Even though we try to avoid repeatedly covering shirts from the same club here on Club 25 Football, a site dedicated to rare and intriguing football shirts from all over the world, returning to a side that we have previously written about is always an enjoyable endeavour. We’ve already covered the peculiarities of a club as well as their history in the original piece, which means that a second article tends to make for much snappier reading. We’ll see if that theory holds up as we have a beautifully bespoke design to consider today, worn by our good friends at Llandudno in Wales;
Indeed, Llandudno! The Welsh side you might still remember our September 2020 article that went into great detail about a shirt worn by the club’s team in the Welsh Premier League in 2017/2018 – do give it a read here if you haven’t already. We enjoyed reviewing that shirt but weren’t wholly convinced by its merits as it was just a standard off-the-peg adidas teamwear template, a design that was worn by hundreds if not thousands of sides across the world.
How different, then, is today’s shirt which was designed exclusively for the club by Italian brand Acerbis! Indeed, despite Llandudno’s relegation from the top tier at the end of the 2018/2019 season the club had such good connections that it swayed a foreign manufacturer to create a beautiful new striped shirt that would only ever be worn by this humble seaside club from the eponymous town in Conwy County Borough.
But does it stack up to that slightly older adidas kit? Is bespoke always better than standard teamwear? And is the switch from the disinterested giant that is adidas to a more amicable independent brand in the form of Acerbis one that bore fruit? Let’s dive in and find out!
We will be pulling in the older adidas shirt to compare elements from time to time, but for now the Acerbis shirt on its own deserves consideration. Black and white stripes are a strong look that has been traditionally popular across the British Isle for over a century now, and Llandudno with Acerbis have provided a lovely twist to this particular set; black pinstripes flank each of the three regularly sized black stripes. This makes for a really nice, rich look that helps to set the shirt apart from the many ‘plain’ striped shirts you’re bound to see across the leagues every season.
And it’s a good thing Llandudno went down this road, as the Cymru North contained no fewer than five other teams that wore stripes in 2019/2020 – Guilsfield, Llanraeadr, Penrhyncoch, Porthmadog, and Flint Town (who, like Llandudno, use black and white stripes). It certainly guaranteed that the Seasiders had not only one of the most unique, but also classiest kits in the division as many other sides still relied on standard teamwear – as Llandudno had done before.
And while this humble shirt has now attracted our attention, it could perhaps be that another Italian sportswear marque by the name of Macron had a cheeky peek at what competitors Acerbis had done; in the summer of 2020, Stoke City revealed their own new home kit by Macron, which used a rather similar design in red and white to great effect.
The shirt’s unique status as being a custom design is revealed by the inside of the collar, where Acerbis used grey die to write the guarantee that this is a ‘Product designed and manufactured exclusively for LLANDUDNO F.C.’. A certain pride speaks from that simple strapline and this is backed up by the fact that the club even featured in Acerbis’ international catalogue for the 2020 range (on page 14-15 specifically). This sees the humble Seasiders lined up alongside bigger teams like compatriots Aberystwyth Town, Valenciennes from France, Heracles Almelo from the Netherlands, and the Italian sides of AlbinoLeffe, Cremonese, and Spezia.
Acerbis, represented by just their wordmark (which takes liberties with more than a few of its letters, note the stylized ‘A’, ‘R’, and ‘S’) on the front of the shirt, is a Italian brand that enjoys great fame in the world of motocross of all sports, but only recently turned its eye to football. Its products synonymous with dirtbikes and the heavy-duty clothing associated worn by riders, it wasn’t until 2006 that the company founded in 1973 by Franco Acerbis designed and manufactured its first football shirt, for Serie B club AlbinoLeffe from the brand’s hometown of Albino in the Italian Bergamo region.
The brand’s football division would expand abroad along the Mediterranean coast initially, with Elche C.F. of Spain becoming the first side to wear Acerbis in the highest tier of football in any country in 2013, while Lugano of Switzerland was the first Acerbis team to qualify for Europe in 2018. In the mean time, further expansion had brought the Italians to Western Europe with Valenciennes and Heracles Almelo becoming flagship customers in their respective countries. A slow but methodical growth from the solid base that the motocross division provided to the fledgling football side of the business.
