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What They’ve Worn – Crystal Palace

Today, football kits seem to be more about fashion, style and panache, regularly competing with other kits in a duel for an imaginary title each season. Quite bizarre really when you consider the target audience consists mainly of overweight middle aged men who wear the strip religiously, as though they got married in it! Companies these days boast of all the technology inside a kit which apparently stops sweat and keeps you warmer during Winter. Well try telling that to the 46-year old at the gym with the ‘Caution, Wet Floor’ sign next to his treadmill. Forget all the jargon thrown at us and the cringeworthy slogans from the ad campaigns, the only reason we fork out £40 each season is because our heroes wear the same garments whether they like it or not.

Which brings me onto Palace and our class of 1990, the most successful period in our history when we reached the FA Cup Final. Why did we have to be sponsored by ‘Virgin’? Looking back on all the videos from that era, you cannot help but snigger when you see the squad together, smiling with that word scrawled across their chests. It was unjust, almost like a postik note had been placed on the front of every individuals shirt by the school bully. I would welcome Branson’s company back now however, as the current crop look as if they have trouble scoring…

Gazza surrounded by a few virgins  

At least the rest of the kit is attractive. So much so that the mighty Barcelona stole the design from us years ago… Ok I made that bit up, but if you focus really carefully you might mistake us for the Spanish giants. Well, albeit pre-match before a ball has been kicked. But it is quite pleasing to see a team in red and blue stripes lift some silverware once in a while, it helps you dream – and makes it easier to substitute Xavi’s head with Ambrose’s!

The design can go wrong sometimes however, as we saw in 2007 when Italian manufacturer, Errea, thought that it would be a good idea to position our stripes in such a way that it looked reminiscent of a heart. Not popular among fans as we were now subject to having a heart shaped kit as well as being known as ‘virgins of the 90’s’. Considering the fashion disaster placed upon us, our on field performances did improve just like 1990, as the club made the play-offs. Opposition could ill afford a giggle as Ben Watson’s ginger hair blended in with the kit it was so bright, he ended the season with a host of Premier League clubs chasing his signature.

 ‘Prince Harry’ earned a move to Wigan in that strip

 Excluding those two monstrosities, our kit history has been rather pleasant. Receiving a batch of kits from Aston Villa at the start of the clubs existence, we adopted claret and blue as our colours until the seventies, then changing to and from design after design, stuttering upon which one to keep. From white with claret and blue bars to all white, we were like a teenage girl before a party, deciding which one to choose until finally settling on the red and blue stripes. But there was one design that caught the eye of all nostalgic Palace fans.

The white strip was incorporated with a fresh new look. Two stripes accompanied the kit, one red, one blue, but unlike how ordinary stripes were meant to look. They both swung from one shoulder down to the opposite hip, like a beauty pageant sash. Fans from the seventies remember their idols charging down the wing wearing this during a period of fantastic football albeit without any real success. The fans still reminisce about that kit with such fondness that it has been reignited by Errea and Nike in the past few seasons, much to the delight of young and old.

 Nike’s 2010 away strip, tastefully moving the sponsor, GAC

While I may not know much about fashion or what is trendy currently, I know that each football shirt is a work of art and a huge part of a football club. It is its corporate image, its identity, what the club truly looks like each week. And it’s funny how a certain kit can stay in the memory of fans for years as its what you associate that football club with. I mean even today, every time Churchill the dog struts across my television advertising cheap car insurance, I cannot help but think back to when he appeared on the front of my shirt. But one things for sure, new kits bring new optimism no matter how well they’re made. The England shirts, comprehensively simple and authentic, manufactured in Saville Row, got us nowhere in South Africa but nevertheless are still adorned by fans everywhere. From Palace’s point of view, it’s the ugly kits that bring success and I’m sure every fan would substitute that over looking decent in jeans down the pub each week.

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