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Design Football Memebrs Blog

Mar 20

England Umbro 2011-12 Away Shirt Review

Posted by Jay29ers in Untagged 


Apologies to anyone who is offended by my timekeeping.  The navy England away shirt has been out for nearly a year and only now am I going to review it.  I do have excuses but they're wafer-thin so I'll get on with the business in hand.

As late as it is, it may actually be an ideal time to read about the pros and cons of the current England away shirt.  There's a tournament coming - generally the point at which there is a spike in shirt sales - and England, despite my claims that they would wear Nike and/or a red away at Euro 2012, will be packing this model for their journey to Eastern Europe.  So as I have a review example, probably the last one I'll receive, let's make the most of it.

First a little background.  The shirt was launched by way of British boxer David Haye carrying it on his back prior to being completely outclassed by Wladimir Klitschko in his world title unification bout.  Not an auspicious start from the marketing perspective and it got worse still when Haye blamed his defeat on a broken toe.  After the lauded Tom Meighan-assisted unveiling of the previous away shirt there was method in the madness, but it backfired spectacularly.

The Kasabian stunt was also more accurately reprised with the assistance of dance music act Chase & Status (me neither) but the damage was done.  The England shirt would have to do its talking on the pitch.

The tragedy is it needn't have been this way.  The latest concoction from the Tailored By conveyor belt actually had a back story, and probably the best yet.  Instead of relying on erring boxers and disc spinning hat wearers (is there no end to C&S's talents?), Umbro could possibly have made more of the fact that the colour scheme which, as would pass, so many baulked at, had origins in the traditional appearance cap given to every player turning out for the national side.  When I was later educated with this further information, David Haye and the apparent musical geniuses disappeared in a puff of smoke, to be replaced with comforting nostalgia.

And if we view the shirt from this perspective it fares well.  It's not red, but red has been done to death and, whilst I maintain that the brand new goalkeeper shirt may well have originally been designed as an away - and I'm not ruling out it being promoted to that (Chase-less) status by way of public opinion and Derren Brown-esque mind control from Umbro - it's actually a relief to not have to compare an England change shirt to one worn 46 years ago.  This shirt is unashamedly navy and it should be commended for its arrogance.

It's also unspectacular.  Like the first Tailored By home shirt in '09, it's simple and for all the history and fanfare surrounding its release the most positive attribute is its understatedness.  As a design piece it is measured and restrained.

From a tailoring perspective it may be the best yet.  The shape and cut stick to the principles of the '09 home but now the chest/shoulder stitching details are more flattering and pronounced.  As Umbro are always very keen to emphasise, this isn't a skin-tight shirt but more than ever before, sorry Kitbag, it is a shirt that must be tried on.  Get it in the right size and it will flatter most of us, get it in the wrong size and it will be unforgiving or, if worn oversized, will defeat the purpose and descend into pointless polo shirtery.

That last comparison is, like its 2009-2010 home equivalent, the shirt's biggest failing.  As a replica shirt it's not quite enough.  Wayne Rooney looks fantastic kicking opponents in it because he accessorises with UEFA patches, his number on his chest and match-specific scroll below the crest.  For the average fan these details will be missing and, even allowing for the now noticeably high profile Umbro logo, it needs something a little extra. Three years ago I suggested a pink t-shirt under the home shirt, now my fondness is with baselayers and I urge the sartorially discerning to use one in the collar's paler blue as a complement.  It wouldn't be allowed on the pitch but, for once, the fan has an advantage over the player.

So nice cut, nice collar - though why it has no top button in this age of Micky Flanagan's w*nker/a*sehole is beyond me - and it is the last, to date, England shirt with what we will call a proper crest.

Yes, another advantage of reviewing the away shirt so late on is that I can compare it to the more recent release(s).  For me it is an absolute tragedy that Umbro have elected to eschew the greatest thing that their Tailored By range brought to the table, an England crest perfectly coloured and embroidered in all its three-lioned and crown and 'England' legend-less glory.

As a quick contrast, the England away shirt is based on a bastion of tradition and features the definitive crest, whilst the new England home kit is white with three-tone red details, save for the crest which is in just the one shade, and a collar that pops to reveal more three-tone red details.  The new home kit also features white shorts and, due to its simplified crest, the shirt cannot even be paired with the enduring navy change away shorts, which may have been a popular concession to the wallet and history.  Instead we look forward to a change pair in red #3.  Oh joy.

All in all the England away shirt is a masterpiece for the inventive.  You may have to work to see it in its full glory but as a creation it avoids being run through by the double-edged sword of design for design's sake.

Being all things to all men is a tricky balancing act for Umbro - a recent request for ideas on the direction of future shirts on a popular kit design forum was met with comment #1 "...stop making the shirts too simple." swiftly followed by comment #2 "A simple plain white shirt." - but taking pride in inspiring the quite brilliant new Nike ranges such as the risky France designs is not adequate if your own latest offering implies your most pressing current concern is determining which episode of Nathan Barley you inhabit.

Congratulations, Umbro.  The Tailored By range has been a wonderful breath of fresh air which has revolutionised kit design and, although it doesn't shout it from the rooftops, the current away/third-shirt-in-waiting is one of its finest purveyors.  Let's just hope time doesn't reveal it to be the zenith before the shark was jumped.



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