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For one who cares so much for baselayers, to have not written about this particular subject before is quite the oversight. Sorry, to be clear, I've certainly written about baselayers - like here - but this article acts as a 15th anniversary celebration of a concept that, bizarrely, seemingly came from nowhere, then went straight back there: The dual-layered football shirt.

In 2002 - and we'll stick with this as a launch date, even if some may have come some months earlier - Nike and adidas, those two titans of football kit design - certainly then - came along with kit designs that brought something a little fresh to the table. Not only was there an outward appearance, but the players had an inner lining, which, to a degree, even contributed to that aforementioned appearance.

That's not to say other brands weren't experimenting with performance technology. Sure, Umbro had dabbled with Vapa Tech, and if the Kappa Kombat range didn't have wicking properties to die for then that'd be one clammy range, but no one else had hinted at bringing another, well body to the party.

And, it must be noted, neither adidas nor Nike had hinted at this dual-layer approach in previous seasons. The tight-fitting, arguably proto-baselayer Kappa designs of this period, history tells us, stirred something in the other development and design departments, yet the 2001-02 releases, from the market-bossing Germans and the Americans, were appendage-free.

So to 2002, and the World Cup in Japan and South Korea was the perfect catwalk, with adidas having the perfect supermodels in joint favourites France and Argentina. France, Les Bleus, took to the field in their usual blue shirts, white shorts and red socks, but the two layers - one thin and slim-fitting to wick sweat, another to hang light and provide ventilation - gave us an odd effect, both intentionally and, I'll wager, unintentionally.

The lining was blue, but with large red semi-curved patches under both arms, designed to be visible through the mesh of the outer material. However, this underlayer was long and slimmer fitting, so players elected to tuck it into their shorts, meaning the lower section of the mesh let the white of the shorts through. Imagine the reverse of wearing a string vest over jeans - another strong look! France, the reigning champions, lost their opening game, to Senegal, and went out in the first round.

Argentina were the pick for many who ruled out a retention of the trophy. Their Home shirt, in contrast to France's, had white ellipses doubling up as stripes on the side of their outer layer, with the lining plain white. However, you guessed it, the black shorts showed through, and Argentina also went out in the group stage, after being defeated by the hated England.

So, what if fans wanted a piece of this gloriously successful phenomenon? Well, think of the player issue shirts, certainly in the case of France, as depicting Momentum's crucial influence in the Labour Party's 2017 resurgence - without the literal backcloth, the product has little substance - whereas, to continue this wretched analogy, the replica versions would be the Blairites giving off the impression of integration with the Left in order to keep their nomination, when, in fact, under the surface, there is nothing of the sort. No, the replica shirts had no lining, save for occasional contrast-coloured curved panels stitched under the meshes on the side.

It seems I am condemning adidas's dual-layer shirts. How quick to judge I am, eh? Well, that's not exactly true. Argentina were eventually eliminated by Sweden, in their own blue-under-yellow number, and Germany actually made the final, somehow, in white-on-white, with some barely noticeable black meshing on the inside of the (out)sides.

And, obviously, there was Nike. Brazil won the blooming thing! The overall design of the Nike shirts was a significant Marmite moment, gaining iconic status through the exploits of the Brazilians, and Arsenal's Invincibles in 2003-04, but the technology, funnily enough, was incredibly similar to adidas's. The inner layer was often contrasting, though didn't affect the outer appearance to the same extent as the adidas shirts, but it was certainly an almost entirely separate structure, which Diego Forlan infamously fell foul of when celebrating a rare goal for Manchester United. For the fans? Uh-huh - merely a nod to the double layer towards the bottom, and easy to throw on as you rush out of the door to catch your lift to the match.

Then what? Well, both companies abandoned the technology. Meshing stuck around, of course, but that distinct inner lining was gone by 2003, in the new kits, and the combination of baselayer and outer layer - in the form of two items worn in unison - really only became popular towards the end of the naughties.

We shouldn't really be surprised that both released these supposedly ground-breaking designs in perfect synchronicity. The sock-y football boots of a few years ago, which endure, arrived with three stripes and a Swoosh around the same time, and allegations of industrial espionage and giving up of trade secrets are not unheard of, but why was the dual-layer shirt so short-lived? A dud, or just the players not handling change, nor knowing what was good for them?

The year dot, for me, of the baselayer, is the Linfield versus Argentina friendly prior to Italia '90. The technology was probably not there - "Hace frío. ¡Hace frío!" - but the grunge-aping long sleeve under short certainly was. That said, the modern widespread subscription to the performance improvements promised by the practice was seen, in practical terms, a decade and a half ago, with thought towards integration, including the aesthetics, barely emulated today. Only nods at layering really see the light of day - see Dortmund and Everton's long-sleeves, Manchester United's cuffs and hem, and Hull City's backlit black - and the true potential of baselayer under outer layer is certainly still not being realised.

Not like it so pioneeringly was in 2002.


Written by Jay (follow on Twitter).

Keep up to date with news from the world of football design by following @designfootball on Twitter and Liking the Facebook Page.



Chris O

Chris O

Subtitle of article: 'That's another fine mesh you've gotten me into...'

Great post, Jay. More of this, please! :)


Kevin Plank produced the first genuine baselayer with wicking effect in 1997, with Under Armours ColdGear shirt.

Before UA went big Nike were offered an in with them but dismissed it completely. Their dual layer cool motion 2002 shirts were in response to UA.

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