Best Retro Football Shirts Ranked
What exactly are the best retro football shirts of all time? What even makes a football shirt iconic? The beautiful game has certainly placed host to some beautiful, and not so beautiful (we’re looking at you 2016/17 CD Palencia) retro football shirts over the years.
The question of what makes a football shirt the best of the bunch, remains highly subjective among fan to fan, with it remaining near impossible for the footballing world to pick a unanimous winner. Many mitigating factors can play a part in a fans decision in selecting the ultimate footballing ‘grail’. Of course the obvious decision would be what the shirt itself looks like, such as the sponsorship and colour schemes. However other factors may play a part such as who wore the shirt, does the shirt reiterate a successful period for the side and the wider context surrounding the era of the shirt. All of these influences can play a vital role in a fans selection.
Although this lifelong argument remains unlikely to be solved anytime soon, some shirts have remained in contention for the crown of best retro football shirt, year upon year, even decade upon decade.
Football shirts remain universal, the power to start a conversation with a stranger in the street, or banter with someone on the other side of the globe. The power of football shirts should never be underestimated, a double edged sword, they remain both a fundamental revenue stream for club and country whilst also acting as a badge of honour for a football fan.
So strap yourselves in and be prepared to see some absolute beauties, as we rank the best retro football shirts of all time.
10. Nigeria 2018/19 Home Shirt
The first kit to grace the list remains the most recent of all. Despite not quite being classed as a ‘retro football shirt’, we are most definitely anticipating it to be one for the future. The ‘Super Eagles’ had footballing fans in pandemonium leading up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Not so much for their style of football, but their eye-catching kit.
The 2018/19 Nigeria kit, which will always remain synonymous with the Russian World Cup, left football fans from across the globe scrambling to secure a shirt. The shirt attracted huge interest, with over 3 million pre-orders (confirmed by the Nigeria Football Federation) as well as staggering queues around Nike flagship stores worldwide. The shirt remained sold out for the entirety of the tournament, with fans continuing to purchase the shirt well after the World Cup.
The makers described the kit as a “subtle homage to Nigeria’s 94 shirt, with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso.” The wavy and vibrant design ensured the ‘Super Eagles’ shirt solidified itself as the most anticipated shirt of the tournament. Whilst Nigeria crashed out of the 2018 World Cup during the group stages, their kit will remain the real winner in futures to come. A genuine contender for one of the iconic retro football shirts in futures to come.
Three million pre-orders ✅
Huge queues in London ✅
Sold out ✅
Do Nigeria have the best 2018 World Cup kit?
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 2, 2018
Retro Rangers Football Shirts – Is the Rangers golden era of Gazza, McCoist and Laudrup reiterated through their infamous 94/96 kit?
9. Rangers 1994/96 Home Shirt
The kit that remains synonymous with Paul Gascoigne, ‘Gazza’ highlighted a golden era for the western side of the Scottish capital. On 10th July 1995, Rangers smashed their previous transfer record to lure the Geordie to Ibrox, swapping Rome for Glasgow. The £4.3 million transfer fee, saw Gazza leave Lazio, and in turn join Rangers.
The light blue legions saw the acquisition of a global superstar and with it came success. Although Gazza only remained under the helm of Walter Smith for three seasons, he helped Rangers along to a continued dominance in Scotland, helping the club to two league titles, one Scottish Cup and one Scottish League Cup. Gazza was voted Rangers ‘Player of the Year’ following his first season at Ibrox, beating the likes of fellow superstars Brian Laudrup and Ally McCoist. Gazza’s monumental impact during his three year tenure at Ibrox, remains the reason the Rangers 1994/1996 home kit will always remain synonymous with the English midfielder.
The 1994/96 home kit saw the classic Adidas ‘three stripes’ along the arm, with a subtle adidas spellout on the neck. The Rangers logo came centrally above the infamous ‘McEwan’s Lager’ sponsor, the Edinburgh based brewery who remained the kit sponsor during Rangers’ golden era, spanning 12 years from 1987-99. Imprinted across the whole football kit were words, logos and designs all synonymous with the football club.
