Classic Barcelona Football Shirts Through the Ages
The History beyond Vintage Barcelona Kits
There is perhaps no club in world football with a character as distinct as Barcelona. In terms of their fiercely Catalan identity and their love for beautiful football, they set themselves apart from the rest with a sense of purpose.
It stands to reason that such a singular club would want to express themselves in their workwear. In that too, they are one of the most recognisable teams on earth.
Blaugrana literally translates from Spanish as "blue and deep red." Whereas many clubs begin their histories playing in different colours to those on which they eventually settle, Barcelona have worn theirs since day dot.
They were founded in 1899 by Joan Gamper, a Swiss financier and sports enthusiast. While it has never been unequivocally confirmed, it is widely believed that Barcelona's blue and red colours are Gamper's nod to FC Basel, the most famous club from his home country.
While the club has always played in a variant of the famous stripes, they have never truly settled on a traditional shorts colour. For their first decade, Barca played in white shorts but since then they have alternated between varying shades of blue, red and on occasion black or dark navy.
Until 2006, however, one constant remained in place: the absence of a sponsor. While all those around them fell over each other arranging lucrative corporate branding deals, Barcelona maintained their més que un club (more than a club) philosophy. They refused to have a sponsor plastered all over the shirt which symbolised their identity.
When this conviction came to an end, it was for a worthy cause. UNICEF – the United Nations' humanitarian charity for children – became the first Barca sponsor in 2006. Although technically speaking they weren't a sponsor at all; UNICEF never paid any money to Barcelona whose charitable gesture raised invaluable awareness on a global scale.
UNICEF remained Barca's primary sponsor for five seasons. In that time, Barca entered their greatest ever era under the management of Pep Guardiola. They won their third Champions League title in Rome in 08-09 wearing a distinctive half and half shirt design, a classic of the Barca genre.
Their first European Cup triumph came in 1992. They beat Sampdoria at Wembley in the final thanks to a now-iconic Ronald Koeman free-kick wearing a distinctive orange classic football shirt manufactured by Meyba, a lesser-known brand in the world of sportswear hailing from Catalonia itself. This vintage football kit featured suggestions of the Blaugrana colours, including two distinctive over-the-shoulder sashes.
As each of their other five Champions League triumphs has come in their home shirt, it's fair to say that the orange Meyba is the most prominent away retro football shirt in the club's history. In terms of historical football kit design, however, there have been innumerable classics. The teal Kappa from 1996-97, metallic gold Nike polo from 01-02, the 1974-75 yellow shirt with blue-red sash – they're all timeless looks.
Away kits almost always have a fleeting lifespan. With manufacturers and sponsors keen to cash in as regularly as possible, clubs will release change colours each and every season. With home kits, on the other hand, there is a more permanent feel – albeit to a much lesser degree in the modern era. But in the 1980s, Barca went nearly a full decade without changing their home strip.
Though they won La Liga just once between 1982 and 1989, the low-collared shirt they wore throughout this period is one of the most distinctive in the club's history. Again manufactured by Meyba, the shirt was a simple design featuring two red stripes and three blue, with the latter colour extending to the sleeves where a red zig-zag pattern could be found. A crudely stitched logo and a holographic sheen gave the shirt a real sense of character. Maradona heightened the sense of mythos surrounding the shirt when he wore it during his two seasons at Camp Nou.
Guest contributor Adam Williams.
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- Lewis Davison