Following the launch of Boro’s limited edition all-white third kit at the end of September, mfc.co.uk caught up with football shirt expert John Devlin to hear his take on the new Hummel design.
When we last spoke to John – author of the popular True Colours series - back in the summer he was excited at the prospect of Boro teaming up with Hummel for the first time since the historic 1986/87 season, one which saw the club battle back from the brink of extinction to win promotion from Division Three.
And the football kit aficionado is equally enthusiastic about this latest development.
In a nod to our shared heritage with Hummel, just 1,986 replicas of the limited edition shirt are available to purchase, with more than two thirds snapped up within a week of going on sale.
The all-white design is complemented by steel-coloured chevrons in a nod to Teesside’s industrial roots.
These kinds of touches, John says, are what make Hummel a popular and powerful brand.
“As you know by now I love Hummel - they can do no wrong in my book,” he says.
“And I think styling of this new shirt itself is beautiful. I really love that tonal look.
“What interested me is the choice of all white.
“I always feel with strips you are looking for maximum colour differentiation. A white kit is almost a palate cleanser.
“When Hummel re-signed with the Danish national team, they played in an all-white shirt with no distinctive features. Their angle was it’s a blank page, a new era and a clean approach. We’re starting again.
“But in this county, in the early years of football, you’re going back to the working-class roots of the game. It was the go-to away colour, and the most workmanlike apparel.”
Boro have a history of wearing white as a third shirt. We did so for the UEFA Cup quarter final in Basel back in 2006, while we also donned an all-white design during the 2014/15 season as the club reached the Play-Off final.
But John says the wider history of third shirts goes back much further – and he believes footballing attire is perhaps an understated influence.
“There is a myth in football that third kits are a recent phenomenon,” he says.
“It’s not the case. You can go back to, for example, Sunderland in the late 60s were wearing four kits in a season.
“I do often question whether the team play better in a good kit.
“The way I look at it, if you go out for a night out and you put on a good pair of shoes or a smart shirt, whatever it is, you feel ten feet tall. Maybe it’s the same on the pitch.
“A change of supplier can be a breath of fresh air. I always use the example of Man United not winning the league for many years, and then doing it in the very first season they had Umbro.
“And when Gary Neville was captain at United he always wanted to wear white at Anfield. There’s that power behind it. It’s a strong colouring.”
John is also a fan of the decision to unveil the kit just hours before kick-off of Boro’s match at Hull City’s KCOM Stadium.
“I think that’s part of the legend of third shirts,” he says.
“The sense that it’s a kit clash ‘emergency’.
“I doubt that’s how it happens now, but the reveal is all about generating excitement and that element of surprise.
“What Boro and Hummel have done is look at the situation and think ‘let’s do something special.’”
And John believes the third kit adds further style to a strong return to Teesside for Hummel.
“From an outsider, Hummel are really committing to the club and celebrating the heritage - looking back as well as forwards,” he says.
“You’re getting a prestige product, a limited run and something desirable.
“Of course, no matter how good the kit is, it is success that makes it truly iconic.
“But there’s something about what they do is so dynamic. A lot of that is down to the chevrons. There’s a real movement. It’s forward, it’s full of energy.
“It’s interesting, in the second Marvel Avengers film there is a character called Quicksilver who has super speed and he wears a Hummel tracksuit. I’ve always thought that is quite relevant.
“They are good looking kits that you are proud to wear.”
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.