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Vintage Football Shirts… Love ‘em or Loathe ‘em?

“WHO ARE YA? WHO ARE YA? WHO ARE YA?” Are you the type of man who can pull off the trend for vintage football shirts? Or do they just leave you looking like the average geezer watching a match daan the boozer?

I pose this question because I see that there are now more and more specialist shops and websites selling match-worn rarities going back several decades and setting you back several hundred quid. The scene feels like it could well go the way of trainers – with lots of scope for collecting, trading and investing. And, of course, plenty of opportunity to follow the example of the “sneakerheads” and pay insane amounts of money for something that someone else has already sweated in.

Photo: Elliott Wilcox
Photo: Elliott Wilcox

This taste for vintage football shirts has surely surfed in on the wave of retro sportswear. It fits right in with all those oversized ‘80s and ‘90s sweatshirts and outlandish windbreakers that now complement the undercuts and curtains. The general trend and the nostalgia it brings with it is all good fun; but what about this sub-trend for footie kit? Is this something for a stylish chap to dabble in? Or is it all a bit too much polyester? 

Well, to help us weigh this one up, let’s return to that importunate question with which we kicked things off. “WHO ARE YA?” This is more than just a celebrated taunt of the terraces; it is, in fact, a question that lies right at the heart of all menswear and men’s style. The relationship between a man and his wardrobe is all about identity, isn’t it? We don’t just judge clothes on their cut and colour, do we? When we decide if we like a garment or not, we’re also taking account of its cultural associations and how we fit in with them. Whether it’s pulling off a classic football shirt or a bright red pair of chinos, who you think you are and how you want to be defined is critical.

Les Vêtements de Football
Les Vêtements de Football

Personally, I don’t ever wish to be defined as a football fan; so whether it’s current kit or vintage shirts, it’s a red card from me. The same applies to football casual looks, which don’t win me over in spite of their considerable history. But then, I must confess that I am that unusual thing in this country – a man who couldn’t care less about football. I’m sorry to say that I can’t help but associate football shirts with football hooliganism and lairy blokes shouting at the telly. With this being said, I am, of course, aware that other men live for the beautiful game. As such they have a completely different set of associations with football shirts. They will also have a completely different sense of their own identity. 

As I see it, one of the main points about dressing well is not to conform to what some expert dictates as being stylish or in good taste. Rather, it’s about feeling good in what you wear. And what makes you feel good is when your outfit effectively expresses your chosen identity. If you see yourself as a fairly blokey bloke then a football shirt will be right on the money. If, however, you aspire to look like some sort of suave, James Bondesque, international man of mystery, then it won’t really cut the mustard. To a large extent, dressing is about manifesting our ideals. If you can align who you want to be with the stuff hanging in your wardrobe you’ll be laughing.

Own Fan Club
Own Fan Club

Vintage football shirts are never going to make you look sophisticated, no matter how hefty the price tag, how retro the styling or how glorious the game or the team. But if that’s not the image or the identity you’re going for then who cares? If the football shirt represents something bordering on the spiritual for you then don’t strip off on my account! On the contrary, get your kit on!

Samuel Walters

London-based Samuel explores men’s fashion and men's style, and unpacks menswear trends through light-hearted anecdote and observation.

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