The Fabric of ’86 is back on Teesside this summer with Danish brand Hummel returning to design our kits for the 2018/19 season. According to football shirt expert John Devlin, that’s reason for Boro fans to be excited.
Now, following the news of Hummel’s partnership with the club, we caught up with the football kit aficionado once more – and he was delighted to hear the Danish brand were on board with Boro.
“Hummel are one of my all-time favourite sports brands,” John enthuses.
“Their designs are so dynamic, and so elegant.
“There’s something about Hummel which brings a real sophistication, and you marry that up with tradition and you have all the ingredients for a great kit.
“You look at what they did for Tottenham Hotspur, for Wales, and for Denmark - who I focused on in my new book – going back to the 60s, it’s hard to find a duff design. Mostly, I think they are fantastic.”
John says that Hummel’s history with football in this country stems back to the days in which footballing fashion really started to take off.
“They came along as part of the original style kit boom, if you like,” he says.
“Hummel arrived alongside other continental brands likes of Patrick and Le Coq Sportif in France, first with Spurs and later Aston Villa.
“When you look at what they did, it was shocking in a way, because it was so innovative. But Hummel could almost flick the switch between bold and controversial, and pure class.
“They came up with one of the most iconic designs – a bit of genius for me – with the half-and-half design, which was between traditional stripes and solid colour. For many teams, like Villa, Southampton and Coventry, they helped to form a visual identity.
“And of course, there’s something about those chevrons that is really exciting! Great ideas, beautifully executed – that’s how I’d put it.”
Although our previous association with Hummel was brief, lasting three seasons, it was during one of the most significant eras as the club battled from the brink of extinction to successive promotions. For that reason, the striking kits of those years, especially 1986/87, hold a special place in the hearts of Boro supporters.
“Before Hummel, I think the club had had a few years designing kits in-house, which was with white raglan sleeves,” John recalls.
“Then Hummel come in and bring back that white band - a nod to heritage and in my opinion, simplicity but exquisitely executed.
“I’ve often made the analogy and asked the question that when a team looks good, do they play better and achieve more success.
“It’s interesting that you had these cracking kits that have become part of the club’s identity, the visual accompaniment to that era from bust to boom.
“With time being a great healer, you can look back such periods of history with affection, and adversity that the club has come through together.”
With Boro’s fans eager and excited to see the new Hummel shirts, John will be watching with equal intrigue for the much-awaited first glimpse.
“I’ve always felt it a real shame we’ve not had more Hummel kits in the last ten or fifteen years, certainly in English football,” he says.
“You never want the brand to overtake the identity, you want the club’s identity to shine through – and I think Hummel do that really well.
“I’m delighted that Middlesbrough are back with Hummel, it’s such a good pairing. I can’t wait to see the new designs!”
John Devlin is author of True Colours: International Football Kits – The Definitive Guide, which features more than 1,300 kit illustrations tracing the kit history of 20 of the world’s greatest international football sides since 1966, and is available now.