Soccer Fans Are Fashion Wonks

Friday, December 10, 2010 | View Comments

This topic was one I originally intended to tackle, and in much greater depth, months and months ago.  Unfortunately, that would require research I just don't have time for at the moment, and so you get this fired-off ramble instead of a properly told story. Joy.

I'm fascinated by kit culture.  Not the kits themselves so much, because I'm not sure really I care in the end.  What my team (or any other team for that matter) wears is the least of my soccer concerns.  I'll spit out a gut reaction on a look in some cases, but I tend not dwell.. One man's ugly kits is another man's thing of beauty, and I find some of the louder exhortations that a particular look is hideous to be fairly funny.  Unless your team is a direct rival, or you're a fan of the team in question, why go on and on?

It's suppose it's just part of being a soccer fan.  Portland unveiled their 2011 MLS inaugural look yesterday, and Twitter was abuzz (relatively speaking; of the couple hundred or so non-Portlanders who watched online, I probably follow 99%) with opinion after opinion on the Timbers two-toned contrast-sleeves design.  The change kit red was of interest because it is such a bold choice; either you bought the "Rose City" explanation and appreciated it, or your cynicism alarm went off and you scoffed mightily.  Either way, people were talking.

Perhaps I'm misreading this, because Americans certainly care about the look of their teams in other sports, but there doesn't seem to be the same type of overeager panting - and what other word applies but "analysis" - when it comes to gridiron, basketball, baseball, or hockey.  We might kill Nike for their strange Pro Combat designs and Oregon Ducks experimentation, but is there a site like this dedicated to American football uniforms (if there is, let me know)?

Soccer jerseys tend to change much more often than NFL, NBA, or MLS uniforms, so maybe the explanation lies in pure numbers.  Every year, soccer fans are inundated by new looks for scores of teams, leading to the odd fashion-focused mentality.  The crush of "news" makes it an unavoidable part of the rolling discussion.

You can't really blame the teams.  Changing look from year to year has become almost mandatory. Stay the same for too long, and you're forfeiting income from sales of a new jersey.  Clubs, and even national teams, have to keep up in the marketplace by partnering with the powerful manufacturers to give their fans something new to buy.  If it's a crime, it's a victim-less one.  Not quite a vicious cycle, but a cycle of some distaste.

I'm know I'm missing a large swath of what makes the fascination so pervasive. Is it just fans responding to the environment, evolving a new way to appreciate the game through the uniforms the players wear?  Are soccer fans just naturally inclined to caring more because of the nature of the game itself (whatever that means)?

And now, after providing no answers because I simply don't have them, I'm off to look at old football shirts.  Mix in a little history, and suddenly I'm very interested.

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