I think I was about 8 when I got my first football shirt. Back then, if you got a football shirt, it was probably a birthday or Christmas present. I didn’t get them willy nilly so I made sure I looked after them and always wanted to wear them.
I don’t remember where I got it from, but I did have an England top. The 1998 one maybe – It was white, with blue and red either side. But, because it was white, I had to be extra careful with it. I think I had matching navy-blue pants with an England badge on. I remember wearing it I think for Jubilee Day. I always wanted to wear it, and that’s the first one I remember.
I also remember having the reversible England top. It was a blue one and a red one. This is funny, but I would wear it red one day and then reverse it and wear it the next day. I remember a lot of us had that shirt and we used to always do it. It wasn’t frowned upon after you’d been running around all day in it!
The two shirts I remember most are England tops and I remember being buzzing about it because I had the matching pants, and I’d always have to wear the pants with the top. It was something I felt strongly about: this top is for these pants and that’s it. I was very happy to have that outfit, and to be able to wear it matching, I thought I was really cool.
“I didn’t own many shirts. I think that’s why I remember the shirts I did have because I didn’t have many.”Demi Stokes
I remember having a Sunderland top. I went to a Sunderland game, and I remember wanting to put the Sunderland top over a jumper so that everybody could see it. I think I had my name on the back, so I never wanted it to be a hoody, it always had to be a jumper. I remember saying, “ No mam, it’s got to be a jumper because you can’t see the name on the back.” I remember going to a Sunderland game and it was freezing. That’s why I had the jumper underneath and the shirt on top to show it off.
My favourite shirt was an England one. I got it for my birthday and I’ve actually still got it here. I remember it was plain, but I wanted Rachel Yankey’s name on. I went to JJB, but they didn’t do it at the time. I had to go to a couple of shops, and if you didn’t buy the top from the shop, you couldn’t get it printed. Me and my Nan were going round the shops and I eventually got a top with Rachel Yankey’s name on it. I think that was for my 14th birthday.
I first saw Rachel Yankey play in the FA Cup when she played for Charlton, that’s how I got into England Women, watching them when more games were being shown on TV. I wanted to be like her, that’s how I wanted to play. She was left-wing, and I was left-wing at the time. I loved number 11, so it made sense to get it. I’ve still got the shirt here. My mates would all have men’s names, but I remember seeing her playing, and I thought that’s who I want to be like.
When it comes to the design and fit of a shirt, I like kit to feel comfortable. Back in the day, you’d have the biggest top and shorts, and the longest socks. When I’ve been given the opportunity for kit to fit, I like it to fit. I’m not too fussed what it looks like as long as it fits and my shorts are staying round my waist.
With the bespoke World Cup kits in 2019, I think the bigger picture of the kits being made for women was a positive and good step in the right direction for women’s sports. The kit was nice and it fit nicely, but it was more the positive outlook, and another stepping stone, women’s sport propelling forward and people caring about it, and caring what women look like, and how we hold ourselves. It’s something so small but we wear it a lot, so we want it to make a difference if it can. I think it was good that the kit was made strictly for women, people might think it was a small step, but if you look back in the day, you did wear a men’s kit and it did drown you out, and it’s not attractive, so I think it’s definitely a really good step.
I remember how it felt wearing my first football shirt and specific times wearing it, like Jubilee day. I remember just loving it as well, it was like a polo, not very nice now, but very cool at the time. I think to own an England shirt then and to play for England now is such a good feeling. It’s something you dream of and always want to do. Going from having to buy your shirt to owning your own England shirt, it is quite cool when you sit and think about it. Same with my Rachel Yankey shirt, to see that and say you want to be like that and play for England because somebody’s inspired you, and to get there, it’s a cool moment when you sit and reflect on it, because you can take those little things for granted.
When it comes to my first England top, at the time you had David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, lots of superstars in that team. That gives you good memories and makes you proud to be English and support England. I loved the shirt, but it was also the pride of supporting England at the time.
Demi Stokes plays for Manchester City Women and England Women