it comes to spending you might want to consider just taking a break from the ‘game’. Collecting is often a long-term pursuit, but during that pursuit a break can be the best thing for your enjoyment and mental health. 

    Consider unfollowing social media accounts who push deals, or even coming off social media altogether for a time. Time the opportunity to reflect, re-energise, and enjoy the shirts you already have. Hopefully some of the things I’ve said in this section have been helpful if you are looking to slow down. If you still need support, can I point you in the direction of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a wonderful charity who we’ve worked with here at FSC. Help is out there.

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    Phil Delves
    Phil Delves

    As Head of Content, Phil is the creative playmaker of the team, covering every angle of football shirt news in our blogs and weekly Newsletter. Whether it's telling your fakes from your authentics, or deep dives into the newest football shirts designs, Phil will have all your football shirt content needs covered.