The origin of European Football is a hotly contested topic and the game took a professional shape in the United Kingdom in the late 18th century but a team uniform was not of the early innovations of the new sport.
A similar colored shirt or cap or scarf was worn to differentiate teams but around the 1870s, steps were taken to move soccer uniforms to what they are commonly known as today. Even then, matching shorts and socks were not considered part of the team uniform until the early 1900s. Long trousers or pantaloons were common features of early football games and the earliest version of shin guards made an appearance before shorts and socks were properly introduced.
However, as soon as the traditional top, shorts and socks uniform was established, its popularity spread like wildfire and football teams around the world were noted by their particular uniform.
As football spread around the world with travelers and former UK citizens introducing the game to new countries, a similarity in kits grew. This has led to the familiarity between strips of teams around the world. One example would be Juventus from Italy wearing the same stripes as Notts County, black and white stripes. As time has moved on, Juventus have become far more famous around the world but at the start of the 20th century, Notts County were one of the biggest clubs in England and the world of football at the time.
With two world wars spanning the next few decades, any developments in football fashion was mainly cosmetic with the few changes focusing on moving away from a proper shirt to the style of top that is more commonly associated with the modern era of the game.
As the advent of European Cup and the rise of television, football fans around the world became more aware of teams from other nations and the different styles of kit started to create new influences. One of the most important influences came from Real Madrid, European Cup winners for the first five years. Real Madrid wore a striking all white kit, most notably copied by Leeds United who changed their blue and yellow kit, and sported a smaller pair of shorts than the baggy efforts that were common in Britain. The 1960s not only brought about a revolution in the world of music, there was a fashion change in the world of football as button collars and long shorts went out of style and circle and V-neck collars with smaller shorts.
The 1970s saw even further fashionable changes but the next revolution in football uniforms came with the selling of replica shirts and then the addition of sponsors’ logos on the kit. Football clubs realized they could make money by selling copies of their strips to fans and as televised football grew more popular, companies were eager to have their name positioned on the team kit.
Although the 1980s were memorable as the era when football shorts were at their smallest and tightest, the most important changes in football uniforms since then have revolved around the technology. Sportswear technology has allowed kit manufacturers to make uniforms that are lighter, cooler and draw sweat away from players’ bodies. All of these innovations are designed to give an edge to the top players in a sport where the slightest advantage can make all the difference.
Fashion trends and styles come and go but the demand for football uniforms has never been higher than it is today. With new technologies making the kit even lighter and more suitable to the quickening pace of the game, football uniforms will continue to keep evolving and fascinating fans the world over.