Will baggy football shirts ever make a comeback? - The Leamington Observer

Will baggy football shirts ever make a comeback?

The 1990s in the UK: A decade of britpop, Cool Britannia and, most importantly, baggy football shirts.

The millennium’s final decade saw the rise of modern football culture in the UK, with the Premier League becoming one of the most popular and lucrative football leagues in the world and England doing alright at hosting and playing in Euro ‘96.

Some of the most iconic sports jerseys of all time were also worn by players representing UK football clubs in the 90s. United’s Sharp shirts with the Umbro logos tiled down the sleeves, the Newcastle Brown Ales efforts donned by Alan Shearer, and that 92/93 Arsenal away kit.

There were loads of barmy designs alongside those classics, and they all had one thing in common – they were baggy! Like empty potato sacks or upcycled parachutes, players would drown in this oversized apparel.




The science behind football shirts

These designs loosely (pun intended) followed the fashion trends of the decade but, from a sports performance perspective, the argument was that the more relaxed fit would give players greater mobility and freedom than the short shorts and slim-fit tops of the ‘80s.

After the millennium, the big manufacturers were able to implement all sorts of cool performance enhancing (legal!) tech into the jersey designs. ‘Climacool’, for example, is the word I most associate with the 2002 World Cup.


Climacool is a tech developed by Adidas and is supposed to be a more breathable fabric that wicks moisture away effectively.

It’s hard to say whether it made a significant difference in 2002: Germany made it to the final in the Climacool tech but France and Argentina both massively disappointed, crashing out in the group stage and no doubt ruining many football accumulators in the process.

While brilliantly breathable, Adidas’ Climacool World Cup jerseys were still pretty baggy. Kappa, on the other hand, went in the other direction entirely with its ‘Kombat’ stretchy fabric tech (modeled by Francesco Totti, et al.) that heralded the golden age of skin-tight soccer shirts.

Football shirts before their time

Not wanting to be left out of the football shirt revolution, Puma designed not one, but two different rule-breaking outfits for the Cameroon national team during the early noughties.

For the first, Puma interpreted breathability in a more literal sense by removing sleeves entirely. FIFA didn’t look too kindly upon that and banned the design before the 2002 World Cup (but not before Cameroon won the African Cup of Nations in it).

Puma’s second wild design was a onesie, which was worn in 2004 before FIFA outlawed that one, too.

The next ‘too-futuristic-for-its-own-good’ shirt design was Adidas’ TechFit PowerWeb, introduced into shirts ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

The (frankly uncomfortable-looking) PowerWeb bands over the shoulders and back of the shirt provided stability, while the moisture-wicking fabric regulated body temperature and reduced fatigue. Adidas reckoned that the enhanced performance increases power, speed, and agility on the field.

Lads, it’s a football shirt…

Future football shirts

Companies continue to innovate in the football shirt space. Nike, for example, extended their ‘Fit ADV’ technology to national team shirts for the 2022 World Cup.

This utilization, which employs “body-mapped engineering” to focus on “specific areas, informed by meticulous lab testing, where we know the athlete will experience significant sweat and heat during movement” was key in Qatar, where temperatures were a concern.

Sustainability is also an important consideration for manufacturers in 2023 and beyond. Nike, for example, claims that their latest kits are made from 100% recycled polyester.

All of these shirts have a close fit, no doubt to maximize the benefits of the cooling, wicking mesh that these brands have all spent millions of dollars developing.

While 90s fashion staples like bucket hats, track tops and flared jeans have crept back on to the high street in recent years, it seems unlikely that we’ll see a return of the excess material that characterized ‘90s football.

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