Last update on: 12:48 pm September 19, 2023 by fashionabc

Watch a few classic clips of great football moments from the past, and you might be struck by just how much the game has changed. Things are faster, now; the balls are lighter, the pitches are smoother, and the rules regarding foul play have been considerably tightened.



But perhaps the most conspicuous changes involve the player’s attire. Football shirts have changed considerably over the years, and much of that change can be boiled down to a handful of factors.

Lighter fabrics

As time has gone on, manufacturers have been able to develop increasingly lightweight and breathable fabrics. If we go back to the birth of the game more than a century ago, just about every player was fully decked out in heavy cotton and wool. But this isn’t ideal for elite athletic performance over ninety minutes – especially for summer tournaments like the World Cup.

Thus, there’s been pressure to come up with something that will do the same job while still allowing air to circulate, and that won’t physically burden the players in question.


Go back far enough, and you’ll find that sponsored football shirts weren’t a thing. Liverpool is widely supposed to be the first elite-level team to introduce sponsors in 1979 (Hitachi). Today, the Liverpool home kit is more or less unrecognisable, with sleeve sponsors supplementing the main one on the shirt’s front.


Thanks to the cultural heft of the sport, football shirts aren’t always worn by football players. In fact, they’re not always worn by football fans. You might see high-profile celebrities wearing classic shirts from yesteryear. And kit manufacturers have noticed this. The designs of the shirts don’t just consider how a shirt will look and function on a football pitch, but how it will appeal to the world’s fashionistas. This can lead to some bold and wacky style choices, especially in away and third kits.

Psychology and culture

A big football club is a cultural institution, which comes with psychological baggage for fans and players alike. Manufacturers are constrained by all of this – but they can also be inspired by it. Obviously, a club like Real Madrid will always play in white.

In fact, considerable backlash can result when a team tries to change its kit, in the way that Cardiff City once did. The move was aimed at international markets, but the strength of feeling amongst local fans prompted a swift rethink.