98. Hummel Berlin (1991-94)
Some football shirts can’t help but demand your attention. As a result of the way they’ve been designed, they shriek ‘look at me!’ or ‘aren’t I fabulous?’ with every thread of their weave. Hummel have always been more than capable of conveying those particular sentiments, and the 1990s could have been one long exercise in flamboyance for the Danish company. As it is, they allowed themselves a few years of exuberance before reigning in their more extreme design tendencies.
Before doing so, this template was unleashed upon an unsuspecting football fraternity like a spangly pipe bomb going off in the Barclays League, or indeed the B&Q Scottish League. Only one team in each competition wore it, and in both cases it was reserved for the away shirt design. Those teams were Sunderland and Falkirk, and both made use of the potential for customisation to stamp their own look on what they wore.
From left: Falkirk (1991-94 away), Sunderland (1991-94).
There’s an element of the American game show host’s jacket about this template, and that comes from the complex combination of elements displayed across the upper part of the shirt. Across the shoulders there’s a series of coloured stripes - red for Falkirk, navy blue for Sunderland - and they’re interspersed with a series of black and white blocks. The effect is that of a lattice where you’re looking through the gaps between the stripes to see some irregular black and white bars below it. A captivating and slightly three-dimensional look for anyone choosing to stare at it long enough.
Truncating those areas of coloured lattice are a couple of zig-zagging bands, one for each shoulder. Once again, Falkirk and Sunderland coloured them to their own preference: navy blue for the former and sea green for the latter. Those zig-zags were also flanked by extra white and another pinstripe running parallel to it above and below, before the finishing touch of Hummel’s own double-chevron motif was added in white to both sleeves. ‘Less is more’ is clearly not a phrase that translates easily into Danish.
Both versions of the shirt bore different collars, and as for the rest of the kit, Falkirk and Sunderland used the same navy blue shorts but different sock styles.
Rather cleverly, then, Hummel presented this template as one that could only be based on a standard white background, yet still looked distinctly different in each case with a sparse change of colour on that upper area of the shirt. Oh, and for those of you saying ‘What about the 1991-94 Falkirk home shirt?’ I’m afraid that one doesn’t count. The zig-zag stripe has steeper angles, there’s no lattice pattern and... well... see for yourself.
While not being to every club’s taste, it certainly improved upon the first wave of design excess in football kits and though Falkirk’s cries of ‘look at me!’ won’t have been heard much across the border, Sunderland’s appearance in the 1992 FA Cup Final more than made up for that.
A fetching look that deserved to be seen in more colourways at the time, this could have been the basis of Norwich City’s away kit, had they stayed with Hummel for a few more years. And if you were thinking about Tottenham’s home kit had they not switched to Umbro in 1991, congratulations. You’ve just embraced the potential of this design which really could have been a classic were it not for a world of British football with more Hummel in it a few decades ago.
As you may be aware, throughout this series I've been giving provisional names to many of the templates featured. This isn't done out of sheer vanity or an intent to re-write history. The simple fact is that often we simply don't know what the original official name of a shirt template was, or even if it had an official name at all. Where that's the case, I've given the template a name of my own, and displayed it in quotation marks, i.e. Asics 'Akin.'
To my delight, however, some of you out there in Kitland have been able to confirm some of the official template names, and that's been the case with this offering from Hummel. I'm indebted to Jonathan Wyke on Facebook who has confirmed that the correct name is Berlin, which here onwards replaces my provisional name of 'Borderline'. Many thanks, Jonathan, and if any of you know the correct names of any of the other templates featured in this series, please do drop me a line.