Flicking through Adam Powley and Martin Cloake’s Tot-tastic trivia tome The Spurs Miscellany, my attention was drawn to the illustrative spread showing the different shirts the club has worn since its inception in 1882.

Until the adoption of the famous white shirt and blue shorts, Spurs flirted with some pretty dubious designs. These ranged in style from Blackburn-like blue and white to a schizophrenic period during which, what looks alarmingly like terracotta and mauve hoops, made way for terracotta and mauve stripes (I can only assume they had a job lot of fabric and fancied a variation on a theme). The penultimate design though really took the biscuit; think Blackburn, but half poo brown and half custard yellow. No really.

Even more disturbingly, the Victorian Hotspurs took to the field in a red shirt, albeit briefly.

Thankfully commonsense kicked in at the start of the 1898 season and the blueprint for what we see today was introduced. Mystifyingly however, the poo and custard top was retained as our ‘change’ shirt until 1957. And who said the 1970s was the era that taste forgot? But more of that later.

Now I’m no historian, but I’m guessing that replica shirts weren’t all the rage in the late 1800’s, given that Messrs Whelan and Ashley’s retail emporiums didn’t litter every high street. So why did we radically change shirt designs several times before the turn of the century? Was it a cunning ploy to confuse opposing teams as to who they were playing, or merely the football equivalent of the Milan/Paris/London catwalks, where each season, utterly impractical creations are paraded as though they were Michelangelo paintings?

Things settled down sartorially at the Lane for the following 47 years and the plain white shirt and blue shorts soon became synonymous with Spurs. I guess the odd seasonal tweak here and there paled into insignificance next to the small matter of two World Wars…

Since 1957, the players have turned out in a plethora of different designs, some good, some distinctly bad. Not surprisingly in a less cynical era for the game, the design barely altered until the dawn of the 80’s and in 1983, Tottenham joined the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United in splashing the cash (Holsten) across the shirt. Pandora’s Box was officially open for business.

Now you don’t have to be a maths genius (I’m not) to work out that since sponsors logos started appearing, the rate of new shirt (and shorts and socks) designs has gone a bit Harry and Billy. Home kits, away kits, even third kits, we are all aware it’s basically a licence to print money. The obvious danger of this seasonal obsession with hue and pattern tinkering though is that sometimes it all goes wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong…

So in a tribute to those kit (yes I did say kit) designers who were either sartorially challenged or tragic victims of one too many acid trips, let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of the most heinous fashion crimes committed in the name of football. Be warned: you may need dark glasses and/or a packet of Nurofen.

Starting of course with our nearest but most definitely not dearest neighbours…

Arsenal 1991: ‘The bruised banana’

You know how it is; you want to eat your five-a-day, but it’s so damn hard cramming twenty grapes into your gob on top of a Chicken Tikka Masala. So to appease your inner Jamie Oliver, you stuff a nice fresh banana into your satchel before setting off for work, only to discover it putrefying several days later. This presumably was the Eureka moment for the bozo that designed the Gooners 1991 abomination. Truly vile…

Aston Villa 1994: ‘Muller yoghurt carton’

Not satisfied with having the name of the sponsor emblazoned across their chests, the Villa took product placement to new levels of absurdity in ’94 by actually attempting to resemble the top of a yoghurt carton. The design team also clearly weren’t familiar with the old saying ‘red and green should never be seen’. Or maybe they were just being radical and edgy.

Hull 1992: ‘Down tiger’

Brian Ferry circa 1973 looked chic in tiger stripes; Hull’s players circa ’92 did not. Hordes of bison reportedly fled in terror at the sight of the Hull team running toward them (okay they would have done had there been bison in the Humber region)

Hull’s nickname is of course ‘The Tigers’ so the designers showed incredible imagination with this kitsch little number. I’d love to see what concoction they’d dream up for Man United.

Norwich 1993: ‘Jackson Pollock’

No I’m not employing rhyming slang to disparage this hideous effrontery to football shirts, merely attempting to give reason and meaning where there appears to be none. The other distinctly weird thing about this top is the sponsors logo, which reads, Norwich (so far so good) and Peterborough Building Society! Aren’t Posh entitled to half of the sponsors mullah?

‘90’s bad, ‘70’s too bad.

Now as I stated earlier, the 1970’s was supposedly the era that taste forgot. So why is it that all of the worst designs emanate from the 90’s? (Don’t even get me started on the ‘graphite and tangerine’ Chelsea shirt)

Coventry City’s 1978 chocolate brown shirt often appears in worst ever kit lists, but personally I think it’s bad – bad in a ‘70’s Superfly/Shaft kind of way. You could imagine strutting your stuff down the street wearing that bad muthaf***** with a pair of cream polyester hipsters and stack heels. Maybe distance has lent a certain retro irony to the style, but I spent the best part of the 1990’s trawling charity shops looking for that exact design…

And the winner/loser of the worst design is…why the ‘bruised banana’ of course.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Nice article, but I have to correct your historical research somewhat (because I’m a sad ba5tard): In the seventies sartorial elegance was defined with high waistbands (the higher the better) not hipsters. Eight button polyester rocket pockets that laddered like your mum’s tights, and Dave Hill platforms, would have been the order of the day in Cov. Happy memories of some good kits there though. And I have still never forgiven my brother for burning the friggin iron through my Le Coq Sportif Cup Final shirt.
    Personally I think the most horrendous shirt on the planet is one with a red body and white sleeves – makes me want to hurl just thinking about it.

    COYS!

  2. I think if you look carefully the keeper is Barry Daines not Pat Jennings the clue is the kit being worn by Don MaCallister in the background, Jennings had gone to the south london scum before we wore that one.

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