Premier League home shirts: 20-16
In the process of designing our football face masks, we've spent quite some time staring at hundreds of shirts from the past thirty years, choosing our favourites to go into production. How have clubs fared overall across the last three decades? This is our personal countdown of Premier League clubs' home shirts, starting with the relegation candidates...
20) Crystal Palace
Seeing Palace propping up the table might be a surprise to some. This is, after all, the club that brought us bona fide classics throughout the seventies, and started the nineties with aplomb. Bukta and Ribero’s snazzy shirts - emblazoned with Fly Virgin, Tulep and TDK respectively - were tidy little numbers, and the narrower stripes of the 1996-98 Adidas shirt were a positive step forward.
It went sharply downhill from there, on the pitch and on the hanger. Garish side panels, bizarre trim (we’re looking at you, Admiral) and increasingly ugly sponsors all worked against the red and blue stripes. Even the seventies throwback in 2008 was completely undermined by the decidedly unsexy GAC Logistics logo.
The modern shirts fare a little better – we personally liked the yellow touches, sadly absent from the latest kit – but those dark Championship days are seared into our brains.
Like kit, like club, Burnley’s home offerings for much of the past thirty years have reflected the general ethos at the Lancashire outfit: traditional, functional, few frills. The bolder patterns championed by Matchwinner and Mitre were consigned to history, seemingly forever, by 1996. After Adidas’ pretty disastrous 1997 quartered design, Burnley shirts have largely followed the same format: claret body, blue sleeves.
There have been some tweaks in the past couple of decades. A horizontal bar here, a little gold trim there. Most experimental were Errea, who initially relegated the baby blue presence to the inner sleeves, then the cuffs and collars, even to just one arm in 2006’s asymmetric kit.
But, by and large, Burnley shirts are claret and blue, and little more than that. We’re sure Sean Dyche wouldn’t have it any other way.
18) Brighton & Hove Albion
We’re just going to come right out and say it: blue and white seems hard to get right. Throughout the nineties, Brighton tried all sorts – candy stripes in ‘92 (and again in ’98), pinstripes in ’93, even a wide blue panel in ’97. Only when Errea came on board before the turn of the millennium did the Seagulls settle on standard width stripes.
The Italian supplier provided Brighton with kits for a staggering 15 years. This, combined with the sponsorship of local big beat label Skint Records, gave the shirts a pleasing sense of familiarity (even if Skint changed their logo three times in four seasons). American Express are now the mainstays on the shirt, but Nike have continued in the tradition of simple, elegant, somewhat unassuming kits – save, perhaps, for the latest release, which experiments more with a gradient stripe effect.
Their place in the table seems a little harsh, as Brighton barely put a foot wrong in the past twenty years. But it’s fair to say that, away from the South Coast, few individual kits stand out as iconic. Had Bournemouth and Watford remained in the Premier League, the Seagulls would have been safe.
17) Sheffield United
It’s true that the sponsor can make or break a shirt. Case in point: Sheffield United. Throughout the nineties, the Blades’ stripes (and, regrettably, diamonds) were adorned by salt-of-the-earth local sponsors like timber merchants Laver and brewing company Wards. The resulting shirts were bold and authentic; none moreso than the 1999-2000 jersey, which featured Blades on the chest as well on the bosom.
From 2002, the sponsor rollcall was a little less local. Chinese drinks companies, loan firms, online gambling sites and a plea to visit Malta have all featured on naff shirts manufactured by Le Coq Sportif and Macron. Adidas and Sheffield car dealer John Holland should have been a strong match; what followed was the white monstrosity of 2015/16.
Last season’s effort was arguably the strongest in years, but the current iteration looks rather, shall we say, Brexity (bizarre, considering that USG are an Australian firm). We’re still waiting for a kit-sponsor partnership to truly click again at Bramall Lane.
Solid, consistent, relatively unremarkable and too often found wanting in the flair department. We could be talking about Everton under David Moyes, but we're actually on about the Toffees' shirt offerings since the dawn of the Premier League.
The description more accurately fits their jerseys post-1997. Before then, subliminal patterns were all the rage, and plenty could be found in Umbro's early shirts, from a giant manufacturer motif in '93 to the similarly oversized club crest in '95. For three cycles, their shirts were interesting without overstepping tradition.
A brief and unwise flirtation with yellow followed in 1997, but both Umbro, Puma and Le Coq Sportif all found it difficult to put their own stamp on the classic blue shirt. The best shirts were arguably the most simple, elevated by the appealing logo of long-time sponsor Chang.
Historically not the most imaginative, then, but at least Everton haven't dropped many clangers, keeping them in lower mid-table. The latest effort from Hummel, complete with diagonal stripes and those sexy chevrons, is definitely a step in the right direction.