As the final chapter of 2020 comes to a close, it’s time for us to reflect on the past 12 months in the shirt world.
It’d be easy for me to roll out the usual cliches and say that it’s been a year like no other but in truth, 2020 has been reassuringly, well, normal when it comes to shirts. Though there was a noticeable dip in the quality of the photography that supported many big releases (something we talked about with pro photographer Robbie Barratt), and a few delays to release dates, we still had a full slate of kits to dissect and weigh up against each other.
That being said, shirts offered an escape to all of us at a time when we desperately needed it, and at this point I’d like to give a shoutout to the many in the community who helped keep us all sane over the past year. Through threads of kits that were being worn, to the conversations that were had about the most random shirts, and those who raised literally thousands of pounds through kits for worthy causes, it’s been a pleasure to be part of the kit community in 2020.
6 football shirts that defined 2020
There have been no shortage of storylines this year in terms of shirts and a number of exciting (or annoying, depending on your point of view) trends have built significant momentum. As has been said more than once, we are truly living in a post-Nigeria 2018 landscape with brands seeking to try and replicate the magic of the Naija revolution, and though there’ve been a few misses, there have also been a number of hits.
This hasn’t just been a year for crazy designs though, as we’ve also seen truly gorgeous kits whose story is told not through dazzling patterns or big-name collaborations, but refined, aesthetic beauty.
Here are 6 kits released this year which help tell the story of 2020.
2020 South Korea away kit - Nike’s commitment to change
At the start of the year, Nike made the now infamous statement that they would be “ditching the templates”. As we wrote about in our Nike season overview, this claim wasn’t as big of a departure as it might have seemed at the time, but it was still a significant sign of intent that the swoosh would be doing more to give their kits an identity amongst their vast portfolio.
South Korea were one such beneficiary, and when their 2020 kits dropped at the same time as Nigeria and USA, there was only one winner in my book. The Korean kits were magnificent in their colours, construction and patterns, and like the Naija collection of 2018 the shirts were ably supported by a fantastic range of jackets, training tops and even a baseball jersey.
Thankfully, the collection was a sign of things to come, and though not every Nike design was a success (looking at you Chelsea third kit…), there were a lot more hits than misses.
Like any industry, the path that the big players tred is the one others will walk down, and it’s a great thing for the shirt industry as a whole that Nike are taking more of a bespoke approach.
Long may it continue.
2020 Forward Madison third ‘Drip’ kit - Riding the wave
One growing trend in football has been the emergence of clubs who major on kits as a significant part of their identity. This is particularly prominent with lower league or non-league teams like A.S. Velasca in Italy and Providence City FC in the States. Forward Madison FC (also based in the U.S.) are another team who have set the community ablaze with their shirt creations, and anyone with even a passing interest in shirts will be familiar with their kits.
After a standout debut season of kits in 2019, 2020 brought with it the ‘Drip kit’, an incredible array and pinks and blues inspired by the technique of hydro dipping (dipping a canvas into a mixture of paint and water). The wild pattern is made even better by the fact that the pink portions of the kit evoke the club’s memorable flamingo crest.
Collectors across the world promptly snapped up the shirt, and there are few teams in world football who serve as a better example of how the wave of enthusiasm around shirts can be captured like lightning in a bottle by teams who are savvy to the power of exceptional shirt design.
It’d be easy to assume that wild shirt designs are reserved for teams outside the big leagues of Europe, but more and more teams at the very top of world football are throwing caution to the wind with their shirts.
Non-traditional shirt designs are nothing new (see various Barcelona kits, Juventus’ recent half and half effort etc.), but in 2020 we’ve seen a growing acceptance for the ‘disruptive design’ movement from top teams.
A notable example was Dortmund, a team who fully embraced the disruptive identity with a home shirt design which immediately drew comparisons to a Pokemon character. Across their shirt history Dortmund have played relatively fast and loose with everything from stripes, to pinstripes to gradients and all manner of sleeve patterns, but it’s still fair to say that the lightning bolt aesthetic of the 2020 kit is the sort of pattern we’d expect to have seen as a training shirt a few years ago, as opposed to the main kit.
There will always be a place in the shirt space for classy, understated designs (more on that later), but for now it’s clear that kits that stand out from the crowd are going to be mixed in liberally across all teams.
2020 Red Star FC away kit - Collaboration is the way
Collaborations are absolutely everywhere in football, and the first announcement of PSG x Jordan feels like ancient history in the light of the dozens upon dozens of subsequent deals that we’ve seen.
Some of the best collaborations aren’t the flashy combinations of big brand names, however. The best collaborations are often the ones where the stars of the show operate away from the limelight, and with that I offer up to you Red Star FC’s 2020 kits.
Though adidas are technically the kit manufacturers for Red Star, the magnificent, intricate pattern seen on both their home and away kits was actually designed by London design studio Acid FC. Combining elements of the club’s history and culture, the white and maroon away shirt in particular jumps out as a truly unique look; the kind which many adidas teams have been crying out for.
With incredibly large portfolios, the likes of Nike, adidas and Puma would do well to continue working with 3rd parties for some of their designs. It’s one of the best routes forward for the industry, in my opinion, and a move which will likely yield just as good, if not better, results than the big name collaborations which grab the headlines.
In 2020, we practically adopted Venezia as our team here at FSC, and those of you who follow us on social are probably a bit sick of us talking about Gli Arancioneroverdi. We make no apologies though: Venezia are proof that good shirt design doesn’t have to involve genre-bending patterns. Aesthetic excellence can be found in a strong colour scheme applied in a simple way.
The 2020 Venezia away kit in particular shone bright with it’s quintessentially Italian look of multiple horizontal bands, and indeed many of you snapped up the shirt after we decided to stock both Venezia shirts, so we could help bring some of the best kits of 2020 to UK collectors.
With the growing emergence of disruptive kits, shirts like the ones we saw from Venezia will provide some much needed balance.
For what it’s worth, both Venezia kits are available from our store here.
2020 Napoli Fourth kit - Diego Eterno
Napoli have unveiled a special fourth kit honouring Diego Maradona 💙
Wrapping up this list is Napoli, with one of the most memorable kits I’ve ever seen.
The passing of Diego Maradona a little under a month ago rocked the footballing world, and the subsequent shirt tributes that followed were amazing to see. Teams from all over the world nodded to the greatest footballer of all time in a variety of creative ways, and we even saw players celebrating in vintage shirts from different stages of Maradona’s career.
Perhaps the most poignant tribute came from the spiritual home of D10S, Napoli. The club which Maradona practically lifted up from obscurity honoured their best ever player with a kit combining elements of their shirts and the shirts of Argentina. The fact the design had been in the works for several months only added layers of poignancy to the shirt, and the narrative of the design is continuing to be written as we speak, with Napoli seemingly sticking with the 4th kit as their new home kit, wearing it beyond the initial remit of 1 game.
We’ll likely look back on this kit as one of the most significant designs of the past 5 years, and if any sort of trophy is added to its story, this will go down in shirt history.
See you in 2021
Though we’re not quite at the end of the 2020 tunnel, I want to take this opportunity to say another thank you for chatting with us and sharing our love for shirts this year.
We have big plans for Football Shirt Collective in 2021, and we have you all to thank for supporting us through reading a blog, buying a shirt, or simply liking a post on Twitter or Instagram.
One things for sure, if 2021 football shirts are anything like 2020 football shirts, we're in for a treat.
Take care and see you in the new year.
Some of these kits are well on their way to being Modern Classics. Browse our current Modern Classics collection here.