96. Umbro Porto (1990-93)
When the charge sheet of trouble-making football suppliers is eventually drawn up, Umbro's name will certainly be near the top of the list. Their name might even be above the words 'Charge Sheet.' They're that connected with the crime (if 'crime' be the word) of trying to create something daringly different.
For Umbro and other kit suppliers like them, the late 1980s was a time when change was in the air and the need to adapt was absolute. Football shirt design was ready to move on, and some brands were already trying out new ideas. The culmination of this period where greater imagination combined with improved manufacturing techniques and materials was undoubtedly 1990. In the first full season of the new decade, there was a notable (if slight) shift towards geometric shapes and abstract tonal patterns - particularly in change shirts.
From left: Chelsea (1991-93 third), Dynamo Kiev (1991-92 away), Everton (1990-92 away), Nottingham Forest (1991-93 third).
Umbro were determined to establish their new look for the Nineties through a series of different shirt templates, one of which was Porto, based around a zig-zagging stripe and line-filled triangles. Perky lines and geometric shapes were very much in vogue at the time, and this design, though more suited to change shirts, continued that trend to great effect.
Everton were the first team in England to try out the new design and wore it often as part of their change kit during the 1990-91 season. Coloured mostly in yellow with a blue collar and detailing, it was a fresh take on those traditional Everton away kits in lemony hues that had preceded it. The following season, Chelsea wore a near identical version of the same shirt as part of their third strip, as did Dynamo Kiev away from home. Whether the latter's shirt sponsor made the overall design stronger because of its blue colouring is up for debate, but it clearly worked well with a yellow background as was being proven.
Nottingham Forest became the fourth team to join the Porto party in 1991-92, however their third shirt was rendered in green rather than yellow. As was suggested by John Devlin in True Colours Vol.2, the verdant colouring may have been a discrete tribute to their esteemed manager Brian Clough, a man oft seen sporting a green sweatshirt throughout his time at the City Ground. True or not, it made for a striking if rarely worn look for the Porto template.
All versions of the shirt shared the same shadow pattern that looked like an Olympic opening ceremony display for discarded Mars bar wrappers, plus a standard Umbro collar du jour in a contrasting colour from the team's palette.
Yet it was that graph line predicting the amount of time wasted by YouTube influencers that really formed the strong foundation of this design. Like so many of the templates in this series, it really should have been seen much more often all those years ago. The fact that we never saw it in the colours of Luton Town or Manchester City is almost a transgression in itself, but it would be a shame to add further damning evidence to Umbro's already growing charge sheet.
I was pleased to hear from Adam's Shirt Quest on Twitter who told me that he'd recently acquired another shirt for his collection - the Lithuania 1992-93 home shirt which is based on this template!
As you can see from the Umbro Porto template page, the shirt is a rich yellowy-orange colour with black collar and trim. Very nice indeed, and a nice complement to those bright yellow versions discussed above.
In similarly colourful vein, I've been tipped off about a Ukraine away shirt from the 1992/1993 period, thanks to Jon on Twitter. I've been unable to find out exactly which match(es) the kit was worn in, but as you can see it's a lovely version of the template in blue with burgundy trim.
The exact same shirt was also worn by Welsh side Colwyn Bay, a fact brought to my attention by the official Colwyn Bay FC Twitter account. Their version had the added shirt sponsor logo for DJ Construction and was worn with burgundy shorts, as opposed to the blue preferred by Ukraine.
My sincere thanks to everyone that's given me additional detail about this shirt template. If you know of any more, please get in touch!