COMPILING lists of memorable football kits can be a tricky task. Faced with a multitude of possibilities, it becomes more and more difficult to narrow it down to a short selection.
Which strips should we include? What really constitutes a terrible football strip? How often can we get away with using ‘explosion in a paint factory’ as a description?
There have been, without doubt, some incredibly bad football kits over the years. 1860 Munich’s 2010 strip designed to celebrate the club’s 150th anniversary was made up entirely of photos from the club’s past, Dundee sported a sludge-brown tartan effort in the 1950s and VFL Bochum’s kit in 1997 appears to show the results of a design dispute. And an honourable mention to Rosario of Argentina for this effort. Part Charlie Chaplin, part Thompson twins, the bowler-hatted man on the shirt is even rating the design out of 10.
But they didn’t quite make the top 16.
We’ve whittled the extensive list down to 16 classically terrible ‘Comic strips’, unlikely to be rivalled in terms of eye-bleeding awfulness.
Comic strips, No 1: Coventry City
EVERY team has had one - a strip to be ashamed of, or if it is labelled under ‘cult’ status, then bizarrely celebrated. Kicking off our list is Coventry City’s infamous sewer-brown away strip from the late 1970s.
Dundee and Wales carried off this Admiral ‘braces’ design with a bit of flair, but Coventry overstepped the taste boundaries by opting for the colour brown – giving opposition fans plenty of ammo to taunt them with. The hideous brown kit did have its day in the sun, however, as it was carried to glory in the 1979 four-team ‘Skol Festival’ tournament at Easter Road – during which they played Hibs, Hearts and Manchester City.
Comic strips, No 2: Norwich City
AUNTIE Mary would almost certainly have had a canary if she had clapped eyes on this monstrosity Norwich City inflicted upon the world in 1992-93. To be fair, the Nineties had a lot to answer for when it came to ‘psychedelic’ football strip designs. Maybe it was just a coincidence the Acid House culture was going strong in Britain, but many a top looked like a cat had been projectile vomiting on it.
This creation didn’t stop Norwich playing some of their best football – they finished in the dizzy heights of third in the Premier League behind champions Manchester United and runners-up Aston Villa and made a UEFA Cup appearance.
Comic strips, No 3: Scotland
THIS shocker from 1993 has to be the worst design ever inflicted on Scotland’s players or fans. The salmon pink and purple monstrosity – which was designed by Umbro – appeared when Scotland played Italy in Rome on 13 October. A 3-1 defeat in this match meant that for the first time in 20 years, Scotland would not appear in the World Cup finals. Inexplicably, the salmon pink was brought back a few years later, though thankfully the purple was nowhere to be seen as it was teamed with navy blue.
Comic strips, No 4: Morton
IN THE mid 1990s, as Morton’s fortunes on the pitch waned, resulting in a brief descent into the Second Division, greater creativity could be found off the park among the Greenock side’s kit designers. Eschewing the traditional home strip of blue and white hooped shirts, white shorts and white socks, they came up with this splendid tartan ensemble. The strip wasn’t a hit with everyone, however: FourFourTwo magazine at the time quoted English football pundit Jimmy Hill as saying: “I hate this. The circular white stripes on the shorts and socks don’t match the tartan. It’s not a football strip, more like a set of pyjamas.”
Comic strips, No 5: Hull City
YOU couldn’t compile a series like this without including Hull City’s outrageous tiger-stripe shirt from 1992-93.
In an era characterised by some truly terrible kits, the Tigers took their nickname too far with this hideous affair, although it reportedly sold well and now apparently attracts a kitsch following on eBay.
While Hull may have hoped the shirt would strike fear into opponents – or at least dazzle them into submission – it clearly had the opposite effect as the then Second Division club only just avoided plunging into English football’s lowest tier in a season memorable only for the launch of this infamous kit.
Comic strips, No 6: Celtic
THE Celtic away jersey for 1991-92, while not containing 40 shades of green, contains . . . well . . . quite a few, ranging from the camouflage effect at the top to the lurid green hue which covers most of the lower half.
A horrible double zig-zag effect in the middle, within which the sponsor’s name is picked out on a white background, offends the eye even more. And let’s not forget the controversial blue Ford logo.
It was a poor season for Celtic, too, as they finished third in the league, failed to reach a cup final and were thrashed 5-1 in the Uefa Cup by Neuchatel Xamax, though we can’t blame the strip for that debacle, as they wore their home strip that night. That said, Celtic have had a number of strikingly-different change kits, not least the yellow and black ‘bumblebee’ effort, this third kit offering from 1994/95 and of course this black, green and white effort from the early nineties.
Comic strips, No 7: Dundee United
THE Tannadice club’s 1993-1994 away strip looks like it could have been created as part of an early Jackson Pollock tie-dye experiment. Loved and loathed in equal measure by supporters (though apparently just loathed by potential sponsors – the kit remained unencumbered by advertising for the duration of the season), the Loki-designed black, white and grey swirls were memorably seen in action during the team’s triumphant Scottish Cup tie against Motherwell and the semi-final against Aberdeen. United went on to win the trophy for the first time in the club’s history.
Comic strips, No 8: Aberdeen
ABERDEEN’S strip at the time may have been sponsored by the local commercial radio station, but the 1995-96 away kit was well out of tune in terms of how it looked.
