Teamkits: An Area on the Edge of Change
Brands are starting to make strides in the teamwear market which is ripe for innovation
With the 21/22 mens UEFA Champions League in full swing, the historic tournament brings together some of Europe's most elite clubs. As Liverpool and Real Madrid get set to go head to head in the men's final in Paris, LTP take a look at some of the key kits of both the tournament, and of the sport. Alex Ingildsen, CCO at LTP states
“Despite an increase in statement graphics, when we compare football to sports like cycling or running, there’s been little innovation across more than 100 years of the sports heritage leagues. With a wealth of innovation happening across running and cycling, we had to wonder why this is so slow to influence the football sector, particularly when it shares so many of the same needs, from aerodynamic design through to compression and wicking.”
Despite the sluggishness of such an active sport to pick this up, we are now starting to see some exciting moves in the category, influencing style and innovation, along with the emergence of unexpected brands into the premier league.
Evolution of Kits
Though the key visible elements of a football shirt have remained broadly the same, it's the fabrics and fit which have altered through the years. Shirts have evolved from wool and cotton, into polyester based styles. This shift from natural to synthetic fibers has brought with it the possibility to engineer in performance, as well as more notable sublimation prints. From wicking moisture away from the body, aiding in breathability and keeping the wearer cool, polyester shirts brought with them strength and adaptability. It's estimated that on a wet day, a polyester based shirt absorbs just 0.4% of its weight in water, in comparison to a cotton shirt at 7% of its weight.
To successfully wick moisture, garments need to sit close to the body. This change in fit is something that has happened comparatively recently, in the image below three of Arsenal's kits all share similar details, but dramatically different fits. This shift to a tighter fit is also something that allows for the introduction of compression paneling which can help with muscle support and recovery.
Though a slow process, the big name kit sponsors are slowly speeding up their innovations. Just months after creating the world's lightest teamwear jersey (weighing just 72grams) using their Ultraweave technology, Puma are now experimenting with using existing football jerseys, which are de-polymerized before being re-polymerized, to produce new ones, through their RE:JERSEY project. The shirts will be worn by Manchester United and AC Milan among others.
Style and Streetwear
Hype culture has also had an effect on team kits, with bold graphics and archive revivals gaining attention. The last decade has seen many clubs dig into their archives, catering to demand and reviving vintage collections from their hayday. Streetwear is part of this drive around the revival of retro kits, with brands drawing influence from some of the sports iconic designs. Streetwear label Palace teamed up with Kappa for a collection which paid homage to football's influence over Britpop and 90s style.
Younger streetwear brands like Lack of Guidance are taking a more retro approach, with minimal turtleneck styles reminiscent of 60’s sporting silhouettes.
Bold graphics are areal win for team kits, on the launch of Nike’s much hyped 2018 World Cup kit for Nigeria, the jersey alone got three million pre-orders from fans, selling out as soon as they were released.
A big name when it comes to premier league kits, Nike have recently taken a more localized approach to kit design with two London based teams, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. For Tottenham they called on local creatives to bring the influence of the diverse area to the third kit, and for Chelsea they turned to the club's fans to add the influences of London to the kit.
Not to be forgotten, women's football is also getting a fair bit of focus. Despite the England women's team only getting their own kit in 2019, the sector has been growing with demand for women's kits increasing with that. Stella McCartney has recently partnered with Arsenal to create a number of printed unisex styles for the team, which, true to the Stella brand, are created with recycled polyester and organic cotton.
New to the Field
With big brands holding the majority of club kit sponsorships, it’s worth noting that younger brands are entering the space and bringing their own identity with them.
Disrupting the status quo is UK based Castore, since being founded by two brothers in 2015, the brand has gone on to become kit partners to eight European football teams, gaining five of those in the last two seasons. Having held space in both tennis and cricket since 2019, the move into football has been rapid.
When it comes to why big name clubs are making the switch to a relatively small brand, much of this lies in their quick turn around, responding to the demands of the season, and their bespoke designs.
Brand loyalty is fairly consistent when it comes to football, with kit changes often making the headlines. If we take adidas as an example, they’ve been the sponsor of both the German and Spanish national teams since 1954, and 1991 respectively. Brands like Castore are offering a fresh influence, bringing new business models, and rapid production to an area that’s ripe for change.
LTP is a Danish owned garment manufacturer for +60 premium brands within active sportswear, cycling, outdoor, urban performance, performance running and organic & lifestyle apparel. LTP was established in 1991 and now spans two continents - Europe and Asia with 6 fully owned factories. Our European Innovation Centre is located in Kaunas, Lithuania and our Asian Innovation Centre is located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We have a Bluesign partner factory in all 4 countries where we operate (Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and Vietnam).
LTP consists of two divisions; LTP Garment and LTP Furniture producing in eleven fully-owned factories.