At the start of the year, I praised Umbro for their work in the 2018/19 season. In my books they were the story of the football shirt season, with their gorgeous template (you know, the one with the amazing cuffs) working wonders for virtually every club in their portfolio.
From Everton to Grêmio, Umbro teams soon became the envy of shirt fans across the glove. In all honesty I thought we were seeing the highpoint for the brand, a peak which would inevitably be followed by a couple of years operating more in the middle of the pack.
However, deep into the 2019-20 shirt release season the story is completely different. Umbro are doing the unthinkable: they’re raising their game and arguably going one better than 2018. They are once again the clubhouse leaders when it comes to shirt design, with a range of looks showcasing creativity, variety and quality.
So which shirts exemplify their dominance in particular?
Let’s take a look.
2019-20 PSV Away
My favourite Umbro shirt so far this summer is the 2019/20 PSV away shirt.
The best thing about the black and orange design is that it combines both a memorable recurring design element for the team and some fresh thinking in the form of a bold new colourway.
Firstly in regards to the recurring design element, we have a warped checkerboard pattern covering both sleeves. PSV have had many check-flavoured kits over the years, but the latest rendition is a flamboyant take which reminds me of what Croatia did with their 2016 home shirt.
The familiar checkboard is given even more life thanks to a black and orange colour scheme, a combo not previously associated with PSV. It’s a smart look, and one which naturally wouldn’t look out of place as an away shirt for the Netherlands national team, but given the very ‘PSV’ checks and the fact this sits alongside a more traditional home kit, it’s a decision I love.
This isn’t a shirt that’ll shout about its greatness, but it’s the sort of thoughtful and well-executed idea which really appeals to me.
2019-20 West Ham Away
Another shirt which deserves to be talked about is West Ham’s new away shirt. In truth, both their new home and away shirts have lots going for them, but it’s the away that caught my eye in particular.
Two areas which can make or break a shirt design are the sleeve cuffs and the collar. If either of these isn’t quite right, it can be hard to claw things back with the rest of the shirt. Umbro didn’t just get the West Ham away shirt cuffs and collar right though, they’ve set the bar for this season.
The colour, size, placement and consistency of every element of this shirt is spot on in a way which most other shirts fail to achieve. Even the sponsors don’t detract, folding in well thanks to their simple black fill. I’m struggling to think of many better West Ham shirts since the 80s, and when the dust settles I expect this to be one of the most popular designs in both the Premier League and further afield.
2019-20 Hull City Home
Many brands are top heavy in their approach to kits. A few of the ‘big boys’ with receive considered, bespoke designs whilst the rest of the pack are effectively lumped with second-class team wear.
Not Umbro though. Some of their best work is found outside the top divisions, and Hull City embody this approach to perfection.
I mean, someone has finally gone and remade Hull’s legendary early 90s tiger striped monstrosity/masterpiece. Umbro’s 2019 take is perhaps more of an approximation that doesn’t hit the heights of what we saw in 1993, but this is still a tasteful job which was long overdue. It’s not perfect, with the trapezium below the neckline not working as well as it does with PSV’s shirt, but there are precious few blemishes on what is a fun look at the opposite end of the spectrum to the clean-cut West Ham designs.
There are many high profile releases still to come, and a lot can change in the space of weeks, but I hope you can see that even in just these few kits, there is a lot to like with what Umbro are doing in 2019.
Look and learn everyone else.
How do you rate this seasons Umbro releases? Let us know in the comments below.
And check out some of the Umbro jerseys in our collection of vintage football shirts, ranging from the 90s up to present day. Browse them all here.