In what is a first for FSC Approved, I’m picking out more than one shirt to highlight in today’s piece. In fact, I’m picking out all four of the 2020 Inter kits, because to talk about just one of the designs individually would be a disservice to what the club and Nike have tried to achieve this year.
For the 2020/21 season, Inter Milan took an almighty gamble with their shirts, and it has paid off spectacularly.
Let me set the scene. Heading into the 2020 season Inter were riding on something of a shirt high. Their 2019/20 collection had made waves in the kit community, with the minty green away and memorable black and yellow Pirelli-themed third kit being two of the most talked about kits at the time. Both sold out early (and remain highly sought-after collectors items), and even the home kit with its unusual diagonal central band aesthetic made a statement.
Most clubs would follow up this relatively non-traditional set of kits with something geared more towards the reserved end of the spectrum, but Inter and Nike had other plans. Instead of playing it safe to appease traditionalists they doubled down on the different, and 2020/21 has raised the creative bar to new heights.
To understand the story Inter are trying to tell, you have to look at the story of the Memphis design movement. As a reaction to the relatively bland, muted design approaches of the 70s, the Memphis Group (a design and architecture group founded in Milan by Ettore Sottsass) set about flipping the script with an approach that majored on eccentric geometric shapes and vibrant, in-your-face colour palettes. Far from being a local endeavour, the work of the group became renowned around the world, and today the collective is still held up as a seminal movement across the history of design, inspiring many modern artists who continue to carry the torch in 2021.
Place any of the Inter home, away or 4th kits next to pictures of work from the Memphis design movement or work that's been directly inspired by Memphis and see the connection for yourself. The zig-zags from the home kit, the grid of the away, the seemingly random shapes of the 4th; all of these motifs look like they’ve been lifted from the 80s and reinterpreted through the medium of football shirts, albeit with a distinctively “Inter” colour scheme.
The third kit breaks the mould somewhat by bringing back the popular 1997 grey and black hooped shirt, a design already referenced once before during the Total 90 era of the mid 00s. There’s a pleasing synergy to the new third kit, not least because the theme has only been replicated a couple of times in a quality over quantity approach that’s often missing in the shirt world. This historical callback was a predictable slam drunk with fans and shirt fanatics, and the release looks even better because it sits amongst the wild designs of the rest of Inter’s shirt collection.
With a potential league title on the way, the already memorable set of designs is likely to go down as one of the most significant groups of kits we’ve seen this side of the millenium. The fact that Inter embarked on this project during the same season as a crest rebrand shows a complete lack of fear which has to be commended (or a demonstration of stupidity, depending on your inclination).
Whatever you think of the finished products, or the fact teams now happily release unnecessary 4th kits (though thankfully Inter are at least wearing theirs in a competitive fixture…), don’t fall into the trap of writing off Nike’s 2020 Inter kits are nothing more than a random, experimental marketing gimmick.
There’s a distinctively Milanese story being told, and though the aesthetics of said story might be a little bit too much for some to stomach, I’m giving the protagonists all the credit in the world for taking the leap.
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.