Yes, Third Kits Are Probably Unnecessary But We Love Them Anyway

When designers go rogue, the results are often sensational
13:49, 13 Aug 2019

We're a week into the new Premier League season and still waiting for several clubs to officially release their third kits. But guess what? We already know what they look like because they’re included in the Premier League’s handbook.

However as we all know, clubs like to squeeze out every last drop of the thrill of a new kit. That's why they do it three times and tag on extras like the training range and heck, Jürgen Klopp even has his own range.

Yesterday, Arsenal released their stunning blue third kit, completing arguably the best trio of kits in the Premier League for years. Along with the adidas 1980s inspired home shirt and the "son of bruised banana", Arsenal will always look smart this season even if their football isn't.   

In recent years, the third kit has offered designers to stray away from the norm, often leading to some really eye-catching kits though as we'll discover, some see them as an unnecessary cash cow.

Manchester City have had some "fun" with this concept recently. Their current third kit may look like a McDonalds's strawberry lemonade but they’ve proved already that such comparisons don’t bother them. 

Thankfully, Pep Guardiola’s team are that good they have not been distracted by being dressed in third kits which look like they've been inspired by a bottle of Cillit Bang or Double Decker wrappers.  

This year, Nike has brought its Nike Athletic logo back for the third kits of its major partners including Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, PSG and Barcelona. It’s strange to see the NIKE lettering with the Swoosh of the Nike logo on kits again, bringing back memories of the American brand’s early days as supplier to the likes of Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund. Maybe adidas could take note and bring back the Trefoil once in a while. 

Third kits have never enjoyed such a high profile. During the 1980s and 1990s, a third kit was rare and usually didn’t even go on sale. It was seen as a back-up, a break in case of emergency option.

Yet you can date the emergence of third kits way back - there are records of clubs wearing them as far back as the 1930s. Manchester United famously wore blue in the 1968 European Cup Final against Benfica even though their normal away kit was white. The shirt will forever be linked with the Old Trafford club and has been used regularly as an away shirt colour since. 

United also famously ditched their grey away kit at half-time against Southampton in 1996 when Sir Alex Ferguson told them to get into their blue and white kit, claiming the players couldn’t see each other. They lost the game nonetheless.

The subject of third kits was even brought up in Parliament in 2014 by Tim Farron. He argued third kits were “pointless” and “another example of clubs fleecing fans.” Farron added: “You don’t have to be a genius to work out a sensible colour for your second kit that would make sure you don’t clash.”   

Cynically speaking, it’s another way to get money out of fans and there are lots of articles out there which will tell you so. But instead, let’s glory in the artistic thought which has gone into these designs and be happy the graphic designers were allowed to go rogue on dress down Friday. 

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