75. Lotto 'Grosso' (1993-96)
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Something Chris will surely have found during his extensive template research for this site is that designs will very often go from the drawing board to international football first, then to the top tiers of the club game, and then work their way down the divisions. And that’s almost regardless of whether they were first seen in the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s or the 2010s.
While that seems to be the lifecycle of this bold Lotto creation which Chris has dubbed 'Grosso' - representing the Italian brand’s first appearance in this countdown - there are also elements to it which, very specifically, scream the 1990s.
From left: Alemannia Aachen (1994-95 home), Arminia Bielefeld (1994-96 home, 1994-95 away), Linfield (circa 1993-94 away).
Sublimation really started to get a foothold in kit design in the ’80s, but it was the final decade of the 20th century which saw the envelope really being pushed - with mixed results. The Grosso template took its cues from years earlier in the application of sublimation, with areas of contrast being large and deploying a modest palette rather than technicolour scatter patterns, but what was being sublimated was more up to date.
Echoing what other, more famous suppliers were doing in that era, Lotto Sport Italia decided to place a partial deconstruction (and elongation) of their reasonably recognisable abstract logo onto the left shoulder of the shirt - blown up - and then, with the centre line of said shirt acting as a mirror, put the flipped version onto the opposite side. Drop shadow was the finishing touch.
From left: Maccabi Haifa (1994-95 home and away), Northampton Town (1995-96 home and away).
First up, it was Poland, with white on red for the Away, and the reversal for the Home which, in hindsight, suggests two oversized sets of red lips. The centralised logos (including a hybrid mark for Lotto themselves) and the neat combination of V-neck and collar were really just incidental additions to the sandwich board.
But despite the design being, primarily, an exercise in commercial visibility and brand awareness, we can’t ignore the yearning for a time when this kind of embellishment didn’t fall foul of competition regulations - certainly not all the competitions’ regulations, anyway.
From left: Poland (1993-94 home and away), Torino (1994-95 away).
Similar releases for the Irish League’s Linfield, Maccabi Haifa - carrying both the same Volvo sponsorship as the Israeli side enjoys today (for European matches) and Hebrew script - Germany’s Arminia Bielefeld and Alemannia Aachen all followed in 1994-95, as did a version Torino wore when required to change.
There’s something about a template applied to an Italian team that can elevate it above others. If it’s an Italian brand’s template, it’s style squared - and the Torino version was aped for Northampton Town’s Away in 1995-96, with that adaptation reversed for the Cobblers’ Home.
The English club side even carried Lotto as a main sponsor, as did Linfield, for the full-on branding overdose. But, as I say, I can’t hate it. As much as I yearn for the brash stylings of that time which belonged to the aforementioned “more famous suppliers”, Lotto’s creation here certainly was far from their worst (!) and, particularly in the case of print’s repetition on the shorts which several of the listed teams wore, wouldn’t necessarily look excessively incongruous in 2022.
From left: Mainz 05 (1994-95 home and away), FSV Zwickau (1994-95 home and away).
No sooner had this article been published than we heard from a number of correspondents who told us about some other shirts based on the Lotto 'Grosso' template.
First of all, via Twitter, we heard from Kohlen Shaufler who informed us that German club Mainz 05 wore this template home and away during the 1994-95 season. Not only that, but one player who wore it during that time was one Jürgen Norbert Klopp...
Then it was the turn of Adam's Shirt Quest to tell us that Swedish team Örebro SK had this kit in white and black, citing a picture on the Twitter thread of OReyndir. It's a slightly washed out picture, but you can just about see what it would have looked like.
He then continued by pointing us in the direction of two Icelandic clubs, Haukar and ÍR, who both appear in black and white photos wearing the 'Grosso' template. Not sure of the colours, but it's great to see the appeal of the template spread further across Scandinavia...
Finally, we heard from Floh Kwyjibo with news of another German club wearing a home and away combo that almost matched Mainz in colour in detail. That team was FSV Zwickau who, back in the mid-90s, were playing in the 2.Bundesliga.
Another team to add to the Lotto Grosso list is ADO Den Haag of the Netherlands. Daniel Hansen sent us a couple of pictures showing their rather fetching away kit in white and green which is a very worthwhile addition to the range we've already seen. Thanks Daniel!
What a fine set of correspondents you are! My grateful thanks to all of you that got in touch, and don't forget, if you know of any other teams that wore this template, please drop me a line with as many details as you can provide. I look forward to hearing from you...