The Mystery of the Lozenges

Despite how entrenched shirts have become in the world of modern football, serving far beyond their initial use as just clothing – now doubling as fancy performance-enhancing devices (ask any brand that produces ‘replica’ and ‘authentic’ strips), art canvasses, and, most importantly, a few quick quid to be made from fans – life seems to toss us a curveball every now and then here at Club 25. Such is the case today as just when we thought we had seen it all, we come across three different shirts made by three different brands for three different clubs…. using the exact same pattern. What on Earth….?

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These shapes, which we have dubbed lozenges, appear in two variations across four main colours on these three shirts; lined up in horizontal rows, each lozenge is made of 7 chevrons in two alternating shades. The chevrons that come in the darker colour make up the top/bottom (dependent on whether they point up or down) outline of their respective lozenge, with the lighter shade being used for diagonal lines that keep the shapes from ‘bleeding’ into one another.

The lozenge-adorned shirts we have covered so far are;

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In true 90’s fashion, the suppliers have gone all out with applying this pattern; fronts, backs, and sleeves of all three shirts involved are all fully covered by these little rascals.

Because every shirt deserves more attention than just a single article covering all three, we will be kicking things off with an in-depth look at the 1992/1993 Mansfield kit – it was the third of this triumvirate of shirts we acquired, having long thought the pattern was endemic to the first of the three we bought. Then, we came across a Scottish shirt that used it (Greenock Morton) and then the Mansfield top; thankfully, both were relative bargain buys which has allowed us to collect all three for a side-by-side showing.

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The article you are reading right now will be edited and embellished as we launch the Mansfield article and reveal the second and third shirts in separate articles due to launch on the 22nd and 29th of April respectively (EDIT; these are now live in the form of our Greenock Morton and Woking reviews). We do have a couple of theories about the how and why of the very same pattern popping up across three different clubs and manufacturers, but for now, sit tight as we lift the veil of these shirts one by one.

The day we had this article go live, we were overwhelmed by the response of shirt collectors, with many being able to name one or two (or in one case, more than a dozen) shirts that bore this very same lozenge pattern; the deluge of new examples kept up for a few days, which revealed how foolish we were to have thought this pattern only applied to a select few shirts.

Our Irish friend shirtsVskins (who runs his country’s premier vintage kit market) kindly sent in a picture of his old yellow Portmarnock AFC shirt from the late 90’s, this time ‘manufactured’ by O’Neills, realizing later that he had more instances of it in his hamper – including a navy shirt that mixed the lozenges in yellow with a different fabric and pattern in navy. He noted that other Irish clubs such as Dundalk, Longford, Monaghan United, and Shelbourne FC also made use of the same design.

Things took a turn for the weird, as we collectively realized that the lozenges had also appeared in the world of Gaelic sports, including hurling. Johnny MacDonald also sent in a goalie shirt he had received as a Christmas present somewhere in the mid 90’s.

Not to be outdone, shirtsVskins realized the lozenges also popped up on a manner of shirts belonging to football clubs, big and small, from Finland (including Ilves – dude, look at that crest!). The most interesting picture from this Finnish selection is for sure the one that depicts the green shirt of Nakkilan Nasta – its design saw some use in Scottish football, which is our next lead to find new instances of the lozenges.

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Kilmarnock fan LeRoy had taken notice of the ongoing debate and chipped in with a closeup of the 1995/1996 Killie away shirt by Le Coq Sportif – alongside fellow fan Adam who had earlier pointed out that the 1994/1995 home shirt also featured the lozenges. This meant that one club had used this fabric across two different seasons with two different suppliers! Bewildering to say the least.

Down in England a similar situation had actually already played out by the time Killie had their shirts done up; Burton Albion had worn the lozenges supplied by Hero (where have we heard that before….. oh!) on the 1992/1993 home shirt (with the amazing old Brewer crest), and then on the 1994/1995 shirt by Tag (who are still suppliers of the club at the time of writing). Pictures of these were kindly provided by BAFC-aficionados Dak and Dan – the latter of which famously designed the Brewers’ mascot Billy.

As if there wasn’t enough confusion to go around, shirtsVskins also opened a particularly non-licensed can of worms in noting that O’Neills, who seem to have been responsible for more than half of the lozenges’ appearances on ‘official’ merchandise, had also dabbled in a cheeky ‘inspired by’ line during the 90’s; shirts that were famous and/or popular at the time were reproduced to be noticably unofficial yet still recognizable as representing a particular club or country – in the above cases for Juventus and the English national team (other big names that featured in this collection but without lozenges were Liverpool and Spurs). Because it was the 90’s, O’Neills also made half-and-half shirts for the 1994 World Cup – again with the lozenges and only marginally less tasteful than the average kit at the time.

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In addition to the kind ‘donations’ from our friends in the kit community listed above, sending in details of their shirts bearing this pattern, we also found a lovely shot of the 1992/1993 Peterborough United away shirt, kindly provided by our friend Old Posh Shirts who curates the excellent site of the same name.

What seems to be the red thread through this all is the fact that new shirts bearing this pattern keep popping up – and that O’Neills had a hand in a suspiciously large number of them even though they weren’t the first supplier to use the lozenges. That distinction goes to Hero, which supplied Mansfield Town and Burton Albion in 1992/1993. Perhaps ‘both’ is the wrong word to use here as the branding for Hero is different on both shirts, meaning it could very well have been two separate brands, but this is unlikely for a number of reasons;

  • We know the Mansfield Hero was based in Mansfield itself
  • Mansfield and Burton-on-Trent are only thirty miles apart
  • Hero only ever supplied Town and Albion, and only for the 1992/1993 season

We are no mathematicians but the odds of the Mansfield Hero and the Burton Hero being one and the same seem to be pretty good given what we know at the moment. Going forward, we will be attempting to find out if this was indeed the case, whether they were the originators of the pattern, and why it later ended up in the hands of so many other suppliers (our theory is that Hero pulled its focus off the supplying of clubs directly, instead opting to sell to middlemen like O’Neills and Matchwinner instead). The O’Neills link is also due further inspection, as they seem to have – pardon the pun – been interwoven with the lozenges given how liberally this Irish brand used them on all manner of products.

If you do feel so inclined, Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, maybe send us tips on how to do better via the Contact Us section, and be sure to check out the somewhat cluttered Shirt Archive, which we hope to update and streamline in the very near future.

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