Remember how Joey, in Friends that one time, found himself in an apartment he recognised, and concluded that he’d slept with every girl in New York and was now on his second lap? Well, I want to avoid that.
I don’t live in New York, and sex is yuck.
I jest, of course. I mean I don’t want to go over old ground. You haven’t read them, but there’s little about football design I haven’t written an article about. Please, go check.
With that in mind, turn around, Bright Eyes. The veritable cabal of football kit manufacturers and football kit illustrators - this means you, Nike, adidas and Umbro, and you, Kitbliss, Museum of Jerseys and True Colours - neglect to give a significant area of the football kit the care and attention it deserves. They neglect to give it the care and attention it demands. The area in question? The back, obvs!
The back doesn’t matter? Oh, I beg to differ. I’m going to give you a scenario - and I’m aware that other scenarios are available - that demonstrates that backs are incredibly important...
Imagine you’re walking down the street and you see another person on that street. is that person more likely to be walking towards you, or away from you? I would suggest that if they are walking towards you, they - their front - will be visible to you for a far shorter amount of time than their back if they were walking away from you. Perhaps you'll catch up with the person walking in the same direction as you, but it'll will take far longer to pass them than it takes to pass the person walking towards you. Ergo, the person whose front you see, will figure in your life for a far shorter amount of time than the person who has their back to you. In fact, the lewd amongst us might suggest it's rather fortunate that I'm an a*se man.
Now do you believe me? Backs are important. And what do we do? We put massive patches on the back to increase legibility of numbers, particularly in the Champions League, for the likes of Celtic - for whom unbroken Hoops were once sacrosanct - and, now, we remove the stripes entirely from the back of the Milan shirt, to make the 2016-17 Home kit resemble the 2008-09 and 2009-10 Third kits. We, in general, and rumoured to soon even be at the behest of the Premier League, leave so many reverses entirely plain - even removing styling present on the front - where there is such potential for embellishment beyond the admittedly impressive name and number fonts.
That’s where we’re at, isn’t it? If we know anything, it’s that - if you’ll forgive me returning to Joey Tribianni’s domaine for a second - if humans have a hole, they want to put something in it. And name and number printing is perfect(ly fitting) for the void on the back of football shirts, like competition patches fill a gap in sleeve stripes. Cabals surround the consumer; leave something a little lacking, and there’s cross-selling potential.
It hasn’t always been this way. Stripes, hoops and diagonal sashes - mmmm, diagonal sashes - used to be on the back and front and/or go all the way round. And, for the numbers, these could be framed in a more imaginative way. You’re thinking it, I’m thinking it, and now I’m linking to it: The Newcastle United 1997-99 Home shirt...back.
Sponsors may not be to everyone’s taste, but they’re something, as is the manufacturer’s logo in bold, but I want to see graphics that are missing from the front, rather than even simply replicating what’s there. I want to see stripes, when the front is plain, like last season’s Barcelona Away. Because the front is never plain, in reality. It has the crest, the manufacturer’s logo and, more often than not, the sponsor’s logo at the very least. The backs, as things stand, are the forgotten land.
Let it be so. adidas currently put their logo on the back of a lot of their fitness/athleisure garments, as well as clubs’ European training ranges, so may the others follow, and then some. Also, this season, in a move that offers hope to traditionalists, Reading, thanks to Puma, have met the the plain backs movement head-on, with a beautiful continuation of hoops compromise. More from where that came from, please. Nike and adidas, to name but two, certainly do put great effort into the backs of their shorts and socks, so why not the shirts?
And, DesignFootball.com members, each fantasy template must be considered too. No more Schrödinger's kit - put your backs into it!
Written by Jay (follow on Twitter).