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Football shirts and the joy of synthetics.


WHY do we love replica football shirts so much? Yes, fans know they're overpriced crimes against fashion. And blokes know the synthetic material doesn't flatter our moobs, nor our guts. But we LOVE them, or grow to love them. Yes, even the new Boro one.

My first reaction on seeing the strip which will launch us back into the Premier League was "Oh." Others were more forthright in their appreciation/condemnation. It truly is a topic that divides.

But unless you've worn one, you won't understand. Although my first ever wasn't even a Boro shirt - it was a Man United jersey in the days replica shirts barely existed. As a seven-year-old (until I saw the light) I was a Man Utd fan with a George Best obsession. My well-meaning Aunty Gladys bought me it. "It's even got George Best's number on it," she proudly proclaimed. George Best almost always played number 11. Apart from the day my Geordie aunty saw him play at Newcastle, of course.

Rarely have I been more disappointed to see a number eight. I resisted the temptation to scream "what are you thinking, you Geordie imbecile?" on grounds that a) I was seven b) she was my aunty and c) she'd done her best, bless her.

My next show of footie fashion allegiance was a tracksuit top. It was in the Jack Charlton era so, of course, it was red with a white chest band all the way around it at nipple level (not drunkenly slipping towards the nether regions as the latest Boro shirt does).

I would have worn it 24/7 had it not been for the demands of school and personal hygiene. I loved it so much, it hurt.

I've pulled on several replica shirts since. As well as several Boro efforts, I've had East Stirlingshire (naturally), Scarborough and even a couple of Norwegian ones - Stromsgodset and their neighbours Mjondalen, who play in a lovely shade of brown. Yes, a brown strip. Made by Hummel. 'Twas as bad as it sounds, but the colour saved on cleaning bills, I guess.

And each time I've dragged a new shirt's synthetic beauty over my manly chest for the first time, it has felt electric. Literally. That static really smarts.

For most of his young life, my son and heir loved them too. And even though he's now moved on to designer labels, we both agree the Peterborough away shirt we bought him at Dalton Park for a fiver was our best ever purchase in terms of style and value.

But back to the new Boro shirt, with its wonky white band perfectly placed to accentuate even the most modest beer belly. I really hope that come kick-off in mid-August, the lads will be cheered on by thousands of people wearing them. I, however, will probably stick with my "Evening Gazette" original from 1992 which still fits (just).

Tight and loyal, that's me.


| A fan gets his hands on a new Boro shirt at the Riverside when next season's home kit went on sale last Friday 200516MGABOROSTRIP_026 IAN COOPER


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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 25, 2016
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