Forking out between £40 and £60 for a brand new football top every season is frustrating, to say the least, with many fans around the world instead choosing to look to the past where they can find a multitude of legendary retro tops. Neal Heard, above all others, is what can only be described as an ‘expert’ within that field.
For years now Heard, who spoke exclusively to us in a recent interview, has been collecting a variety of football shirts from around the globe and eventually decided to empty his many thoughts on this blossoming genre into a book.
“I kind of think about it in the same way as the trainers scene from when I wrote a book about trainers back in 2003. It was the first book on them and since then trainers kind of exploded, and I think this is the start for the football shirts and we’re all going to see it explode exponentially.”
Alongside his Trainers release which was unveiled back in 2003, Heard has transformed himself from a football casual back in the day into a man who is quite literally revolutionising this platform from a design and fashion point of view.
— Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game (@BeautifulGame15) July 27, 2017
What started out as a hobby has turned into an entirely new field of work that many prospering fans can take up, with Neal telling one story in particular about a fan from Argentina who loved his book that much that he decided to send him a retro Boca Juniors top from many decades ago.
It soon became clear that Neal’s talents needed to be given the chance to shine on a grander stage, and thus The Art Of The Football Shirt exhibition was created, curated and presented in conjunction with the Fashion Trade Show, Jacket Required.
The project ran for two nights in London last month, bringing in hoards of supporters as they came to appreciate just how much thought has gone into some of these unique designs from the past.
“It exceeded my expectations. Out of all the people, without sounding like I have a big ego, I was the one who knew how big this scene was. But even the reaction to the exhibition surprised me, you know, we had 5,000 people through the doors over the two days.
The launch night was absolutely packed but also the demographic of it was interesting, you could’ve been in Shoreditch or some kind of night club. It went right across the board and wasn’t kind of what people would associate with football shirts, which is exactly what myself and Jacket Required were looking for.”
Heard himself admitted that things have reached a level that few could’ve anticipated, with many companies and organisations contacting him with the desire to take his project on the road.
Neal confirmed to CLICKON that Liverpool is the next intended destination for TAOTFS in November, and beyond that, we should be seeing this venture heading overseas to international venues such as Switzerland, the United States and more.
— Andy Rockall (@Statto_74) July 27, 2017
It may seem a tad odd to some that there’s such a fascination with something as simple as a football shirt, but within one simple piece of attire can hold so many memories that’ll last a lifetime. It sounds cliché, sure, but Heard represents an entire generation of supporters who want to look back on the glory days and feel that nostalgia which sport, in general, is so good for.
“I find most football shirts now really boring. They’ve just gone too plain, and it’s gone too far back in that way. I actually quite like the purity of the Chelsea shirt this season, pure blue, it looks like a 60s shirt.
Sometimes the brands of the teams can be behind the curve and in this instance they massively are. They move on a two year timeline of designing them so in one way I think you could forgive them, but if you listen to us the fans then I think everyone is screaming out for some ‘design’ to come out.”
With a world of possibilities ahead of him, Neal looks set to continue being the lead man when it comes to putting the art of the beautiful game into perspective.