'Can't judge a kit by it's collar'!

(Posted on 03/02/15)

'Can't judge a kit by it's collar'!

It was always the case that anyone with a rudimentary interest and 
knowledge of football shirt history could roughly judge the era 
from which it originated simply by looking at the collar/neck design.

It’s not a generalisation to say that if it had a skinny, elongated V-neck (and short sleeves) chances are it was from the mid-late 1950s. A round crew neck (and long sleeves) dictated it was from the 1960s and a large wing collar, the 1970s. Into the 80s now… the first half of the decade was completely dominated by V-necks, towards the mid-late 80s round wrap over collars were the order of the day before proper old-fashioned collars re-emerged (often with a button placket) as the decade came to an end.

In the 90s collars went through a variety of strange and contrived post-modern mutations before slick, minimalist neck designs became fashionable in the early 2000s.

Okay, there were rare exceptions and some styles lagged behind, but in essence the above rule of thumb proved true.

But it struck me recently how today it’s a complete design free for all on the collar front, and has been for some years now. There are no really rigid collar/neck fashion trends and since the mid 2000s all manner of crew necks, V-necks, collars, minimalist necks, button up designs have been spotted on football pitches at all levels, from non-league to the World Cup.  A veritable collar pot-pourri!

It seems to also have become the norm for a club to have a variety of neck designs across all three playing kits during a season with no consideration of consistency between them. Often the design of the away/third kit may be identical to the home except for the collar/neck, which, it appears on a whim, is from a completely different style pool. I once raised this point on Twitter and was told that if the away/change kit was exactly the same as the home - including the collar - then it was a bit ‘Sunday League’! I assumed this was not a compliment.

So ironically, in the football kit world, to be up to date with the latest trends it seems you have to abandon trends - at least when it comes to collars.

It may be that the very speed of change that seems to permeate every aspect of modern day life is what is driving this blurring of styles. Collar trends don’t have time to ‘bed in’ and become established. Football fashion is moving so quickly that retro shirts are catching up with the latest designs and are all turned around ever more quickly in the one-season kit cycle. It’s impossible to keep up - especially for some of the smaller brands who traditionally follow the lead of the sportswear big boys a season in arrears. Therefore collar styles are overlapping and previous trends are co-existing with the new strips that are brought in every season.

Kit design often reflects High Street style (and vice versa) and although there does appear to be scope for many different fashion trends to exist today (unlike previous decades where styles and subcultures, especially amongst youths, were fairly definable) there is still a fairly rigid design ethos existing in stores.

As far as football kits go though, it’s a bizarre state of affairs when you think about it. I wonder if fashion will ever turn full circle again and slow down enough to dictate that firm and definitive trends in collar/neck design will return and the fast moving melting pot of styles that exist today will stabilise.