Kit & Caboodle is a new book which looks beyond the basics of a football shirt and unpicks the seams of what they actually mean. Johnny Nic is a fan.
As Jerry Seinfeld once said: “You’re actually rooting for the clothes, when you get right down to it…You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player, but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt; they hate him now. Boo! Different shirt! Boo!”
It’s so true, isn’t it? Shirts are powerful. They come and go; their colours, patterns and designs change. The modern shirt is littered in advertising, where once there was none. Football shirts reflect so much about the world we live in, the changing economics and culture.
That’s why Matt Riley’s lavishly illustrated Kit & Caboodle is such an interesting and important new book. A comprehensive look at every aspect of shirts, it unpicks the seams of what we and our clubs are supporting, lays bare many of the underlying issues and discusses how football shirts are a lightning rod for so many of them.
It delves into the counterculture outlook of St Pauli and Forest Green Rovers, both revolutionary in their own way. It looks at Atalanta’s revolutionary baby box scheme. It considers the impact of the black and the white shirt, asks who is still trying to sell European Super League shirts and which club designed their kit as a QR code to highlight human rights abuses. And that’s just for starters.
No aspect is left untouched in this highly entertaining – who doesn’t like looking at photos of football shirts? – but also intellectually rewarding book, as Matt investigates how shirts are used to push messages, brands and identity, some more successfully than others.
He looks at the rise of the retro shirts and also how shirts reflect the changing attitude to LGBTQ+ community.
But it is perhaps the chapter on how gambling and more recently, cryptocurrency companies have occupied this most valuable of real estate that is the most insightful, excoriating and challenging. Do we really want our passion for our clubs to be co-opted into promoting them?
With a forward by Kevin Day, this is a deep dive into a culture which all fans, whoever we support, have an abiding interest in. It is an essential read and better yet, all royalties go to Exeter City Women FC.