86. Errea 'Victory' (1999-2001)

Graphic showing examples of the Errea 'Victory' shirt template

It may have only been worn by two notable teams, but Errea certainly planned for a wide degree of flexibility and customisation with this template. Far from plain as it is, there was room for any team to personalise their shirts in many different ways.

The first thing that grabs you about this design is the broad pair of horizontal bands that sprawl across centre ground. These, in turn, are flanked by thinner bands in a different colour - one above, and one below. This forms the foundation upon which everything else is built, and it suggests an evolution of the look that graced the shirts of teams like Northampton Town and Plymouth Argyle several decades ago.

What this template does well, however, is to continue the broad-band motif on the shoulders and sleeves, curving the ends nicely just short of the cuffs. This same device was used on the sides of the shorts, thereby creating a pleasing sense of continuity beyond the shirt.

From left: Empoli (1999-2000 home and away), Middlesbrough (2000-01 home, 1999-2000 away).

When faced with the dilemma of 'go big or go home,' Errea were clearly more than happy to take the former approach. A winged collar completed the basic look of this template with its bold blocks of colour, and it earned favour with the likes of Empoli in Serie B and Middlesbrough in the Premier League, both of whom wore it in their home and away outfits.

In Empoli's case, a couple of extra embellishments were applied to make their kits look extra special. Firstly, a barely discernible diagonal shadow stripe appeared in the weave of the fabric which appeared to be absent from the Middlesbrough equivalent. Secondly, the words 'Empoli Football Club 1920' were depicted in a script font repeated on the opposite diagonal to the aforementioned shadow stripes.

For Middlesbrough, their focus was on the collar where a wrapover style was used with multi-line trim on the home shirt, while the away shirt featured a pinched contour collar of the like once favoured in larger proportions by the likes of Cagliari and New York Cosmos.

All four versions of the template show how well it conveys colour and style in equal measure, and for Middlesbrough it was the first time they'd worn red shorts as part of their home kit since 1982. Peculiarly, Boro fans got their first sight of this design on their team's 1999-2000 away kit, one season before the home kit finally adopted the same look.

If there's any analysis to be made about the technical elements of the kit, one might look at the suitability of those two broad horizontal stripes for displaying a sponsor logo. Empoli got around this problem by having the club badge displayed above them, using both stripes for the sponsor (an Italian ice cream brand). Middlesbrough were sponsored by BT Cellnet and elected to display the Boro club badge centrally on the top stripe while the communications company took up space below. One wonders how things may have panned out if they'd been sponsored by ICI as they were at the start of the 1990s. That circular logo might not have worked too harmoniously with those stripes, perhaps.

Aside from all that, however, this was Errea in full flow, making teams look great as they entered a new millennium. A striking degree of style without the swagger, this was a template that looked confidently contemporary - something that many retro-fixated kit manufacturers these days would do well to observe and learn from.

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