Retro France Football Shirt – Does Platini’s footballing magnum opus represent a pinnacle for French football and Les Bleus greatest ever kit?
8. France 1984/85 Home Shirt
Many moons ago, before Michel Platini became embroiled in bribery and corruption as the president of UEFA, he led Les Bleus, almost single handedly, to their first major international trophy at the 1984 UEFA European Championships. During the summer of 84, Platini captained France on home soil, scoring 9 of France’s 14 goals, bringing home both the Henri Delaunay trophy and the top goalscorer award (which still remains the record today in a European Championship.)
And so, an iconic moment in footballing history is rightly paired with one of the most iconic retro football shirts. The kit that spawned a thousand replicas, nothing is quite like the original. Adidas were clearly onto a winner with this newly incorporated design in 84. France’s flag colours were cleverly integrated within the design, with Adidas’ infamous three stripes taking centre stage. The iconic classic rooster crest sits proudly onto the chest, whilst France’s ‘tricolore’ blends perfectly throughout. And finally to top it all off, who doesn’t love a long-sleeve. A classic in every right.
Classic kits. #2 France 1984. What a kit. What a team. The stripes & red band with the trefoil & classic rooster badge – c'est magnifique! pic.twitter.com/yjaHqOesMF
— Culture of Football Classics (@CFclassics) July 18, 2017
7. Napoli 1990/91 Home Shirt
The golden era for the Partonopei’s and fittingly a retro football shirt to match their finest hour. June 1984 saw the arrival “El Pibe de Oro” (The Golden Boy) in what was a world record transfer fee at the time, signing Diego Maradona from Barcelona for £6.9 million. Maradona brought unfathomable success to the club, who had avoided relegation by one point the previous season. This era marked Maradona’s finest hour, with the 89/90 season bringing both the Serie A title and Italian Supercup to Naples. The Argentinian maestro famously led Napoli to their second (and last) Serie A trophy, reaching the peak of his footballing career and leading the Italian club to their most successful period of history. The club retired the number “10” shirt in his honour in 2ooo.
And so, it feels fitting that such an iconic era is paired with an iconic football kit. Notably, Napoli sported two home jerseys during the 90/91 season. An alternative home kit, which sported a white swirl through the middle, seemed to be adopted as the original home kit for the season. However a transition to the other home kit made way in the league eventually, whilst the ‘white swirl’ jersey became Napoli’s cup shirt.
The iconic Napoli ‘shade of blue’ seemed to pair accordingly with the Mars logo. The shirt wore the Scudetto shield on the left arm, as a homage to their Serie A victory the reason prior. The NR logo and classic Italian badge were stitched upon the chest. A simple yet elegant design that defines the golden days for “The Golden Boy.”
#OnThisDay ? in 1990
We beat Juventus 5-1 to win our first Italian Super Cup ?
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) September 1, 2021
Retro England football shirts – Does England’s 1990 third kit remain the Three Lion’s greatest?
6. England 1990/92 Third Kit
The irony of England’s most revered kit, was actually that it saw no playing time during the 1990 World Cup. The jersey that took center stage, through the helping of New Order’s “world in motion” song/video, saw Keith Allen accompanying Barnes, Gazza and co to deliver the footballing anthem in all its glory. An unlikely collaboration is said to have sparked a new era in English football, wishing away the ugly yesteryear of the 80’s into England’s modern heyday.
New Order’s lead vocalist Bernard Sumner took centre stage when effortlessly wearing this iconic kit in the music video. This moment can be marked as an important one, a changing of guard in which the way football was viewed. A pop star wearing an England kit ultimately fast-tracked the assimilation of the two world’s, with pop culture shaking hands with the sporting world.
Of course, we can assume things wouldn’t have played out just so smoothly if the shirt wasn’t a true spectacle for the eyes. Umbro hit the nail on the head, the double diamond brand went all guns blazing with a overlaid diamond design throughout. The design catches the rightful essence of the era, a wavy design with was often synonymous with the dance-centric era. An even more fitting gesture to have Manchester dance legends New Order wear the shirt.
