Nike promised to “ditch the templates” when making Liverpool’s kit for the very first time last year.
Supporters were worried the sportswear behemoth would revert to type when designing for the Reds due to their reputation as a “copy and paste merchant.”
However, judging by the line-up of merchandise exactly one year after they said Liverpool would enjoy an individual look with their kit, it’s clear the global brand has delivered.
On February 5, 2020, Nike senior director Heidi Burgett insisted the Premier League champions would receive a unique design.
Burgett shared an image of Nigeria’s 2020 strip to which a Liverpool fan account replied: “I don’t know how Nigeria keep getting kits that are a billion times better than the rest of Nike’s templated bull**** but here’s hoping whoever’s doing it for them is in charge of Liverpool’s 20-21 kit.”
The Nike chief moved quickly to appease the supporter, replying: “We’re ditching the templates. For the 2020 kits, Nike designers had 65 chassis options available to them across varying necklines, sleeves, cuffs, badge placement, etc.
“From hand-drawn prints to custom fonts, each team’s look will be its own.”
Liverpool ended their seven-year association with New Balance last season and teamed up with Nike in a huge sponsorship deal from the beginning of this term.
The Reds have worn three different kits so far this season and each strip has an unrepeated story behind the design and the distinctive looks are clear.
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When the home kit was released Nike Europe vice-president Bert Hoyt said: “As next season kicks off, we look forward to supplying the club and its supporters with innovative, stylish collections while furthering our shared ambition to inspire youth and future generations through brilliant football.”
Nike and Liverpool said the 2020/21 home kit was a celebration of their new relationship.
It was designed with an acknowledgement of the past, while setting the tone for future collections and, of course, consisted of the traditional red jersey and red shorts and socks.
The brand believed their “use of a brighter red exudes youth and vibrancy, complementing the traditional white and the introduction of teal to the home jersey. “
The red, white and teal has been a traditional colour combination for Liverpool over the years, particularly as it relates to the traditional club crest.
The teal also holds a further symbolic connection to the city of Liverpool through the Liver Birds that sit looking over the city, and have been a prominent fixture on the Reds jersey since the club formed in 1892.
The home jersey has a V-neck collar with white and teal color-blocked stripes. Stripes also appear on the trim of the sleeves and form hoops around the tops of the socks. On the nape of the neck the 96 emblem, encased by the eternal flames, sits proudly in memory of the 96 men, women and children who lost their lives at Hillsborough.
The kit benefits from performance innovation for fit and moisture and is constructed from 100% recycled polyester fabric, made from recycled plastic bottles.
The away kit, meanwhile, features a vibrant teal and black colourway, drawing on cultural references from across the city.
The Liver birds and Liverpool crest heavily influenced the colour – a theme that was carried through from the home shirt to tie the two kits together.
Its swirling pattern takes inspiration from the Shankly Gates at Anfield, and a textured print design nods to Liverpool’s musical roots and the fly posters often found around the city to advertise local music events.
Scott Munson, vice-president for football apparel at Nike, said: “We have very distinct design filters that are fully demonstrated in the collection we’ve created for Liverpool FC. First and foremost, we set out to create a collection that celebrates the rich culture of the city of Liverpool and the club.
“The away kit allowed us to be bolder and more expressive in how we brought some of these cultural references to life and we’ve landed on a look and aesthetic that really reflects that.”
And then, taking inspiration from the iconic European nights played at Anfield, the third kit’s design was influenced by the array of chequered flags and banners that decorate the Kop for each home game in European competition – a tradition heavily embedded in the club’s history.
The third kit is said to pay homage to those occasions with a black and anthracite check pattern on the front and back of the shirt, combined with crimson side panelling and a V-shape neckline. Black and anthracite can also be seen on the sleeves to seamlessly blend the shirt together.
To complete the kit, the shorts have been designed in plain black, while again bringing to life crimson red detailing in the form of the club crest and Nike swoosh. Black and anthracite check socks with crimson red detailing tie the whole strip together.
Supporters ground Spion Kop 1906 were consulted on the design of the third kit while fashion designer and Liverpool fan Nadia Atique, who grew up in the shadows of Anfield, also took part.
Spion Kop 1906 played a huge role in organising the flags and banners that adorn the Kop, the main inspiration behind this season’s third kit, while Nadia was selected for defying expectations off the pitch with her mission to transform football fashion for women.
For this kit, the club also introduced a new crimson name and number in the Liverpool-style (an alternative to the Premier League) to complement the third kit colourway, which has been printed on shirts.
Munson added: “For the Liverpool FC third kit we explored the long-standing traditions of the club and how we could bring that to life through the lens of sneaker culture.
“We were inspired by the atmosphere of the Kop on those special European nights and an iconic Air Max colourway combined to create a third kit that delivers on style and performance.”
Nike’s kit partnership with Liverpool also saw the brand committing to supporting a community initiative in Toxteth as part of Nike’s Made to Play commitment to get kids moving through play and sport. It also included a bursary scheme for a BAME coaching course, a BAME youth leadership forum in partnership with other organizations in the city and for Toxteth-based Kingsley United to create a girls’ team while the brand also support school holiday and summer camps operated by trained coaches in a safe environment.
Clearly then, Nike did everything in their power to “ditch the templates” while making the Reds’ kit for this season – which makes sense given the amount of merchandise they’d be able to sell with top quality desings only benefitting both parties.
And, given what they have committed to in only their first attempt at creating something for Liverpool, the club and its supporters can expect a very exciting future during this long-term contract – and not just with the huge financical benefit.