We Celebrate Some of the Best Classic Football Shirt Collections from Players and Fans alike
Classic Football Kits
What is it about classic football kits that inspire us to build our own dazzling, globetrotting, multicolour, perpetually-expanding vintage football kit collections? Besides their aesthetic value, why do we treasure these functional sporting garments? Why do retro football shirts inspire such interest and excitement?
Source: Instagram @leomessi (Messi has collected an enviable collection over the years)
To find the answer, it's worth considering another group of historical football shirt collectors, the footballers themselves. A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of footballers – Gerard Pique, Luciano Spaletti, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi, for example – with goliath football shirt collections built up from swapping post-match with other players.
The collection Messi has acquired is one of the best captured. Holding the shirts worn by some of the greatest to play the game. Teammates and those of opponents who have tried to stop him over his spectacular career. The collection also has a strong Argentine link to round it off. Not a bad collection of retro football shirts at all, although I suspect for most of these, the receiver of the match worn Messi shirt will be the centre-piece of their collection. Maybe not Raul.
Source: Instagram @3gerardpique (Gerard Pique also took to instagram to show off his collection)
The reason for this sort of collecting is clear. The shirts of other players are a tangible piece of evidence which links players to moments in their careers. Players will wear their own shirt hundreds of times, but the shirt of their opponent reminds them of a particular battle won or lost. Footballers are fans too, and if they face off against an idol or influence, they are likely to want a keepsake.
Ordinary fans collect classic football shirts for the same reason, to create a physical link with a memory. In that sense, an original retro football shirt is a bookmark in time, a signifier of an I-was-there moment.
Source: Instagram @3gerardpique (Pique collected shirts from opposition players on the way to winning the World Cup in 2010)
It might not always be a footballing moment. Sometimes we might buy a vintage football shirt from a team we have never heard of or have zero emotional attachment to. Perhaps the style subconsciously reminds us of a particular era, of our glory days, of a chapter in our lives. Who could gaze upon one of those bombastic, psychedelic goalkeeper kits from the 90s without being magically transported back through time to an era of Britpop, dial-up internet and house-sized mobile phones?
Such is the ubiquity of football, this is not a collection you can ever hope to get within a million miles of completing. With this in mind, maybe vintage football shirt collecting is some people's attempt to try and document the world of football in which they are so engrossed and invested.
Source: Twitter @L_Spalletti (Former Italian player and Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti has an awe inspiring collection)
Some other people might collect historical football shirts for more clinical reasons. The fact that most shirts are manufactured for just one season means that demand for old football kits is high while supply is relatively low. Market forces make vintage football kits a good investment, as they almost always increase in price as time goes on. If you think you've got a particularly good eye for spotting which original retro kits are likely to become cult classics.
On face value, this might not seem the most romantic of reasons to collect shirts, but in most cases this isn’t true at all. Just because you’re buying and selling vintage football shirts, doesn’t mean you don’t love them in the same way that an art dealer loves art or a tradesman loves the fruits of his labour. The takeaway from this point should be that shirt collecting is almost always driven by deep affection and passion for the product.
Source: Instagram @ronaldinho (Ronaldinho provided a glimpse of his own collection to celebrate reaching 10 million followers)
Each classic football kit has a story. Match-worn shirts carry their own particular, pulsating appeal: they were actually sported in the heat of battle. The player may have aged, fans' memories may have faded, but this link remains a historical artefact. Such is their rarity, match-worn shirts will set you back a fair few quid, but many consider it a small price to pay to feel as though they’ve got their hands on what is essentially a wearable antique.
So why do we collect football shirts? For some people, the reason may simply be they look good. For others, it might be more nuanced, with nostalgia the driving force. If you're reading this your most likely an enthusiast yourself; but whatever your reasons for building a collection may be, we can all agree that it can be a joyous pursuit.