The best football shirts stay in the memories of fans for generations — but which ones are truly the top of the pile?
Fans love to discuss their favourite shirts from bygone eras and throw out suggestions for the next classic look.
Yet classifying a shirt in the ‘all time best’ category isn’t easy. After all, many shirts that may not be design classics still hold up because of the memories they evoke.
Who can forget Ireland’s green 1994 World Cup shirt, the iconic black and white stripes of Juventus, or Sweden’s colourful displays on the international stage?
Picking the 10 best football shirts of all time isn’t easy. But we’ve given it a crack here at Radio Times! Do you agree with our top 10?
10. Arsenal away – 1991-93
The first of two patterned shirts found in the 1990s, Arsenal’s yellow away top for the 91/92 and 92/93 seasons remains an instant classic to this day. English football was becoming cooler and designers like adidas were looking to bring a younger vibe to their shirts.
And they certainly achieved it with a deep yellow Arsenal away shirt with black faded arrows and the iconic JVC sponsorship.
Arsenal didn’t win a final in this kit (they claimed the FA Cup and League Cup trophies in 1993 in their red home shirt). But this shirt isn’t about the success behind it. This is a street shirt. It helped transform football shirts into causal wear that could be worn away from games or the local park. It was the inspiration for Arsenal’s 2019/20 away kit, which is equally as cutting-edge.
9. Holland home – 1988
The Dutch always get noticed at World Cups and European Championships thanks to the eye-popping orange colour of their home shirts. The orange is iconic and their kits have sold all over the world because of it. But the best Netherlands kit is the one worn at Euro 1988, when Ronald Koeman and co. sauntered their way to the title.
Ruud Gullit is the stand-out man in that Dutch shirt, with its cubist pattern and embroidered KNVB logo.
8. Liverpool home – 2004/05
Now, including any design from the 2000s into a ‘10 best football shirts of all time’ list is, admittedly, controversial.
After all, that decade managed to take the worst bits of 1990s football shirt design – namely the bagginess – add horrendous under-sleeve trims and bleach all sense of coolness out of it. Shirts felt cheap and tacky, while shorts grew past the knees.
But there were three stand-out kits during the 2000s. One was Juventus’ 2005 home shirt, which featured a lovely collar and central badge. The second is Arsenal’s 2002 home shirt, which Thierry Henry made his own. And the third, which may come as a surprise, was Liverpool’s Champions League winning shirt in the 2004/05 season.
The blood-red shirt is iconic for feats of heroics Steven Gerrard and co. achieved in it. There was no shoulder trim, was reasonably well fitting and had only small under-armpit colour differentiated panels which, for the mid-2000s, was remarkable.
7. Celtic home – 1967
Celtic became a household name across Europe when the club, led by manager Jock Stein, won the 1967 European Cup. They beat Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon wearing a beautifully simple green and white hooped shirt.
This kit screams ‘60s style, with its fitted shirt, high shorts and woollen socks. The shirt famously worn by Billy McNeill and his team-mates wouldn’t look out of place with a suit jacket over it.
Since 1967 Celtic’s kits have ranged from great to dire (please don’t google Celtic’s 1991 away kit, it will burn your eyes). But nothing has ever come close to the simplicity of that European Cup-winning delight.
6. France home – 1998
France winning their home World Cup in 1998 was seen as a catalyst to improving social relations among race, economic and religious divides across the country. And while France basked in the glory of its World Cup victory – spurred on by Zinedine Zidane’s fabulous display in the final victory over Brazil – kit aficionados were taking note.
This French home shirt is an immediate classic. It screams ‘90s textile design with the cotton collar, embroidered logo and print-on-nylon design. The blocked font for the numbers and player names screams nostalgia and it’s a good fit too.
The 2010s saw France and Nike try and match the heights of this kit but they failed.
5. Chelsea home – 1970
There has not been a more beautiful FA Cup final – in terms of kits at least – than the 1970 clash at Wembley between Chelsea and Leeds United. So delightful were both kits that the players conspired to draw the first game, so we could watch it all again in a replay.
Leeds were forced to wear red socks so as not to clash with Chelsea’s — something Whites fans would be up in arms at today. Don Revie’s men as usual wore their all-white shirt and socks. But Chelsea’s kit was the real eye-catcher.
The deep blue Chelsea shirt featured the club’s iconic embroidered lion badge, bold white numbers on the back and very little else. It fit captain Ron Harris like he’d just strolled out of a Saville Row tailors.
4. Brazil home – 1970
TV was just bursting into colour in 1970 when Brazil rocked up in Mexico for the World Cup in their delightful collarless yellow shirts, with green trim. The golden generation of Brazilian football went on to win the World Cup with Pele the star man.
And the shirt remains an iconic emblem of that Brazilian team to this day. Over the years the country has produced more striking shirts but nothing comes close to that ’70 edition.
3. West Germany home – 1965-78
Ignore the hair. West Germany were years ahead of Brazil when they produced what would be their iconic collarless home shirt in the mid-1960s. By this point football kits were just starting to gain more detail — but the simplicity of this design is why it remains such a classic look.
West Germany went on to win their home World Cup in 1974 in this shirt, with Gerd Muller leading his nation to victory. And the rise of the German football machine is synonymous with this classic white shirt with black trim.
Since then the Germans have launched further amazing shirts (1988 is a style classic) and some disasters (let’s forget about their 2000 edition).
2. Red Star Belgrade home – 1991
There was a time when European club football wasn’t dominated by billionaire-backed clubs from just five big domestic leagues. In 1991 Red Star Belgrade reached the European Cup final after seeing off Grasshopper, Rangers, Dresden and Bayern Munich in during the knockout rounds.
And their iconic red and white striped shirt – with overlapping neck trim and study collar – became synonymous with the team. The PUMA kit also featured a wildly large Red Star badge that threatened to overlap the stripe lines on the shirt breast.
It is an exuberant shirt that still fits within the bounds of respectability — just like that Red Star team that rumbled European football.
1. Nigeria home – 2018
Never has there been more hype for a World Cup shirt than when Nike dropped Nigeria’s design before the 2018 World Cup. Fans queued around the block on Oxford Street to get their hands on the new kit.
The shirt offered everything. A sleek cut, good fit and unique design. It borrowed from the patterned designs of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s without just stencilling them in. Crucially, it didn’t leap into the stereotype many kit designers make for African nations at World Cups — there was no lazy colour ‘vibrancy’.
There were three million pre-orders of the Nigeria shirt before the World Cup even kicked off. Their away shirt was a lot less eye-catching – a deep bottle green with luminous stitching on the badge – but that didn’t matter. This was all about the home shirt and branding Nigeria as everyone’s second-favourite team at the 2018 World Cup.