Possibly recalling Aberdeen’s early colours of gold and navy, part of it looked as though it had been splattered with paint - by someone wearing a blindfold at that - and it was far too fussy at the neck.
The home kit was a red and white version of this, and proved lucky for the Dons. Their last trophy triumph came while wearing it - a 2-0 success in the 1995 Coca-Cola Cup final against Dundee at Hampden.
Comic strips, No 9: David Seaman
THE first of two luridly-clad goalkeepers in our list, one would have thought that faced with this colour-wheel on a bit of red cloth, Germany’s penalty takers would have been too blinded, and or, sickened to even see the goal posts, never mind to slot the ball past David Seaman. However, they overcame this not-so-subtle piece of gamesmanship to hand England yet another penalty shoot-out defeat at a major tournament. This time it was the European championships semi-final match at Wembley in 1996. Germany won by one penalty after it ended 1-1 after extra time. Gareth Southgate, who probably was blinded by Seaman’s shirt, was the England scapegoat – his shot was saved.
Comic strips, No 10: Hibernian
WHILE Hibernian’s purple and white Bukta strip of the late 1970s has attained cult status, the club’s attempts to revive the colour in the 1990s were truly a crime against fashion.
A deep purple strip with black shorts was aired in the early years of the decade, then a fondly-remembered green and purple striped top, but it is the garish all-lilac kit of 1997 which deserves our scorn, beating the fluorescent yellow and black gradient effort from around the same time.
Modelled in our gallery by John “Yogi” Hughes, it is associated with one of the worst seasons in Hibs’ recent history - which saw the club relegated from the old Scottish Premier Division at the end of 1997-98, having only avoided the drop after a play-off the previous year.
Comic strips, No 11: Dunfermline
MANY of our previous shirt horrors have at least had the excuse of being the away kit of the club in question. Designers have, for some reason, always felt they had a bit more leeway with change strips.
Not Dunfermline, though. Kits don’t get much more classic than black and white stripes, and it’s quite difficult to get them wrong but, from 1992 to 1994, the Pars gave manufacturer Hummel carte blanche to defile 100-plus years of history with this abomination.
It’s a phrase which has been used many times over the years as an insult to strips which fans find unpalatable but never has the phrase “explosion in a paint factory” been more appropriate.
Comic strips, No 12: Australia
PERHAPS the Australian FA thought the Socceroos would become more successful if their players wore camouflage.
This hideous number, which was their first-choice kit (really) from 1990 to 1993, appears to be adorned with clumps of green shrubbery sprouting from a yellow background.
Whether it would have worked if they had been playing in the jungle is debatable. On the football pitch, the idea flopped. Australia had to wait until 2006 before their next World Cup finals appearance – in a different kit, of course.
Comic strips, No 13: Carlisle United
CARLISLE United’s unusual away kit from the 1994-95 season became known as “The Deckchair”. The strip was ridiculed when it was first introduced but went on to achieve cult status and become one of the Cumbrian club’s best-selling replica strips of all time, with travelling fans calling themselves the Deckchair Army.
It didn’t do them any harm on the pitch either as they won the Third Division and made it to Wembley for the first time, losing to Birmingham in the ’95 Football League Trophy final. The kit was also given the seal of approval by then Fulham chairman Jimmy Hill. And given he brought Coventry’s brown kit to the world, he should know.
Comic strips, No 14: Jorge Campos
ALL goalies are crazy, as the popular adage goes, and Mexico ‘keeper Jorge Campos, who won 130 caps, fits the description perfectly. Campos generally designed his own bizarre kits and regarded himself as much a striker as a goalkeeper, scoring 35 goals in 199 games for his first club, Pumas. Standing at just 5ft 8.5in, he made up for lack of height with great agility – and a jersey that distracted many an opponent, especially during the 1994 World Cup, during which his multicoloured strips became a talking point. Mexico’s outfield players also had a rather unusual kit during the 1998 World Cup, by having an actual face on the front of their strips - see what we mean here.
Comic strips, No 15: Partick Thistle
THINK pink. Well that’s what Partick Thistle’s kit manufacturer Puma, designers Genesis and official retailer Greaves Sports clearly did when they combined to create this away strip for the 2009-10 season. Coming just 12 months after a pink and grey hooped effort, and touted by the club as “the first camouflage strip in world football which features pink” (and the second camouflage kit in our list) it apparently proved popular with fans and players alike, with then manager Ian McCall stating: “The amazing thing is the wide age range of people who are buying into this – even from within my squad.”
Comic strips, No 16: Manchester United
MANCHESTER United’s grey away kit became a collector’s item in 1996 as the “strip they couldn’t see” was consigned to the dustbin after less than a season.
The outfit was blamed for a string of poor results and was promptly replaced by an all-white version. The last straw was at Southampton when, after going in three goals down at half-time and the players claiming they were having difficulty picking out team-mates, United manager Alex Ferguson demanded a switch to the blue and white third kit. The performance improved but United still lost 3-1.
• What is your ‘favourite’ worst kit? Have we omitted a strip that deserves to be in the top 16? Perhaps you’re a fan of one of the clubs listed and carry a torch for one of our choices. Let us know in the comments below