The Kitbliss 100 Greatest Football Shirt Templates
They may not be liked by everybody, but templates are a fundamental part of football shirt design. Commercially, they've been around since the 1970's and their versatility and complexity have engaged football fans all over the world. Many are as familiar as the back of your own hand while others are remarkably overlooked, but all of them help form the kaleidoscope of football shirt designs that colour our lives every day.
The idea for this project came from my good friend and Kitbliss Podcast contributor, Rich Johnson. Shortly after the end of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever, a series of blog posts researched, written and illustrated as a foursome with John Devlin and Jay from DesignFootball.com, thoughts turned to a follow-on project. Of the many wonderful options suggested by Rich, the one that appealed to me most was that which focused on football shirt templates.
I've always been fascinated by templates and here was an opportunity to look deeper into the myriad designs we've all come to know and love, and find many more waiting to be discovered. I subsequently took on the job of researching as many football shirt templates as I could, a job that was made far easier thanks to Old Football Shirts, John Devlin's True Colours books and Historical Football Kits.
Over a two-year period, the details of well over 300 templates were eventually collated. It would have been easily possible to find three times that amount if I'd had another four years to devote to the project, but a cut-off point was required. What this project presents is therefore a large yet frustratingly incomplete cross-section of all the templates known about.
What is a template?
A template in this context is simply a set of specific features that can be replicated on a shirt for different teams in different colour combinations. Those features could include collar styles, shadow patterns, trim detail or specific motifs among others. Following that definition, a template may provide the common elements of a home and away shirt worn by a single team. It may only exist in two different versions, but it's still a template.
Things get more complicated when one looks at the more complicated (and usually modern) designs. Alas, there are no written records that define a specific template as having fixed features. It's therefore very difficult to classify some templates, particularly if they have customisable elements such as the collar or shadow pattern. What this project aims to do, then, is to reasonably suggest what each template is or isn't. In many cases, this is open to interpretation and what one person thinks is a template may differ to the views of another. Hopefully the judgement provided in this countdown isn't too controversial...
Rating the templates
In order to establish the Kitbliss top 100 templates, it was necessary to establish the benchmarks that each one would be judged against. Firstly and most naturally, the basic look of the template was considered. If a template in all its known variations was able to put a smile on your face within seconds of seeing it, it was likely to rank highly.
Secondly, a template design possessing lots of detail was probably likely to fair better than one without. Given the contentious nature of this supposition, it's necessary to underline the word 'probably.' As we all know, some shirt designs demand respect for adhering to the 'less is more' approach. These are undoubtedly the exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking a template that looks like the designer(s) have made an effort is usually going to fair well in this line-up.
Finally, its important to acknowledge that a shirt template that was worn in lots of iterations by lots of teams was/is a popular template. With that in mind, the more widely seen a template, the higher its placing will be for the purposes of this project.
Visual appeal, detail, popularity. These are the three criteria for judging the templates featured in this project, and each one has an individual weighting that contributes to the final 'score' it attained. Having established those scores, a final ordering for our Top 100 was achieved, and its that order we're discussing in this feature.
A sizeable number of the templates featured in this rundown were worn by teams in England, Scotland and Wales. Apologies for this apparent bias, but this is a natural consequence of my British nationality and the knowledge I've gained over many decades of watching football from those countries. That said, every effort has been made to look at as many clubs and national teams around the world as possible to broaden the variety and scope of the project.
Also, with one or two exceptions, I've tried to focus on templates that were worn in first class matches. To put it another way, a shirt that was worn in B internationals, friendly matches or unofficial matches will probably get only a passing mention at best, if not depicted graphically in any of the articles. This approach has been taken purely to distil the information provided down to its most estimable elements.
With regards to the templates themselves, the official name is always shown on each web page. Where the official name isn't known, however, I've provided my own name as a placeholder of sorts and this is always displayed in quotation marks, i.e. Adidas 'Supreme'.
At least once a week, a new blog post will be published here on the Kitbliss website as part of the 100 Greatest Football Shirt Templates countdown. Each blog post will aim to provide information about the featured shirt template, and in each case your feedback is greatly appreciated. If you've spotted an error or you'd like to point out a team that wears the featured template that hasn't been mentioned in the text, please get in touch. You can send your message via the Contact page, or if social media's your thing, try Kitbliss on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
I'd like to personally give my sincere thanks to Jay (DesignFootball.com), John Devlin and Rich Johnson for all their support in helping me to get this project off the ground. Their friendship, advice and guidance has been truly invaluable. My thanks also go to everyone that has helped to promote the project on social media, and to those of you that have been so kind with your comments and feedback.