If it’s not about goals, then football is about words. So many words are spouted about the beautiful game from commentators and pundits on the telly; to the good gentlemen of the press; through to the amateur pundits down the pub and of course the players themselves. Since this article is about football shirts, I’d like to focus on just six words: football, áo bóng đá, vintage, replica, retro and classic.
A vintage footy shirt is any shirt from a non-contemporary era. So last year’s Shrewsbury Town shirt may be considered as vintage. By the same token, a Preston North End shirt from the 1888 to 89 season may also be considered as a vintage football shirt. So the description ‘vintage’ gives no indication as to the value of a particular football shirt. We need, therefore, to bring in some additional definitions.
A classic number would include that Preston shirt from 1888-89, but would not our beloved Shrewsbury Town one from a couple of years back. By the efforts and performances of that Preston North End team in winning the first ever League Championship, a shirt worn during that season is a classic shirt. Since the game was in its infancy at that stage, of course, there would have been no football industry as such, including replica shirts – any shirt claiming to be a genuine PNE from 1888-89 should be treated with caution. However, modern manufacturers such as Toffs do make replicas.
My definition (of ‘classic’) can include replicas of shirts worn by particularly memorable or successful teams, so an England shirt from 1966, or a Manchester United from Wembley 1968 or a Liverpool one from Rome 1977 are but three examples of classic shirts.
A replica shirt is any (official) copy of a kit. Therefore our England 1966 could be described as replica or match worn, classic and vintage – as I alluded to above, the additional distinction between replica and match worn is crucial as big bucks could be at stake. Of course, the distinction ‘replica’ may include unofficial copies, so caution must be exercised when considering these. A replica shirt may be vintage / current; classic or retro. Bear in mind also that there was no such thing as a replica shirt before 1975, so any replica of an England 66 shirt has been made since.
It seems that the term retro would date an item from the 80’s to the mid 90’s. I don’t quite know where this entirely arbitrary definition has sprung up from in the sense of football shirts, but I’d like to wager that the birth of shirt sponsorship (Liverpool FC’s deal with Hitachi in 1979) would define the start of the ‘retro’ period and possibly the need for things to be at least 10 or 15 years old would define the end of the period.
So those are my definitions of the terms ‘vintage’; ‘classic’; ‘replica’ and ‘retro’ as far as they apply to football shirts. Of course we can see various shirts fitting into all or any of these categories. An Everton shirt from the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1985 would fit into all whereas an Hereford United shirt from this season would be a replica shirt only – one from their 1972 cup run would be a different matter altogether mind.