Euro 2016: Chris Oakley’s Alternakits – Group A

by | Jun 6, 2016

If there’s one thing that seems to defy anything like common sense to many people it’s football kit design, even during Euro 2016. We all understand that certain bells and whistles will be added because they either may improve a player’s performance or may be perceived to improve a player’s performance. That’s an occupational hazard that comes as a result of following a team sport. What often feels considerably less forgivable is the combination of sartorial car crashes and sheer goddam laziness that modern kit manufacturers often seem to manage these days.

In terms of the former of these criticisms, consider this – in theory, football kits should be the easiest thing in the world to design. It’s a shirt, a pair of shorts and a pair of socks, and furthermore most clubs or international teams have been wearing variants on the same colours for a decades or, in many cases, for more than a century. The easiest fashion design in the world must surely be that for which you don’t even have to think very hard about the colours. Tiny embellishments aside, any person reading this could design, say, a Manchester United shirt for next season. Red shirts with white trim, white shorts and black socks with red and white tops. Supporters don’t even mind too much about the extent to which the manufacturers plaster their brand all over it either, so long as it’s not too ugly looking.

Then there’s the templates. Nike, the American manufacturer, barged their way into the European football market a couple of decades ago, but vindicated themselves with some designs that were extremely easy on the eye. Having secured themselves an appropriately plump market share, however, Nike seem to have given up on anything like innovation or, in the event that innovation might not be appropriate, respecting tradition, choosing instead to go with a template design across both nations and clubs which consists of sleeves slightly darker than the body of the shirt, the same colour shorts as the body of the shirt, and contrasting socks, whether or not that particular club or country would have worn that combination otherwise.

This doesn’t happen across the board – Croatia’s distinctive chequerboard design, for example, seems to be something approaching sacrosanct – but this seems to happen on a regular enough basis for us to believe that, well, they don’t give a shit what supporters think. England wore white shirts, navy blue shorts and white socks from 1872 until 2009, at which point Umbro (which was then owned by Nike) took it upon themselves to change them to an all-white design, and earlier this year, having gone back and forth between something reasonable and one dreadful all-white with red design, Nike, who by this time had sold Umbro on, having taken over some of its most lucrative contracts, unveiled their latest monstrosity. We’ll let the venerable Historical Kits explain exactly what’s wrong with it, from here:

As a rule of thumb football strips look their best when they consist of two dominant colours with a third accent colour: four colours rarely look good (Brazil are of course the exception). The ice blue and dark red sleeves just don’t reference anything in England’s history and simply look wrong. Furthermore Nike foisted the same design on several of the national teams they are contracted to including the USA and Brazil, suggesting that Nike’s brand is more important than the traditions of the football federations they serve.

As one ages, we tend to imagine first that things will be better in the future, before coming to a point in middle-age at which we start to realise that the past has gone, and that’s just the way that it is. Some of us embrace this brave new world. Some of us retreat into nostalgia. Some of us turn our backs on it altogether. Here at 200%, we’ve managed a combination of the above regarding various issues over the last ten years, but on the subject of kit design we’ve decided to rage against the dying of this particular light and fight back, to the extremely limited extent that we can.

Now, we are not graphic designers. I mean, this is what happens when you ask our artist-in-residence Edward Carter to design an England shirt and a Russia shirt, for God’s sake. Fortunately, however, we know a man who can, and that man is Mr Chris Oakley. Long-time friend of the site Chris has an eye for the unusual and has previously come up with football kit designs based on confectionery from the 1970s, mothballed regional television stations, and some of the defunct champions of German football. Our instructions were simple: design a new home and away kit for each team at this summer’s European Championships that is better than that provided by the manufacturers themselves. And Chris delivered. We’re going to be using his designs for our live-blogs, but we also thought we should introduce them with a few words from the designer himself, starting this evening with Group A. Over to you, Chris.

group-a-alb

Albania: As a kid, Albania always wore red-black-red whenever they played England (which seemed often at the time), and they nearly always had a round necked shirt. A simple design therefore seemed apt, so I’ve borrowed the kit design Nike used for England a couple of years ago and changed the colour scheme.

group-a-fra

France: Has to be Adidas, even though the last few kits they made for them before Nike’s arrival were fairly dire. Adidas are joined at the hip with France, so the three stripes are there along with some simple styling. I’ve allowed an extra ‘Admiral-does-Aberdeen’-style flourish on the away shirt in the form of three vertical stripes running down the right.

group-a-rom

Romania:Again, often an Adidas team in the past, so this shamelessly uses a similar template to the France kits. The home shirt is in the pale yellow they wore during the 1970 World Cup. The blue shorts and red socks complete the ensemble as they always used to until someone (probably Adidas, ironically) decided to go with all-yellow.

group-a-sui

Switzerland: I’ll cut to the chase: if you’ve got a flag with a big white cross on it, why not wear it large and with great pride on your shirt? This is my one allowable moment of design madness, but I think it’ll work. I’ve used Puma as the manufacturer as the manufacturer as it’s their current one, but used some of Puma’s ‘curved panel’ styling that was much in evidence on Austria’s kits of the 1970’s.

If you haven’t seen the selection of sartorial monstrosities that will actually be worn, well, you can do so – along with some extremely pithy commentary – on Historical Kits. They’re not going to go away – at least until people stop buying them – but you can at least rest assured that on 200% we’re going to act like they’re not happening, and every match will be accompanied by Chris’s graphics instead. It may not be terrible mature. It may not even be very good for our mental health. But it probably beats putting a metal saucepan on your head and beating it repeatedly with a wooden spoon, and these are probably the two most effective coping mechanisms for dealing with some aspects of modern football.

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