Premier League Champions Manchester City launched their new home and away kits this week - the first to be manufactured by Puma who have replaced Nike as kit supplier.
The home shirt - a pretty bland affair in sky blue with purple trim - made few ripples but the black away kit generated plenty of coverage because of its nod to Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub. Yellow and black stripes run down one sleeve - a design forever linked with the interior of the infamous club owned by Tony Wilson and New Order.
Apartments now stand on the footprint of the Hacienda in the Castlefield area of the city which was a yacht showroom when Wilson and friends took a shine to it in the early 1980s.
As a staunch Manchester United fan not without a sense of humour, Wilson would probably be quite flattered by this homage. City’s away shirt - which is predominantly black - “celebrates the city’s Madchester years - a period of extraordinary cultural activity in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”
Wilson once told journalist Andy Mitten: “Football and music have always been two great ways out for kids. That feeling what you got when you walked into the Hacienda in the summer of ’89 was like I used to get when I walked into Old Trafford. It just hit you.”
But it’s not the first time that the yellow and black stripes - used prominently in the original industrial design of the club - have been used in sportswear. Back in 2007, 250 pairs of adidas Y3 trainers were produced to mark the opening of the Y3 shop in Manchester’s Triangle shopping centre.
Co-designed by Peter Saville, the legendary designer who founded Factory Records along with Wilson and Alan Erasmus, the trainers’ trademark three stripes were depicted in yellow and black stripes.
Y3, the brand created by Yohji Yamamoto and adidas, enjoyed a boom in popularity around this time and their shop in Manchester - now closed - was kept busy by a stream of limited edition designs.
The idea of the trainer, which had its own Factory catalogue number of FAC51-Y3, was to celebrate the 25th birthday of the Hacienda which happily coincided with the opening of the shop.
Manchester music figures such as long-time adidas nerd Ian Brown and Peter Hook helped to launch the trainers which flew off the shelves despite costing £345 - and that was 12 years ago. Sneakerheads queued overnight to get their hands on these limited-run shoes which were presented in tissue paper featuring images of the Hacienda by photographer Kevin Cummins and design sketches of the original club by designer Ben Kelly.
The trainers came in a six-sided wooden box which included a DVD about the club and Factory Records. Demand has seen the value of the highly-prized shoes rise steadily. The last pair sold on eBay went for £1,400 in June.
Saville’s services were also called upon by Umbro for their 2010 England shirt. He came up with the idea of having different colour St George crosses across the shoulder panel of the home shirt to represent the multi-cultural make-up of England. Player names were printed over the design to emphasise the idea of the players being part of the “fabric of the nation”.
If you take a wander through Manchester, you’ll probably see Saville’s work on the Metrolink - he came up with the yellow and silver livery of the trams. He also worked on the Welcome to Manchester signs on the City’s borders.
Football clubs are going through a period of being “inspired” by things. Last year, Manchester United’s pink away kit was “inspired” by the Pink Final, the city’s Saturday sports newspaper produced by the Manchester Evening News which was a staple of city life for years.
In a gloriously frothy press release, Puma enthused about the Hacienda’s influence on the new kit.
“Peach and City blue pops create a colourful representation of this legendary cultural icon that was the heartbeat of the city,” said Adam Petrick, Puma’s global brand marketing director.
“We want the club’s global fans and local Mancunians to all feel invested in this, and it starts with combining our very creative kit designs with authentic stories from Manchester’s history and music scene. We want to bring Manchester City and Puma’s brand initiatives together when and wherever we can, and that means going beyond the pitch, into wider areas of football culture such as gaming, community, fashion and music.”
It all sounds very noble and makes you wonder if this concept can be pushed even further. Could the album artwork of the most famous Manchester City fans Noel and Liam Gallagher feature in a City kit? When they liked each other enough to be in the same band in the mid 1990s, the brothers helped to launch the new City kits, then manufactured by Umbro.
There is a precedent here. Several teams have been sponsored by bands. Wet Wet Wet were wishing they were lucky for Clydebank in the early 90s while Newport County wore a kit endorsed by Goldie Lookin’ Chain. The likes of Motorhead, Pulp and Ian Brown have also lent their name to shirts in the past.
The Hacienda commands such a lofty position in Manchester’s history, it often feels like the club is actually still open. DJ nights celebrating the music of the venue take place around the world on a regular basis and the Hacienda Classics concerts which take the dance music of the time and reimagine it with orchestral backing, do great business at the box office.
With Manchester City’s latest tribute to the Hacienda, the club’s legend and brand worth shows no sign of weakening.
- Mark Taylor is the editor of The Sportsman and a reformed sneaker freak who may or may not have queued overnight for trainers in his time