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A SPOTLESS HISTORY: THE FOOTBALL JERSEY

Take apart most things and you’ll find there’s a story in each element to the design, however familiar they seem.

Take the football shirt. We’d say ‘humble football shirt’, but that’d be doing it an injustice. This staple of the game is a bit of an under-explored curiosity, but when it comes to the Corinthians in particular it carries a distinct message, one that still resonates to this day.

 

Where it began

Originally, around the time football was invented in 1863 there were no kits to speak of; players showed up in whatever clothes they wanted. Think about that for a second - this was a time when football was an entirely new thing, its norms still being established and people didn’t have anything to compare it to - they really did play in those shirts, coats and blazers you see in archive photographs.

Eventually, accessories like caps, ties and pins were adopted by teams to help create a sense of identity and help players identify each other on the pitch. The first set of rules in 1857, for example, state that "Each player must provide himself with a red and dark blue flannel cap, one colour to be worn by each side". This fascinating, if lengthy, article explains the developments further. Around 1870 the concept of a more standardised kit began to appear, contemporaneous with the founding of the FA Cup and the more regimented, rules-based approach this demanded.

That era’s most-worn style of football top, a collared jersey, seems to have been passed down from the more formal dress codes - buttoned shirts and even bow ties - that had evolved from the public schools and universities of these original Gentleman Amateurs. Indeed, these long-sleeved polos were still worn up until the 1990s in rugby.

Shop our elegant modern slub cotton jersey, a sartorial homage to the football shirt that popularised the Beautiful Game around the world.

In football, colour arrived on early kits with the aim of allowing fans to more easily pick out players among the pitch, an important factor once football games became more of a spectator sport. One frustrated newspaper correspondent reported on an FA Cup tie in 1879, "In football it is a most essential point that the members of one team should be clearly distinguished from those of the other… Yesterday not only confused the members of the team but the spectators were quite unable to say whether a man belonged to one team or the other”.

 

Siempre blanca: The Corinthian’s white jersey

"I remember how they walked onto the field, spotless in their white shirts and dark shorts. Their hands were in their pockets, sleeves hanging down. Yet there was about them an air of casual grandeur, a haughtiness that was not yet haughty, which seemed intangible. And how they played!" - The Ball is Round, David Goldblatt

Of course, the Corinthians were famous for playing in white shirts or jerseys, adorned with a simple blue monogram - a uniform established right at inception in 1882, and one that would prove to be incredibly influential in the years to come. Real Madrid - the most supported football team in the world - even wear white to this day in their honour, earning them the nickname ‘Los Merengues’ - the meringues.

 

Real Madrid wearing white in honour of Corinthian FC

 

It’s all testament to how much the Corinthians were admired - some teams saluted the colours, while others took the name itself, like Sports Club Corinthians Paulista (‘The Corinthians of Sao Paulo’). The addition of an ‘s’ apparently coming from a miscommunication.

Wearing a white football kit is one of the more enduring, though subtle legacies of the famous club - whether teams know they’re doing it or not. The associations with purity, and elegant simplicity in the face of the garish colours and logos of modern day kits can’t be ignored. In fact, there’s something deeply self-assured about wearing white in a pastime where you’re never more than a kick away from being splattered with a mud-covered ball. The white kit has that devil-may-care sensibility about it and that’s perhaps why it remains such a striking choice and image on the pitch, both then and now.

Buy Corinthian’s signature mid-weight slub cotton Team Shirt here, inspired by the shirt that took the Beautiful Game around the world.

Corinthian men's long-sleeve cotton Team Shirt

 

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