With all the recent attention given to what next season’s kit will look like, I thought it wise to venture into the past, and quite possibly the worst Albion kit of all time. Perhaps, in the history of football. It’s quite evident whenever you visit the North Stand Social Club that it had an everlasting impact. It’s clearly from a time when a seemingly inept manager’s Wembley road trip provides a memory on a certain age of Albion fan. And we’re now that generation who have grown up, and remember it all too well. The North Stand walls are absolutely littered with photos of it. The pebbled beach constantly honours it with a joke that was used at the time. We’re talking about the all striped affair of the early 1990s.
Football kits from that era didn't have the allure that they have now. Ever since our Falmer Cathedral emerged from the NIMBY’d soil of the South Downs, the number of youths parading their replica kits around Sussex’s local recreational areas is almost overwhelming. But back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, even popular and successful teams struggled to convince local youfs that wearing a carbon copy of their favourite player’s football shirt was the way to go. But in 1991, when TSLR was just a glint in a couple of juvenile delinquent eyes, I had an Albion shell suit made by those purveyors of fashion excellence, Ribeiro. But it wasn't this attire that was extraordinary. No, Ribeiro tested the patients of Albionites worldwide when they came up with what we can only now term the ‘deckchair’.
Not content with making Albion fans suffer through the managerial masterclass that was Barry Lloyd, the kit manufacturer at the time (who according to this FourFourTwo blog went bust in 1993-94) decided to allocate Albion, traditionally a blue and white striped kind of shirted side, matching blue and white shorts. The result was a hideous combination hitherto referred to as a deckchair. Never mind the faus pas away shirts of that era (the now remarkably popular chewit and tiny little red and white checked numbers) - I mean, away shirts have always had an element of rubbish attached to them. No, this was a disaster. Admittedly, a disaster that Mr and Mrs Albion of 1904 probably felt when the club was given a shirt complete with - shock horror - blue and white striped shirts.
In fact, if you have peruse of one of the finest websites ever to exist for the purposes of first team football attire, you will note that the only shorts to deviate from all blue, all white or all black (just the once, 1948-50) were those from 1991-93. If you remember the following kit, the pin stripes were bad - and it explains why Ribeiro went bust - but at least the shorts were blue. It was a kit reflective of a crumbling Goldstone, a vilified (reserve team) manager, a relegation-bound abject side complete with players more accustomed to Lewes prison than the training ground, and of a kit manufacturers preparing to throw in their towel with a few kit choices surely instigated to make the respective supporters wince. Ribeiro were sinking, but they were talking down fashion in football with their ship.
Walking around the North Stand of the Amex taking in the (brilliantly included) memorial photos on the walls reminds you how bad that kit really was. Could you really come up with anything worse? No, we thought not. It was around this time that TSLR’s co-editor and I - depressed by the Albion kits on show - would constantly design Adidas-made Albion striped shirts complete with just the one-tone shorts. In fact, those designs are not unlike the one Errea has just produced for Falmer visits next season, and the (apparent) new away one is fabulous. But back then, that kit represented everything that was wrong with Albion and we rallied against it, albeit in our upper middle-class way. But we must look at the positives: if it hadn't been for that deckchair kit, where would we have learnt to hate?