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  • by Phil Delves March 03, 2023 3 min read 1 Comment

    For the past 5 years, adidas have been hard at work draining as much as they can from the retro well. The now-yearly tradition of a nostalgic lifestyle collection is undoubtedly fun, but the feeling of being stuck in a never-ending echo chamber has never been stronger.

    I wanted to take a brief look back at some of the different Icons collections we've seen, and rant a little about how change is needed.

    A brief history of adidas Icons

    real madrid icons 2018

    Retro collections have been around for much longer than 5 years, but 2018 marked the start of adidas current 'Icons' project. The debut set kitted out the brand's major teams in simple crewneck affairs which kept largely to the traditional aesthetics of the different teams, with the most divergent being the Real Madrid Icons kit which featured a central, Boca Juniors style band in blue. Also interesting to note was the Bayern Munich design, which bore resemblance to the 120th Anniversary kit the club released 2 years later.

    bayern munich icons 2018bayern munich 120th anniversary

    Though the 2018 collection was not as clearly tied to a particular era as some of the later collections would come to be, the broad aesthetic of this first set with the crew necks, largely plain bodies and lack of obvious three stripe detailing was reminiscent of adidas' early 70s kits.

    arsenal icons 2019arsenal 90s away

    In 2019, there was a natural progression as the Icons collection jumped forward to the late 80s/early 90s, when shadow stripes and pinstripes were the name of the game. Arsenal immediately joined the party having just signed from the Puma, with a pleasing yellow and navy combo. This particular collection was one of the more forgettable ones, but it was pleasing to see that the shirts were available in long sleeve by default.

    with a little bit of Teamgeist

    teamgeist retro collection

    The collection which brought the echo-chamber home for many people was the Teamgeist collection released at the end of 2021. Though not strictly a 'Icons' collection, the set was reminiscent of the other Icons packages with a portfolio wide release that repackaged brand identities within a specific style. Unlike some of the more vague stylisations of the past there was a clear link to the mid-00s Teamgeist template this time.

    arsenal teamgeistarsenal highbury shirt

    Many people commented on the fact that the Teamgeist template, though memorable, didn't carry with it the same kind of nostalgia that adidas templates from previous decades commanded. It was also unusual to see clubs in Teamgeist shirts who were not with adidas during the 00s. Arsenal's kit, in the colours of the iconic Maroon and Gold Highbury tribute kit, was an interesting experiment but the resulting shirt ended up looking quite bland.

    And so we come to the latest collection released this week. We've back in early 90s, specifically the period around 1993/1994 with the three stripes template made famous by various kits at USA 94. Italy were the highlights here, despite being ahistorical, whilst Bayern Munich's version resurrected one of the great away colour schemes the club has ever had.

    adidas icons 2023

    Time to move on

    There are still historical templates that adidas could tap into if they wanted to (they most likely will), so in that sense the well they keep returning to isn't strictly speaking 'dry', but the approach of bringing back an old template is an idea that is very much 'dry'. When will the next great templates be developed? What would an Icons pack released in 2033 or 2043 even look like, given the relatively stale developments we've seen over the past decade or so.

    I praised adidas last year for their developments not least through their World Cup kits, but releases like the Icons collection remind me of my least favourite aspects of the football shirt industry. It's the equivalent of those 'Boxing Day 1963' tweets you see each and every year. We get it, we've seen it before. Let's have something new please.

    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.

    1 Response

    Olivier Cloutier
    Olivier Cloutier

    March 21, 2023

    Hi there! I always enjoy reading your stories. I came across a strange thing that I never seen before nor can I find any information about it. Given your passion and experience maybe you could tell. I found a 2013 Adidas MLS Montréal Impact third jersey (player issue or authentic if you prefer). I’m 100% sure it’s genuine. It seems totally new and never worn (the sponsor is prestine and was known to go bad after only a wash). What leaves me mesmerised is that there is a collar tag but with absolutely nothing written on it and there was never any tags attached to it (no hole). I’m 100% sure it is genuine so, could it be an early sample? Have you ever come across an Adidas shirt like that? Thanks for your imput from a football shirt lover to another.

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