A side-effect of progress and evolution is that something considered ground-breaking upon its introduction can seem quite ordinary in hindsight.
Looking back now the 1996 England change strip isn’t all that unremarkable at all – critiquing it as a kit, the shorts trim jars a bit, but otherwise it’s fine. Incidentally, while it looks like two different shades of greyish-blue, the ‘lighter’ colour is in fact made up of fine stripes of white and the darker hue.
What made it so worthy of comment 27 years ago was the fact that it was such a break from the expected state of affairs, whereby England would wear red change kits. It was premiered in a home friendly against Bulgaria and, on commentary, John Motson noted the colour as well as a drawback from his own professional point of view.
Bulgaria kick off, wearing the white shirts with the nice clear numbers on them.
England are playing in what I can only describe as indigo blue, with numbers that might be rather harder to see.”
By the time of the European Championship semi-final against Germany that summer, a more viewer-friendly white set of numbers was applied – another difference was a simpler sock style for goalkeeper David Seaman’s ‘Refreshers’ kit.
The last time England had hosted Bulgaria was Glenn Hoddle’s debut in 1979, when both sides were in tricolour kits.
On this occasion, the visitors were in their home shirts and shorts, with the away socks (with the Puma logo rendered vertically) giving them the look of the country’s flag – oddly, they had two pairs of green shorts and the away set would probably have worked better with the home than the actual home set.
This design was the first given to them by Puma after switching from adidas after the 1994 World Cup. Nowadays, it would be rare to see a country still using an ‘old’ kit just three months out from a major finals.
Come the Euros, they were in Puma’s new template, also used at the tournament by the Czech Republic – another sign of the times was that, in the days before the ‘sleeve free zone’, the tournament patches were applied on the biceps.