The summer of 1990 was perfectly encapsulated through this shirt, the tournament that saw the Three Lions win the hearts of the nation, culminating in a painful semi-final defeat which broke hearts, however forever changing the scape of modern football in England. A true contender for the crown, it will forever be considered one of the greatest retro football kits of all time.
5. Mexico 1998 Home Shirt
The summer of 98 saw everyone turn their eye to Mexico’s aztec designed football shirt, a kit paying homage to the countries deep rooted history. Mexican sports supplier ABA Sport were onto a winner after collaborating with artist Ricardo Guzman, who is notably said to have created the design in 30 minutes. Guzman depicted the aztec calendar throughout, with the the ‘Sun God’ taking center stage within the design.
With Luis Hernandez inspiring his Mexican compatriots to make it out of the group stages at World Cup 98, “El Matador” was briefly at football’s centre stage, finishing amongst the tournaments top goal scorers with four goals. Be it for Hernandez’s long blonde locks or even the ‘Blanco bounce,’ everyone seemed to be in awe of Mexico’s eccentric kit. Goalkeeper Jorge Campos even opted to wear the kit instead of the traditional keepers jersey. The garish colour scheme may not be for be for everyone, however Mexico’s 98 shirt holds a rightful spot in the list of the best retro football kits.
Retro Italian Football Shirts – I Viola’s heyday, Batistuta’s domineering prominence in Serie A, one of Italy’s all-time classic kits?
4. Fiorentina 1997-98 Home Shirt
In our opinion, Fiorentina remain king of sponsorships during the 1990s. Any team that manages to partner with Nintendo and 7up, whilst producing numerous iconic kit designs, is a winner in our book. The same decade in which Fiorentina’s all time great, Gabriel Batistuta, dominated for the club.
The Fiorentina kits of the 90s will forever remain synonymous with Argentine striker Batistuta. “Batigol” arrived in Tuscany during the summer of 91, swapping Boca Juniors for Florence. Fiorentina were dramatically relegated to Serie B the following season in 92/93, Batistuta however showed his loyalty by staying with the club. Under the management of Claudio Ranieri, Batistuta and co fired themselves back into Serie A, claiming the Serie B title during the 93/94 season. From here onwards “Batigol” found his best form, becoming a highly revered striker within Italy’s top flight. The Argentinian broke multiple records during his time with the club, most notably breaking Ezio Pascutti’s 32 year old record by scoring in all of the first 11 matches of the season, a truly incredible feat especially when being newly promoted from Serie B.
Batistuta led the club to a Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa during his nine year stint. Upon his departure to Roma in 2000, ‘Il Re Leone’ left the club as a true legend. He remains the viola nation’s all time leading goalscorer, with 203 goals in 331 appearances. Argued as the best true number 9 of his generation. A life size bronze statue was erected in Florence in 1996, paying respect to a true legend of the club.
The viola colour scheme remains central to the kit, with a subtle inclusion of Fiorentina’s crest playing backdrop throughout the shirt. The Nintendo logo takes centre stage and manages to integrate within the logo seamlessly. The Fila logo and Fiorentina badge come above the sponsorships on the chest. A neat yellow lined pattern runs up from the sleeve and meets with the collar. When considering purple is not the easiest colour when creating a classic kit, Fiorentina surpassed all expectations and in doing so leave a legacy of having one of the best retro football kits ever.
Introducting to Dray Walk one of Serie A’s most iconic kit/sponsor combos, the 1997-98 Fiorentina Home shirt is synonymous with heroic Argentine Gabriel Batistuta. Available in store. #cfsldn pic.twitter.com/qQzeXexNpH
— Classic Football Shirts LDN (@cfsldn) November 25, 2018
3. Netherlands 1988/90 Home Shirt
A solid contender for the greatest kit of all time, the Netherlands 1988 shirt remains a thing of beauty. Adidas’ 80s centric geometric design remained prominent in football kits, being used notably for the USSR and West Germany. However the Netherlands version pips the rest. No questions asked.
