We Celebrate Classic Football Kit Collections from Players and Fans alike
What is it about vintage football shirts that make us want to build our own, ever-expanding collections? Why do retro football shirts inspire such interest?
To find the answer, it's worth considering another group of retro football top collectors, the footballers themselves. Gerard Pique, Luciano Spaletti, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi, for example – all have incredible collections, built up from swapping post-match with other players. Messi has one of the best collections, including the match worn shirts from some of the greatest players to play the game, from teammates and opponents faced over his spectacular career. It's not a bad collection at all, although you would expect for those who swopped shirts with Messi, that the receiver of the match worn Messi shirt will have this shirt as the centre-piece of their historical football kit collection.
The reason for this sort of collecting is clear. The jerseys of other players provide a tangible piece of evidence linking players to moments in their careers. Players will wear their own shirt hundreds of times, but the shirt of their opponent will remind 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. Football fans collect old football kit for the same reason, they provide a physical link with a memory. A certain team, player or season that takes you back to a specific place or moment in time. In that sense, they provide a bookmark in time, a signifier of an I-was-there moment. It might not always be a footballing moment. Sometimes we might buy a vintage football jersey 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, or of a chapter in our lives.
Who could gaze upon one of the bombastic, psychedelic goalkeeper top from the 90s without being transported back through time to an era of Britpop, dial-up internet and house-sized mobile phones? Such is the ubiquity of football, a complete retro football kit collection is not something that we may never be able to achieve. With this in mind, maybe historical football shirt collecting is some people's attempt to try and document the world of football in which they are so engrossed.
Whereas some other people might have a collection for more clinical reasons. The fact that most vintage football kits are manufactured for just one season means that demand for a retro football jersey may be high, while the supply is relatively low. Market forces make them a good investment, as they almost always increase in value as time goes on. Especially if you've got a particularly good eye for spotting which ones are likely to become cult classics. On face value, this might not seem the most romantic of reasons, but in most cases this isn’t true at all. If you're buying and selling original old football shirts, this 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.
Each football top has a story. Match-worn shirts carry their own particular appeal: they were actually sported in the heat of battle. The player may have aged, fans' memories may have faded, but the jerseys provide the historical artefact. Such is their rarity, match-worn items will set you back a fair amount, 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.
Many will like the design better than the most recent recent year. For others, it might be something else, with nostalgia the driving force. We'll all have a different answer to the question of which is the best. But if you're reading this right now, your most likely an enthusiast yourself; and whatever your motivation, we can all agree the pursuit of the best vintage football kits is never ending. There's always enough room for one more.