Latitude 2023: The rise of football shirts at music festivals

Jack Temple at Latitude in a Brazil shirt

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Jack Temple, 22, says: “I’m wearing the 1998 Brazil shirt – other people go for tighter shirts but I like them baggy”

By Richard Haugh

BBC News, Suffolk

Football shirts were once a symbol of the ugly side of the beautiful game for a lot of people – more likely to conjure up thoughts of lad culture and hooliganism.

But over the years, things have changed and the shirts are now very much back in fashion, with some highly sought after and exchanging hands for hundreds of pounds.

This trend can be clearly seen at music festivals.

Some events – including Radio One’s Big Weekend in Londonderry and TRNSMT in Glasgow – have previously placed a site-wide ban on football shirts. But elsewhere, football shirts have become an increasingly common site.

At this year’s Glastonbury, Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings swapped his cardigan for an Ipswich Town fan’s replica shirt, while rapper Aitch’s performance on the Pyramid Stage was used to unveil Manchester United’s new home kit. A month later, and the Latitude Festival in Suffolk is the latest to be awash with festivalgoers showing off their favourite shirts.

‘It’s not just geezers’

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Manchester United fan Rudi Obasi-Adams’ favourite shirt is a reversible shirt the Red Devils released in 2001

Rudi Obasi-Adams, 32, from Preston, is a regular festivalgoer – having previously been to Glastonbury, Leeds Festival, Sonar in Barcelona, and NOS in Portugal.

“Football shirts are definitely back as a fashion statement,” he says. “I think there’s been an increase [at festivals] – especially England shirts combined with bucket hats.

“It has become more of a fashion statement rather than people just representing their clubs, and I think you see quite a wide range of people.

“It’s not just geezers, you see lots of girls wearing them nowadays and older people.”

Rudi is a Manchester United fan but is wearing a 1989 Ajax shirt to Latitude.

“I got this as a lockdown present – we did a secret Santa and we all got each other retro shirts.

“Somebody else got the 2018 Nigeria shirt and somebody else got one of the 90s Bayern Munich shirt – I think I got the best of the bunch.”

‘They’re comfy’

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Ffion Moon said big tournaments such as the Women’s World Cup have helped move football away from lad culture

“This is an old yellow Spurs football shirt that my boyfriend made me wear,” jokes Ffion Moon, who is 23 and travelled to Suffolk from Swansea.

“I’m not really a football fan if I’m honest, but will wear it – it’s comfy.

“The vintage shirts look cool and different.”

While there is definitely a heavy male to female ratio of football shirt wearers at the festival, Ffion says things have changed over recent years. “I’d say there are more women wearing shirts, especially with the World Cup coming up,” she says. “I don’t think it really matters any more.”

‘People sing ooh, ah Cantona at me’

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Shaan Sagoo, from Buckinghamshire, says he’s become a bit of a collector of shirts and wears them “wherever”

“Even though I live nowhere near Manchester I was born into being a fan,” says Shaan Sagoo, 18. “Basically my first ever present, for being born, was a Man United kit from 2004.

“[Eric] Cantona was a special player to my dad and my grandad, so for my 18th birthday my dad decided to give me a retro Cantona kit.

“It was pretty special because the designs of the retro kits are so much more intricate than the designs nowadays. I think now too much of the football kits are taken over by sponsors.

“I’ve never heard of Sharp Viewcam so it must be a thing from well back in time.

“People stop you, especially at festivals and are like ‘you’re too young to have seen Cantona’, and then they go ‘ooh, ah, Cantona’… it’s an interesting experience.”

‘We sold a unicorn of a shirt for £220’

Volunteer worker Sam Ralphs, 27, says the range of vintage shirts are proving popular at the Oxfam shop at Latitude.

“We’ve had the shirts for the past three or four festivals and they fly out – people get really excited about particular ones, especially the older ones,” he says.

“We had a few really good ones at Glastonbury – a Wet Wet Wet from Clydebank, which is a bit of a unicorn – it’s a third kit and we sold that for £220, which was really cool.

“I know a lot about football shirts but not a lot about football.

“It’s really interesting to see which ones people get excited about, but it’s usually the more obscure ones or lower league teams.

“People find one from five or 10 years ago, which means something to them, their dad, mother, uncle, or whoever and gets them excited – which is cool to see.”

‘The perception has been turned on its head’

Image source, Neal Heard

Image caption,

Neal Heard’s book charts the history of football shirts and highlights the favourites from his collection

“Football shirts, for the majority of their existence, were seen as the preserve of the tasteless or the nerd,” says Neal Heard, author of The Football Shirts Book.

“In front of our eyes, mostly over the last two years, this perception has been totally turned on its head.

“Right now, there is no cooler object of streetwear and, for me, this is just the beginning. Football shirts will follow the pathway of the once humble training shoe and their spread and influence will grow exponentially in all realms from the football industry itself to streetwear and fashion.

“Football shirts lend themselves to ownership and belonging, both in terms of being into something ‘on trend’ but also in terms of allegiance to your team or even with sponsors.

“They are brand vehicles of a few dimensions and this pushed up their ability to speak to people.

“What better way to show off this love than at a music festival.”

Shirts from around the Latitude Festival

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Elena Knighton, 21, who says Ed Sheeran’s sponsorship helped convince her to buy an Ipswich Town shirt, loves going to Portman Road and says the provision for disabled people is excellent

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Will, 15: “I’m wearing a 2014 Olympiakos shirt that I found while in Greece – I thought it was a nice shirt and retro”

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Jack, 14: “I like the stripes of the Japan shirt and the colour scheme – originally I was going to go for the Germany kit but chose this instead”

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Jonah Pedrette, 16: “I support Chelsea and am from Wycombe. This Port Vale away shirt was on the £20 and less rack – I like the colours”

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Will Orves, 22: “I’m wearing an AC Milan shirt from 2006/07 with Ronaldo 99 on the back. I’ve got three with me, Roma with Francesco Totti, and last season’s Venezia, which is really nice”

‘My dad is worried I’ll get beat up’

“This is the Norwich 93 shirt – it’s from when they were at their most successful,” says 35-year-old Joe Barker, from Lowestoft.

“It’s affectionately known as the bird poo shirt. It divides opinions. Sometimes it makes the top 10 worst football shirts ever made, but I love it.

“We are in Suffolk, and not too far away from Ipswich, and my dad was worried there would be some Ipswich fans who would beat me up or act aggressively to me.

“It’s still early days, but fingers crossed it seems OK, we are at Latitude.”

‘Football shirts and identity’

Image source, Corbin Shaw

“Wearing a football shirt says something about you before you’ve even spoken,” says artist Corbin Shaw. “We are all avid performers of our race, gender and class and the football shirt helps us to do that.

“Fashion designers have started to parody the football shirt in their collections.

“Martine Rose, who made the iconic twisted football shirt, recently said in an interview for SEASON zine: ‘If we saw someone walking in a football shirt, we were told to cross the road to be safe. It was something dangerous, unpredictable.’

Image source, Corbin Shaw

Image caption,

Corbin Shaw’s work plays with the traditional imagery of football

“I see so many artists and creatives these days harnessing the power that once oppressed them and subverting to to tell their message.

“In a similar vein, I used the visual language of football (merch, branding etc) to have my say on masculinity.

“It is so much more than a shirt to some people, and to others it just looks good. Either is totally valid.”

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