The complementing colour combination of orange, white and black, all seem to work seamlessly with one another. The logo’s remain simple and understated, yet the clarity remains as they do their job to not get lost within the hue of orange and white. The tasteful v-neck collar integrates neatly with the ‘three stripe’ design running along the sleeves.
If a kit could ever define a tournament, the Netherlands 88 shirt might just do that. A superior Dutch side stormed their way through the tournament, with a bullish Marco Van Basten leading the charge, who finished as the top goalscorer of the tournament with 5 goals. Under the tutelage of Rinus Michels, as well as a 25 year old Ruud Gullit captaining the ‘Oranje,’ the Netherlands played their way to the Henri Delaunay trophy with style and grace.
The 88 jersey encapsulated a golden generation for the Netherlands, a nation that looked remarkable on their pursuit of glory, whilst imperatively, looking Dutch. A football kit that will forever be regarded as one of the greatest ever retro football shirts.
On this day in 88, The Netherlands won the Euros in potentially the greatest kit of all time.
A classic. ? pic.twitter.com/zmvxzeV8ka
— GDE (@goaldenera) June 25, 2020
2. Club America 1994/96 Home Shirt
A football kit that looks like the brainchild of “El Cole” aka Colombia’s Birdman. A design that could have easily been received with askance, Mexico City outfit Club America, have somehow designed one of the greatest retro football kits of all time. The shirt invokes a close resemblance of the Colombian national team, a playful kit that is reminiscent of “Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro.”
The Adidas diamond design template plays perfectly into the vibrant and playful colour scheme. The Coca Cola logo comes in at front and centre, however doesn’t appear overbearing due to the rest of the shirt working its magic. The Club America badge fits centrally on the chest, utilising each colour from the jersey itself. Whilst no major honours or accolades were recorded under this shirt, the fact it is still in contention as a classic football shirt, remains a true compliment to the shirts design. With no overbearing sentiment attached, we are free to judge the kit solely on its design. A true classic.
Retro Germany Football Shirt – A football kit aheads of its time, does Dassler and co’s masterful creation remain the ultimate grail?
1. West Germany 1988/91 Home Shirt
And so here we have it. In our opinion the greatest retro football shirt of all time. A football kit steeped in history and glory, it has left a monumental legacy and has seen its design replicated outside of the world of football, such as within streetwear.
The kit was notably designed for the 1988 European Championships, whereby West Germany crashed out in the semi-finals to European rivals Netherlands on home soil. Heading into the 1990 World Cup, new designs were being trialed, however Franz Beckenbauer proposed they keep this design. A true testament to the shirts notoriety. And so, the World Cup followed, ‘Italia 90’ saw West Germany deliver pragmatic performances game after game, disposing of their opponents in clinical fashion. The final saw the German outfit narrowly outwit Argentina inside the Stadio Olimpico, with thanks to a Andreas Brehme penalty inside the 85th minute. Beckenbauer became the first man to both captain and manage a world cup winning team.
Adidas once again proved to be at the forefront of football shirt design in the late 80s. Horst Dassler, son of Adidas founder Adolf Dassler, gave the design team the go ahead to move away from the simple white/black trim, opting for the vision of jumping into colours. The 88 design was a bold and welcomed move away from the minimalist football kits they were accustomed to, integrating a clever forward thinking design which proved to be ahead of its time.
The Schwarz-Rot-Gold geometric flashes rang loud and bright across the white shirt, overhanging onto the back. The ribbon like shape culminating in some form of chronological self fulfilling footballing prophecy. The highs of 74 were followed by the lows of 78, 82 and 86 saw many improvements however soul-sapping defeats were inflicted at the final hurdle, finally reaching their throne once again in 1990. The lines were notably placed in parallel upward trajectories, a nod to Germany’s ambition and drive to succeed. A kit that was truly unique, brave, bold and ahead of its time. In our opinion its sits comfortably among all the other retro football kits at the most iconic.
Designing the West Germany 88-91 shirt. The story behind arguably the greatest kit design ever.
— Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts) April 19, 2018
We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Best Retro Football Shirts Ranked.’ Do you agree with our selections? what is your favourite among all of the retro football kits? Let us know!
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