- This is a new series, where contributors reminisce about their first shirt (or shirts, in this case). If you would like to feature, get in touch on Twitter or comment below
By Jim Hearson
They say you never forget your first… except, I kinda have, which is making writing about the first ever football shirt I owned a bit tricky.
All I remember is that it was one of two, both of which were memorable for their own reasons – not least because, not only were neither of them the football club I actually support (more on that later), but one of them was, at the time, a bitter rival.
Bitter is the right word, too, as one of the contenders is the classic Notts County barcode strip from 1993/94, which was sponsored by Home Bitter. One of the most memorable things about it – other than the…let’s say, uniqueness, of the design, was how cumbersome the sponsor was. It was a big chunk of rubbery plastic that probably weighed more by itself than a modern shirt weighs in its entirety.
Still, you could clearly see Home Bitter, unlike when County revisited the design 20 years later, and rather lost clarity of the sponsor amid the multitude of stripes.
The other contender was somewhat left-field, being the Luton Town orange third kit from 1990-91 – you may remember it from when MoJ looked at the Hatters’ Umbro years. It was specifically from that season too, as it had a nice, embossed, velvety Vauxhall emblazoned on the front, rather than Bedford.
It was another shirt that was about as 90s as they come, but it was probably that design that drew my mum to it, as – like with the County shirt – it had been purchased from some shoe shop on Arnold Front Street that always had a rack of random football shirts. Think of a condensed version of the sport rails in TK Maxx today, where you occasionally find the odd year-old team shirt among the teamwear.
The trouble with this shoe shop (which I can’t remember the name of, for the life of me – it was right next to the library, if anyone is au fait with 1990s Nottingham suburbs), was it had no limit on when shirts were from – there’s nothing to say the Luton shirt was there before the County one.
The lack of vital resources like MoJ – and the internet in general, really – meant that finding out when shirts were from a was nigh-on impossible task, so like my mum, you just went on what it looked like. Still, it was always fun going in to see what wild and crazy options there were each time, although I don’t recall ever seeing a Forest shirt on the rack of dreams.
Yet, it is Forest that brings me some clarity on first shirts – I know exactly which Forest jersey was the OG in my wardrobe – the majestic 1993-95 blue and teal away kit.
The richness of the colours, the Umbro tape on the sleeves, the fully stitched badge, the contrasting, embossed sponsor – and unlike the others, it harbours memories too.
Promotion back up to the Premier League at the first time of asking, that win at Old Trafford, finishing third in the top flight, and then you’ve got the players – Pearce, Collymore, Stone, Roy, Bohinen, Woan – even the comedy value of Jason Lee. When neutrals think fondly about Forest and wish they were back in the Premier League, it’s this team they think of, and to some degree, this kit.
Why Forest and Macron didn’t seek to emulate this kit when they decided on a blue away strip for 2019-20 is anyone’s guess – maybe they’re keeping it for if Forest do return to the promised land? Let’s certainly hope so.