It's that time of the football season again. The anticipation has been rising and now, at last, the storylines that have been developing all year are being resolved. Yes: next season's kits are being released!
And who better to analyse, dissect, rip to shreds in an orgiastic bout of clarification than your humble correspondent? Well, several people, actually. But our pay-scale is apparently not attractive enough for them. Tofu and crap minimalist furniture don't pay for themselves, it seems. So you're stuck with me. Hey, maybe this will become a series, when we're desperately scrabbling around for something to write about during the bleak, desolate summer months. Isn't that exciting? Anyway, here is the first in a series of at least one. Hope it makes you sick!
A couple of interesting innovations here. Firstly, notice how the chest area now comes with an optional stick-on white panel. This is really handy for when you wake up in the morning so sickeningly ashamed of the club you have become shackled to that you can't bear to be seen sporting their badge or the logo of the disgraced financial institution whose continued sponsorship has exacerbated the embarrassment that has hung over the club like the the stench over a city where the bin-collectors' strike has just entered its fifth exciting year.
Secondly, we have the adidas stripes on the shoulders. These are a graph representing the depth of the shit the club is in, and, using adidas' patented SweetJesusHelpUsNow® technology, will actually retreat towards the collar as Newcastle sink towards League One/extinction/armed insurrection. It has been reported that once the stripes disappear completely, the actual Messiah will appear on the centre spot at St. James' Park and steer Newcastle to the Kingdom of Heaven, or maybe a Europa League spot, but adidas have not confirmed this as yet.
There has been much speculation as to why this particular design was selected. Is it an attempt to resemble those new-fangled rugby jerseys, to lend the wearer an intimidated air of stud-raking, ear-biting menace? Does the lighter section emanating from the collar and running down towards that central panel represent the River Thames flowing into the North Sea, the darker section at the bottom thus signifying the continent, the piece as a whole therefore symbolising the English game's new outward-looking era? Is it a representation of oil gushing from the earth, the source of Chelsea's might? None of the above; the real reason is far simpler. Adidas consulted with senior Chelsea players, asking them to choose from a number of potential jerseys. On being shown the above, and asked to note the "false breastplates", the players unaccountably spluttered with laughter and insisted that this one be chosen.
Next season's Barça jersey has not been swoosh officially revealed as yet. However, we swoosh do know that it will once more bear swoosh the UNICEF logo, maintaining the club's proud tradition swoosh of never having swoosh allowed the hallowed blaugrana colours to be tainted by association swoosh with base commercialism Kappa Kappa hey.
Bolton's new offering draws its inspiration from one of British pop's greatest moments. At the 1996 Brit Awards, Michael Jackson's grandiose rendition of 'Earth Song' was gatecrashed by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. Cocker was unhappy with the messianic overtones of Jackson's routine, which involved him being raised high above the stage on a cherry picker, and which later had him clad all in white as the diseased peasants beneath Jackson touched him and were miraculously "healed". Egged on by his bandmates, a tipsy Cocker jumped onto the stage, bent over and made hand gestures indicating flatulence. He was bundled off the stage by security guards (dressed as the aforementioned diseased peasants) and was arrested amid false accusations that he had assaulted some of the children on the stage.
I think it's pretty obvious what Reebok have done here. The barcode-like stripes represent the average fan, disillusioned at the fact that they have been turned into customers by football clubs. What the shirt tells them is that they can be "healed" by giving themselves up to the power of naked capitalism, here shown as the huge logo of a betting company surrounded in pure white. The barcodes are clamouring to touch the misshapen pentagon (clearly modelled after Jackson's face) and so be cleansed of their doubts about modern football.
But what about the absence of a Jarvis? What are Reebok trying to tell us? Perhaps they are saying that there is no hope, that we must accept the inevitable. Another possibility is that the shirt is, in fact, a sly piece of subversion from someone in Reebok trying to bring the system down. In this scenario, the absence of a Jarvis is actually a promise that a Jarvis will one day come, wiggling his arse and puncturing the pomposity of Big Football. Then again, the message might be: "You can wait for a Jarvis to arrive and save you, and he might even succeed in taking us down a peg or two; but he will soon have a breakdown and re-emerge with an album which, though actually really rather terrific, will be a gigantic commercial failure, and the band will make just one more record before disbanding, whilst Jacko will recover from his personal problems and sell out 2,374 shows in London, and where will you be then, eh? EH?" A fascinating shirt.
With their new away shirt, Arsenal abandon the sunshine yellow of their latest work and enter their abstract expressionist phase. That deep, troubled blue hints at the abyss. It is based on the colour of the sea at a depth just above that at which light is no longer visible. You can really feel the melancholy rippling through this jersey. A fourth consecutive trophyless season is obviously weighing heavily on the club, leading them to contemplate the unforgiving nothingness of infinity. The addition of a tag bearing the club's Latin motto, abandoned when a new crest was introduced in 2002, mocks the fact that Arsenal's best days are in the past, in a time when some words from a dead language adorned their kit.
What of the lighter, thin stripes, though? Those sharp and distinctly un-Rothkonian boundaries between the stripes and the background, and that almost celestial blue, like shafts of light, seem to point towards an optimistic future, no? Not a bit of it. It is merely an ironic nod towards Arsenal's annual League Cup exploits, recurring regularly to taunt the club with their promises of a brighter tomorrow which will never arrive. And so you are once more sucked into that brooding blue, that eternity...that forever nothing...that neverending finality...death...death...death...
If this shirt were a newborn child, it would be called Payne.