Football fashion focus – the rise of 90s retro football shirts

Posted on 25 January 2022
By Joe Zebedee
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Football shirts have enjoyed a meteoric rise from casual sportswear to desirable fashion garments, with ‘classic’ football shirts now becoming expensive collectors items.

Openly supporting a football team today is completely fine, even wearing shirts in areas where wearing you would be advertising you’re a fan of a rival club.

But it wasn’t always like this… so how did we get from the formal era of wearing a suit and hat to watch a game, to sporting a remake of your team’s third kit from the 90’s?

It could be argued the 1980s were football’s darkest decade. Rampant hooliganism and disasters such as Hillsborough and the Bradford stadium fire, put a black mark against the game in the most people’s minds.

Hooliganism became synonymous with the game. Organised hooligans caused dread for non-match goers who had only heard horror stories of the destruction that could be caused by warring ‘firms’.

These hooligans could be identified by their clothes. Specially selected items, which wouldn’t have been worn by a normal fan.

In a time where the world was larger, going on an away trip to Europe was an eye opener for fans. All of a sudden people found themselves in a world of stylish fashion, the likes of which they couldn’t find at home.

Brands such as Sergio Tacchini, Fila and Ellesse were seen as treasures brought back from the continent and became badges of prestige and wealth.

Gone were the clunky Doc Martens boots and bomber jackets of the skinheads, expensive style was the new hallmark for hooligans.

The 90’s would be a refreshing period for the sport, Hooliganism’s heyday had been and gone, more money in the sport created a more glamorous product. Overall there was a feel good factor.

Fashionable brands started making football shirts to capitalise on surging demand. During this period Adidas first produced their now highly nostalgic kits, featuring bold, big stripes.
Nike spotted the opportunity to supply the shirts for the iconic Brazil teams of the era and the popularity of Italian football, gave Fila and Champion a platform to showcase their respective designs.

Shirts from the 90s are very popular today, with prices ranging from £100 and even higher – for harder to obtain items, which are now considered collector’s item.

I started a collection with a few 90’s shirts, for context I was born after the 90’s, so they hold no nostalgia. But I love a 90’s shirt.

Unlike modern kits, 90’s shirts are very comfortable for everyday wear, and for the most part have a greater attention to detail (see pictures above).

Today, football kits are very different. The technology in materials now makes for tight fitting, lightweight shirts akin to gymwear.

Rather than the baggy shirts of the 90s, made of thicker fabrics. Although in recent years you may have noticed more retro designs on the kits.

This isn’t a coincidence or laziness on the designers’ part. Clubs and brands have realised that tapping into fan nostalgia means more sales.

If you can’t get hold of an actual 90’s shirt, don’t worry – companies such as Scoredraw will probably have done a repro version.

The clubs themselves may have released their own versions, or done the aforementioned trick of having their new kit look reminiscent to an iconic kit of yesteryear.

Like the exotic tracksuits worn by fans in the 80’s, having an expensive football shirt is a sign of prestige, be it a rare shirt from the 90’s or a brand new shirt selling for close to the same price.

They’re no longer just for wearing to play 5 a-side or going on a run, a whole outfit for any occasion can be built around the right football shirt.