What exactly is in a football shirt? Well, it’s funny you ask…

Kit & Caboodle is a new book that goes beyond the basics of a football shirt and deciphers the seams of what they really mean. Johnny Nic is a fan.

As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “You’re actually looking for the clothes, basically… You stand, clap and yell for your clothes to beat the clothes of another city. Fans will be so in love with a player, but if he goes to another team, they boo him. It’s the same human being in a different shirt; they hate him now. Boo! Different shirt! Boo!”

It’s so true, isn’t it? Shirts are powerful. They come and go; their colors, patterns and designs change. The modern shirt is littered with advertisements where once there were none. Football shirts are so reflective of the world we live in, the changing economy and culture.

This is why Matt Riley has profusely illustrated Kit & Caboodle is such an interesting and important new book. A comprehensive look at all aspects of shirts, it deciphers the seams of what we and our clubs stand for, lays bare many underlying issues and explains how football shirts are a lightning rod for so many.

It delves into the counter-culture perspective of St Pauli and Forest Green Rovers, both revolutionary in their own way. It takes a look at Atalanta’s revolutionary baby box system. He examines the impact of the black and white shirt, asks who is still trying to sell European Super League shirts and which club designed their kit as a QR code to highlight human rights abuses. And that’s just to start.

No aspect is spared in this highly entertaining game – who doesn’t love looking at photos of football shirts? – but also an intellectually rewarding book, as Matt investigates how shirts are used to convey messages, brands and identity, some more successfully than others.

It looks at the rise of retro shirts and how shirts reflect changing attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community.

But it is perhaps the chapter on how gambling and, more recently, cryptocurrency companies have occupied this most valuable piece of real estate that is the most insightful, excoriating, and challenging. Do we really want our passion for our clubs to be co-opted to promote them?

With a Kevin Day striker, it’s a deep dive into a culture that all fans care about, no matter who we support. It’s essential reading and best of all, all royalties go to Exeter City Women FC.

Get your copy here.

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