74. Puma v-Konstrukt (2009-12)
It's ironic that a shirt template that comes with its own integral frown should be able to put a smile on so many faces, but it really does. I'm presuming that the two slanted, tapered stripes on the Puma v-Konstrukt are meant to be a frown, although there's no logical reason why that would be the case. Whoever heard of a shirt that needed to convey dissatisfaction about something? Surely in this day and age, it's usually the other way around?
All that aside, this was an understatedly clever design by Puma, and happened just as the German sportswear company was heading for greater ubiquity in the global footbal kit market. At the end of the first decade of this century, Puma were hot, and it was templates like this that made football fans view them in an even better light.
Top row, from left: Anorthosis Famagusta (2009-10 home), APOEL (2009-10 home, 2010-11 third), Helsingborgs (2009-10 home).
Bottom row, from left: Hoffenheim (2009-11 home, 2009-10 away, 2010-12 third), Independiente (2009-10 home).
At first glance, there doesn't seem to be any feast for the eyes to gorge on here. There are those two thin stripes, angled towards the mid-chest with a steep, last-minute change of pitch. One of the sleeves has a trim stripe that bulges in the middle (some versions showing trim on both sleeves), and a few iterations have additional collar styles to the basic v-neckline. As if that wasn't enough excitement, there are two small pointed flashes coming up from the bottom of the shirt where the side panels are stitched to the trunk, and the Puma logo appears, as it so often does, on the shoulders as well as the right breast.
Closer examination, however, reveals that some variations of the design have an extra patterned background behind the diagonal tapers. It's difficult to determine what the pattern depicts, but it seems to be nothing more than a series of slanted lines of varying widths in the style of splintered wood. While not being a desperately interesting pattern, it nonetheless does the job of livening up a simple template perfectly, adding a customisation option for those teams suitably willing to partake.
Top row, from left: Independiente (2009-10 away), Lazio (2009-10 home and away), Lech Poznań (2010-11 home).
Bottom row, from left: Lech Poznań (2010-11 home), Maccabi Tel Aviv (2010-11 home), Monaco (2009-10 home), Olympiacos (2009-10 home).
But you'd be excused for thinking that the aforementioned frown would be enough of a presence on the shirt to get in the way of further detail. In reality, it does nothing of the sort, encouraging stripes, hoops and even (in the example of Universidad Católica's away shirt) a large cross to work through and around it. Does it result in a visual mess? Not really. Everything seems to co-exist without any significant jumble to confuse the eye.
It's a considerable achievement on the part of Puma, and shows an insistence to retain the template's core design elements in the face of other visible distractions. Another kit supplier might have removed the diagonals when asked to do so by the likes of Olympiacos or Reading, but instead they showed it wasn't strictly necessary. The frown can still be seen, it doesn't get in the way of the hoops or stripes, and vice versa.
Top row, from left: Olympiacos (2009-10 away), Real Valladolid (2009-10 home, away and third).
Bottom row, from left: Reading (2009-10 home), Śląsk Wrocław (2010-11 home), Sporting CP (2009-10 home and away).
Special mention, however, must be made of Villarreal's 2009-10 home shirt. It took the altogether more sneaky approach of colouring all the constituent parts in the Spanish club's traditional yellow on a yellow background. Everything's there, including the frown, but you just need to look that bit closer to see them.
Yet perhaps the most striking thing about this template is its sheer popularity. Easily the most widely-seen entry in our countdown thus far, it was worn by many clubs throughout Europe, and could also be found as far afield as Argentina and Chile. Such popularity doesn't come about when a kit is poorly conceived, and it's any wonder that it wasn't worn by a national team... to the best of my knowledge.
Top row, from left: Stuttgart (2009-10 home), Tottenham Hotspur (2009-10 home and away), Újpest (2009-10 home).
Bottom row, from left: Universidad Católica (2009-10 home and away), Villarreal (2009-10 home).
The v-Konstrukt therefore made its mark on the football landscape with distinction and signalled Puma's greater confidence in producing versatile templates. There would be many more to come at this point, and if you're lucky, you may see more of them later in this series. Don't say you don't get suspense on this website...
From left: Villarreal (2009-10 away), Zenit Saint Petersburg (2009-10 home and away).