It’s the details that matter

6 03 2013

Once upon a time I created a catalogue for Bangor’s club shop, no-one asked me to create the catalogue I just felt that the shop needed one. I ended up redrafting the sodding thing 10 times.

I realise that by sharing this particularly fascinating anecdote I’m also sharing the idea that I’m securely at the OCD end of the perfectionism spectrum. I’d care about being an extreme perfectionist but I’m too much of an optimistic pessimist, I supress the memories of frayed sanity to think of thoroughly completed jobs.

Sadly, life’s not that simple. The influence of extreme perfectionism extends further than admin tasks and it’s a bugger to live with. Can you imagine the stress involved in buying clothes? Can you imagine letting the wrong type of zip in the wrong place on a jacket bother you? I want to put up with stuff but I can’t.

While we’re on the subject of clothes let us turn to the exciting world of retro replica shirts.  The racks of retro replica shirts in big branches of HMV and the Mike Ashley’s palaces of polyester tell us that the production of retro replicas shirts is a growth industry. I like a bit of football-related nostalgia so you’d assume that I would be happy with this situation but I’m not happy and never could be.

The root of my unhappiness lies in extreme perfectionism; most of the retro replicas don’t look quite right. The problem may be a single detail, a detail that other people would never notice, a detail that wouldn’t bother other people, but this single detail will nag and nag and nag at my peace of mind. “Why did  they put collar pinstripe in slightly the wrong place???” A retro replica needs to look authentic otherwise what’s the point?

Not all retro replicas look awful. Reproductions of pre mid-1970s designs tend to be fine, but then it is hard to get these reproductions wrong; the designs were classically simple and the only concession to fashion was the once in a decade collar change  (Rugby shirt to V-neck to round neck). You can see this process of gradual change on the wonderful site Historical Football Kits.

Here are some examples of doing things properly;

a shirt 2
a shirt 3
a shirt 4

As I’ve already hinted that dissatisfaction clings like the smell of fried food on curtains if you look beyond a certain manufacturer of retro replicas, and that’s even if the reproductions look perfect. The first problem is the material, some manufacturers use material that’s best described as “tea towel-esque” and my god how those shirts chafe in cold weather.

The major problems arise when you’re after authentic looking shirts from 1980s or 1990s because reproductions of shirts from this period never look quite right, even the shirts of that certain manufacturer.(This is where my OCD perfectionism really kicks in) Pinstripes are either too close together, too far apart or too thick, the piping never looks right and there’s always something wrong with the collars; wrong shape or slightly wrong design. How can these designers live with themselves? They endeavour to make a shirt with an authentic air then put a collar pinstripe in the wrong place. (I’m sorry to go on about pinstripes but they were a big design idea in the 1980s.)

The biggest problem regarding authenticity is the absence of manufacturers’ logos and branding. Perfectionists need the logos and branding because the shirts of the 1980s and ‘90s had them. (This isn’t a problem with pre-mid-1970s shirts as most of them didn’t have logos.) Without the correct details the retro replicas are just pale imitations, as you can see;

a shirt 6

a shirt 12

a shirt 7

a shirt 13

Look at those terrible retro replicas again. The proportions are all wrong, the collars are all wrong, the sponsors logos aren’t even the right size. It would be bad enough if you wanted an authentic looking replica of a hummel, le coq sportif or umbro shirt but look at the shoddy crap you have to put up with if you want an authentic replica of an adidas shirt. It’s even worse when they add stripy detailing to the sleeves for greater authenticity. These retro replicas aren’t pale imitations, they’re anaemic imitations;

a shirt 8

a shirt 14

If the situation was as bad as this it would be bad enough but it’s not, it’s worse. The mania for retro replicas has reached stupid heights, everything has to be commemorated. Whether it’s Villa’s  1992-’93 premier league runner’s up side   or Leeds’ side from their mid 1980s stay in Division 2  or QPR’ s 1984-’85 side that was defeated by Partizan Belgrade on away goals

The worst thing is when the license holding manufacturers get it wrong. Behold the garments that adidas manufacture. Firstly, we turn to their attempt at Liverpool’s 1986 shirt. The badge is slightly wrong, the collar and stripes are wrong and the number’s too big.

a shirt 19

As you can see

a shirt 17

Let’s turn to this reproduction of a Marseille shirt; the badge is wrong, the adidas logo is wrong and the stripes went over the shoulder.

a shirt 10

As you can see

a shirt 16

As for this 1980s inspired Bayern retro shirt, Bayern’s shirts from this era didn’t have a club badge.

a shirt 11

As you can see.

a shirt 15

While you could say it doesn’t really matter that adidas, or any of the manufacturers for that matter, are producing this stuff it’s only clothes, I must point out that adidas are charging £50 for the above garments. Why did adidas go to the trouble of researching a shirt from their own archive and then not only cock it up with slipshod design but charge a fortune for it?

They say nostalgia ain’t what it used to be and based on the work of retro replica shirt manufacturers that cliché is certainly true. The companies that make these shirts, and more irritatingly the clubs that want them produced, think that we should pay homage to old players, teams and eras by buying these shirts but how are we supposed to pay homage with something that looks a bit cheap, nasty and inauthentic? It feels like they want to cheapen peoples’ memories or joyful feelings. All these grasping bastards – manufacturers, clubs, shops – want our money but can’t be arsed getting things right.

It’s not only the fact that these retro replicas are shoddy-looking, they make it look as though sponsors are intrinsic to football. These retro replicas appear to be as much about  providing Crown Paints, The Yorkshire Evening Post and Sharp Viewcam with free advertising as they are about “celebrating” a club’s past.  Why add sponsors if you’re not going to bother with manufacturers’ logos?

What’s wrong with a nice t-shirt all of a sudden?




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