With what many are coining as the return of 90’s ‘Lad’ or ‘Terrace’ style in fashion, the number of football shirts being donned in non-athletic situations is seeing a huge spike. Especially among those in their late teens and early twenties. This is far from a new trend. In fact we’ve been in the midst of this current jersey revival for over five years. Many manufacturers even design third kits solely to look good down the pub, with a pair of jeans. However, it is now at the stage where the market has become so saturated, that anywhere you looked this summer you’d struggle not to see a football shirt.

Now, it is not the trend of wearing football shirts on a hot day in summer, that I want to focus our lens on today. Rather, it is the phenomenon that comes with it. A phenomenon that is as cyclical as the fashion trends that it pits itself up against and that is: having to prove to a total stranger that you possess enough knowledge to justify wearing that shirt.

With the proliferation of social media and content creation within our broader society, it is not uncommon to see a 30 second clip of some spiky haired youth sticking a mic in the face of one of their peers. Then proceeding to ask their unwitting target to espouse enough knowledge regarding the shirt they are wearing. Until it is deemed to be at a level satisfactory with keeping the jersey on their back.
“Oh, you’ve got Ronaldo (9) on the back of your shirt? Well, name three of his songs.”
What would then ensue, would be an intentionally embarrassing scene of a person clambering at their knowledge in order to placate this venomous stranger with a video camera.

Before it was football shirts, it was band tees and before that, it was thrasher t-shirts. Just to name a few of the more recent examples.
Though, no one asks of you when wearing a solid red t-shirt, how many of Rothko’s paintings can you name?
So, the question at the heart of the matter is. Why is it in our psyche, to force people into providing evidence in order to justify wearing certain clothes? Is it a fear that having people that don’t buy into what the shirt represents, waters down the authenticity of said football club/band/skateboard magazine?
Whether it’s just a manifestation of tall poppy syndrome at large, or our collective cynicism. Perhaps this gatekeeping has evolved from an innate desire to stand out from the crowd and flaunt our uniqueness. Which we all know is best achieved, by bringing down those around us.

Does this mean that I now have to memorise Rapid Vienna’s 1992/93 fixture list, just to be able to adorn this stripy shirt?
To answer my own rhetorical question, no, you can probably get away with just knowing every player in their entire squad since the year 2000.

I am of the view that we are nearing terminal velocity on this trend, and very soon there will be another that takes its place. We are at the point where football adjacent brands and even those in the mainstream fashion realm, are now producing their own jerseys. This creates a safer space for those nonplussed with football itself and are simply enamoured with the 90’s aesthetic and boxy silhouette that jerseys bring. In turn, negating the whole social justification process of the entire palaver.

At the end of the day, wear what most appeals to you. And if you really want to stand out, wear a bin bag on your head, but be sure to memorise what day of the week green waste is collected.

George Davies

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