63. Patrick 'La Plata' (1981-86) *

Graphic showing examples of the Patrick 'La Plata' shirt template

Generally speaking, if a football shirt design has lots of detail, then the designer has earned at least a little of my respect. If they can be seen to have made an effort, you can never really say that their creation is rubbish. The more a kit looks like it could have been designed by a four-year-old, the easier it is to criticise the slightness of its brilliance.

That rule doesn't always apply, however. There are many examples of the 'less is more' sentiment proving the contrary can also be true, and here we have proof of how that played out in the early 1980s.

From left: Birmingham City (1982-85 home and away, 1982-83 third, 1983-85 third).

When French sportswear manufacturer Patrick arrived on the British football scene, cotton shirts and logo taping were still au courant, and the term 'pinstripe' was yet to be adopted by anyone outside the world of tailoring. A new decade had arrived, however, and football fashions were changing.

The final of the 1980 European Championships had seen West Germany beating Belgium 2-1, and the victors wore a home shirt that was different to the one they'd sported during their first round group. With black winged collars and curved shoulder piping, it was rather refined in its appearance. Little did anyone know that a year later, curved shoulder piping would become the new trend in British football kit design.

From left: Derby County (1981-84 home and away), Newport County (1982-85 home).

The 1981-82 season was where it all began in earnest, and three kit suppliers attempted to replicate the look of West Germany's Euro 80 final appearance. Umbro did so with their shiny new home shirt for Manchester City, along with Coffer Sports' home shirt for Bristol City. Coffer Sports made cheap souvenir football shirts and other gifts for young football fans in the 1970s before making the step up to produce proper football kits the following decade. Despite going into liquidation shortly afterwards, they can still claim to be one of the three kit suppliers to introduce curved shoulder piping to British football shirts along with Umbro and the third company on the list, Patrick.

Patrick, however, went one better. Instead of leaving their arc lines untouched, they added a simple pair of highly effective verticals running down either side of the chest. In so doing, they cleverly created a look couldn't be easily copied without people immediately associating the design with them specifically. At the start of the 1981-82 season, it was Derby County who first wore Patrick's new template, and their version, appropriately enough, bore the name of the kit supplier as main shirt sponsor.

From left: Peterborough United (1983-84 home, 1984-86 home and 1984-85 home).

Wrexham, a Second Division team like Derby County, also debuted their Patrick shirt that season, and theirs differed slightly in having a winged collar rather than a thick v-neckline. These were the two styles available, and both looked smart and more than fit for purpose. All versions of the shirt located the team's badge centrally, while Patrick's own logo could be found on the sleeves - in both cases an approach used on Le Coq Sportif's Tottenham Hotspur shirt of the era. This was something quite daring for football shirts at the time, but the break with tradition of having 'supplier's logo on the left, team badge on the right' was certainly a refreshing change.

The following season, many clubs jumped on the shoulder piping bandwagon (a term that has no purpose beyond this article) as Patrick dished out yet more of their French flair to other British clubs. Perhaps the most flamboyant example is that of Birmingham City who started their 1982-83 campaign with three differently coloured shirts, and a fourth one in red was to arrive the season after that. As for Rotherham United, they took the opportunity to have their team initials either side of the club badge which, like Derby's, was directly above the Patrick wordmark as shirt sponsor. For the last two years of their contract, Rotherham's home shirt was altered further still to include the white sleeves they'd worn at various points in their history, after initally wearing plain red.

From left: Rotherham United (1982-84 home, 1984-86 home, 1982-83 away).

For those of you that favour the peculiar side of football kit design, look no further than Peterborough United's ensemble worn between 1983 and 1986. It started out in the familiar format of blue shirt, white shorts and blue socks, but in its second season switched to all blue. Nothing unusual for The Posh, but it was the placement of their sponsor logo that acted like an observation test across the three seasons of the template being worn.

In 1983-84, the name of SodaStream straddled the gap horizontally between the two vertical lines of piping, but at different times during the two seasons following, the name ran from top to bottom on the left or the right. Vertical sponsorship - odd, but as Sheffield United showed two years earlier, not a first by any means.

From left: Stirling Albion (1984-85 home), Wrexham (1981-84 home and 1981-82 away).

In total, Patrick's 'La Plata'* template was visible for five seasons, mostly in English league football but also in Wales and Scotland. Where the latter's concerned, it was only ever worn by Stirling Albion during the 1984-85 season, yet remarkably was absent during their record 20-0 win over Selkirk in the Scottish Cup first round that season. Patrick's marketing department must have been keen to discuss Stirling's preference for the previous season's Umbro home kit that day, once the game had finished.

Yet even without the publicity that historic result would have brought, Patrick still went on to strengthen their foothold in the British market for many years after. Their design was cool and the teams that wore it looked great, and at this point in time, there was no doubt that Patrick had the technical brilliance to continue producing quality kits for a long while yet.

[Chris Oakley]

* Unofficial template name

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