My wife, ex-girlfriends and especially my parents have never failed to reiterate their frustration, confusion and sheer lack of comprehension towards my football shirt collecting passion (uhm..addiction). Again for my American friends, this is soccer not American football. So as my wife and parents have asked for so many years: why? Seriously why? Well let me try and answer the ‘why’ and allow me to expose you to the artistic yet stupendous world of funky coloured shirts with numbers and silly names on the back.
Being born in Rotterdam, the home of Feyenoord, was no obstacle for my dad who made it very clear from an early age that there is only one club to support, Ajax Amsterdam. So the above was my first shirt of many, so damn many shirts. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old and at that age you then do not wish to wear anything else but that shirt. Showing off to your mates and all that usual kids stuff. I remember that at a later stage I even had my name Marcel and the number 11 printed on the back. I was only a kid, now I would have definitely not put my own first name on there (pfff.
I grew up in various countries like Gabon, Scotland, Holland and England and spent many holidays abroad where I somehow seem to focus on finding shops that sold football shirts. It was like a hunter seeking out animals to kill, my hunt as a piece of fabric.
Now my parents at first thought that this was going to get a bit too expensive and tried to sway me towards the fake shirts sold at the local markets. I know, how could they! Especially in Spain, where we frequently went on holiday, there is just an abundance of fake shirts sold at markets for only a fraction of the cost that an authentic kit would cost.
However paying 20 euro’s for a fake shirt instead of 60 or 70 back then for an authentic kit was a trick that my parents did not manage to brainwash me with for too long. Bless them for trying, but this addicted mind would not budge.
I remember vividly the fake away shirt of Bayern Munich from 1998 bought on a Spanish market, I believe on the island of Gran Canaria. My mother is a renowned and feared haggler for the lowest prices at markets. I can still hear some cries in the far distance.
She would always start at half the price, then after re-emphasising three times she would not budge, the market vendor would remain firm and deny the sale, upon which my mother would then start walking away with great drama and 9 out of 10 times the vendor coming after her saying he would agree anyway.
Yeah she would have made an interesting interrogator in a different lifetime.
Real vs Fake
For those of you wondering what the difference is between an authentic kit and a fake (market) version, well I know there are more important things in life but that difference is very simple: the kit maker’s logo. Although I have to add a side note there. Back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that was the case. Most shirts were missing the Nike, Adidas or Puma logo’s and often even had the wrong sponsor names.
See below for example.
However I have noticed many places have actually upped their game in counterfeit shirts which are much harder to distinguish nowadays.
For example this shirt:
Subtle differences in color and material used. So what to do about this folks?
Well also that answer is very simple. If you want an authentic kit then do not go to the markets but visit the football club official store often at the stadium, go to retailers like Intersport, Nike, Adidas, Puma and of course you will be paying full price, however you at least know you are wearing the real deal.
On the other hand if you do not care then save yourself some money and go to those horrible markets and try and avoid my mother.
You know how artsy people would go to a museum or gallery and stare at a piece of art for hours and admire the sheer beauty of its design? Well often I do not understand those people when I see some of the paintings they’re looking at, but I have to tell you all that for me football kits are…art.
Every season I get excited about which new designs are being released and most importantly which ones from my own club, Arsenal.
Over my lifetime I have owned over 100 authentic kits. A lot I sold on eBay and others I kept for memory’ sake. And I am sure you must be wondering why on earth I need that many kits, well call me crazy or a hoarder, but its like I mentioned earlier, collecting art.
So in this section of The Shirt CollectorI will be covering what I look for in shirts, my all time favourites and how I can be such a traitor and wear the shirts of my rivals etc.. So stay tuned for more fabric lunacy!