It was in a suburban East London garden where I got to show off my first ever football kit. I was 8 years old living in Barking with my mum, dad and younger sister and obsessed with Disney and West Ham United. The bright blue ’95-97 West Ham United away kit, designed by Pony, took a place in my Spice Girl and Nickelodeon obsessed heart.
I remember running my fingers over the shirt, looking down and being fascinated by the numerous illustrated bubbles patterned and woven into the fabric. I loved the metallic bronze buttons and pointed collar and the raised Dagenham Motors logo was probably the part of the shirt that has stayed with me the most. Coming from Barking I knew somewhat that I lived next to Dagenham, so I felt like when I wore the shirt I was representing in my area that I was growing up in and slowly becoming part of.
As a child I was quite active, but more into dancing and gymnastics, football wasn’t a sport that at school we were encouraged to play as girls and my dad never really got us involved in the sport. My dad played for Frenford FC at the time and my grandad was a referee and long-time ambassador of the club. Both were West Ham and football crazed. The weekends would work around football and dance school a true contrast. Dad would play football every Saturday with my grandad either coaching or refereeing and me and my sister would go off to dance school and gymnastics.
When I finally got to go to my first game at Upton Park, I remember getting the best of both worlds. I got to watch the football with my family which was full of excitement, swearing and goal celebrating and then half time would come and the Hammerettes would take to the pitch, me and my sister were so excited that there was dancing at football! Seems really strange now that I’m older that that even existed! I’m happy to hear that the over sexualisation of women in their shrunken kits are now a thing of the past.
My first kit became my first and last for years to come. I didn’t own many shirts due to my love of the game leaving me as I grew up, I became more interested in music, gigs, fashion and dancing. My dad was never a kit wearer either, he would prefer to wear a Fred Perry shirt with a claret and blue tipped collar than a full-on kit. I think it was the 80’s casual in him.
Football still surrounded me through my teenage years, with dad still playing football and grandad becoming a more senior figure at the club. A typical Sunday in our house always smelt of roast lamb or beef cooking and you would hear the distilled sounds of crowd noise and commentators coming from the living room.
It wasn’t till later in my life when I was in my final year of university that I started to look back into the culture of football. As part of my final collection as a designer I started looking into the movement of shirts whilst performing on the pitch. I began to look into the rituals around wearing a shirt as a player and a fan. I would watch how shirts were pulled by other players on the pitch and how fans would raise their shirts in celebration. This became a distinctive part of my collection and the beginning of my now love and passion for football.
My love for the game was back and I started to ask my dad if I could go to games with him. I was in my twenties and jumped back onto the kit wagon, I bought a vintage 90’s Pony Dagenham Motors home kit.
Pony for me really did the most iconic West Ham kits. They were brave, bold and spoke East London culture to me. The claret and blue colours were vibrant and fun, oversized 90’s silhouettes, high-shine polyester and of course the bubbles pattern woven into the fabric is still to this day the most fun injection into a football kit.
Now for me it is about reusing what already exists. I have started collecting damaged shirts on Ebay and mates un-wanted kits. Re-purposing them through design I create accessories for the modern football fan and the ever-growing female fandom.
Personally, when it comes to designing a kit in 2020, I would like to see more bravery from the designers. I’m getting bored of seeing old kits reworked and re-modernised. I would like to see designers really being inspired by the communities surrounding the stadiums. It is important for the kit to have innovation as athletes have adapted and increased in skill over the years. However, it is the fans that are going to be really living and breathing these shirts for years to come so for me it’s important to create a culturally relevant and beautifully designed kit.
The bespoke 2019 World Cup Kits I think are a great representation on how we should be designing for Women’s football. The Nike England kit was beautifully considered in both design and technology and spoke to its consumer in the right language. More sports brands need to be investing into the Women’s game. There should be a separate women’s design team in the football departments striving for better design focused on the female athlete and female fan consumer.
I believe that a successfully designed kit needs to adapt from the pitch to the terraces. It’s something I really think about when a kit launches I first think about how I see it on the pitch in performance, how it contrasts against the bright grass green and I then start to think of how it adapts into the many lives of its fans.
Now I look back at my first football shirt, it gives me such a feeling of nostalgia and love. It holds a place close to my heart and brings me back to a place of first loves, family and freedom.
Georgina Hunt is Fashion Director at Season: Season-Zine.com