That’s all well and good – and we’re happy to finally cover Acerbis for the first time ever on this humble site – but there is one slight issue with this shirt. Because of the heavy use the club’s matchworn shirts saw, there is a noticable degree of pilling on the sleeves and chest.
Pilling on textile is the result of the loosening of fibers from the material (be it cotton, polyester, or a different type of fabric) through wear and washing and manifests itself in the form of tiny little spheres or balls (for lack of a better word) on the surface of clothing. This is completely normal for garments that have been extensively worn and somewhat unavoidable given the delicate nature of fabrics, but it is somewhat rare to see on matchworn football shirts which, at most, see perhaps thirty matches played in their lifetime plus a near equal amount of trips to the laundromat. That’s assuming a home kit is worn for every single home and away game (that doesn’t provide a clash with the opponent’s colours) without the spare/blood shirt ever being used.
While statistics for the Cymru Premier are sparse, our shirt was worn by the club captain in 2019/2020 and we suspect it got well over 20 matches in even before the season was halted on March 13th and outright cancelled on May 19th in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a similar number of games to what our adidas-made Llandudno shirt had to endure, but that particular top featured no pilling whatsoever. We have to award Acerbis insufficient marks in this respect then, as its LXPRO polyester has proven to simply be too delicate for its own good. A crying shame too, because it is s much nicer and softer to the touch than the rough, unfriendly adidad Climacool material.
On the flipside, the 2019/2020 sponsor has withstood the test of time in a much more respectable manner than the battered and bruised ‘Bengal Dynasty’ sponsor that proved to be the low point of the adidas shirt. No discolouration, no jagged edges, no corners that curl over, no noticable indents – that’s pretty good as far as stickered sponsors go, especially when you see the state the actual polyester is in on this top!
AA Conservatories are a well-regarded business dealing in, well, conservatories, windows, and doors (you didn’t need us to tell you that, right?) with locations in Mochdre and in Rhos-on-Sea – another seaside town a short drive to the east of Llandudno. They are a particularly loyal sponsor, having been present on the team’s way kits for two years in the top flight, before also taking over the home shirt upon relegation to the Cymru North. They have since gone back to only sponsoring the away tops for 2020/2021 – a good way of getting their name out across the North of Wales – but obviously still remain involved with the club, which is heartwarming to see given the year we’ve all had in 2020.
One quirk of their logo and wordmark on this shirt is the wayin which spaces within lettters have been filled up with white; note the A’s, O’s, and R’s in ‘AA Conservatories’ alone. This was ostensibly done to ensure the name would remain legible even on a black backdrop – a sensible approach as the same size of stickers were used across all sizes of shirts.
Pulling in the adidas shirt for the sake of comparison, we must compliment Acerbis for rendering the club’s crest via sublimation rather than by using embroidery. While many fans prefer the latter method, you can use a shocking amount of detail if you opt for needle and thread. On the adidas top, this result in slightly wonky looking dragons and very heavy-set lettering for the club’s name and its ‘Founded 1988’ scroll. Meanwhile, with just dye being used by Acerbis, we are instead treated to a much more faithful recreation of the club’s official design to the point where even the subtle shading on the corners of the top and bottom scrolls is discernible.
Whichever method is better remains up for debate by purists and might need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, but we are quite pleased with its application on the detailed Llandudno crest here. It remains a somewhat simple affair compared to the busier emblems of rivals, as the crest unusually lacks any form of shield or escutcheon. Rather, the club’s initials of LLFC are rendered in silver and appear ‘free-floating’ so to speak, and are guarded on both sides by a Ddraig Goch – a Welsh dragon to you and us. Two silver scrolls listing the town’s full name and the club’s founding year complete the ensemble. Football in the town can actually trace its roots all the way back to 1878, but the modern club was (re)formed in the late 80’s from the ashes of a dissolved amateur side. As such, it is the less impressive 1988 that appears on the crest rather than 1878.
It’s totally hip for suppliers to staple their logo onto the sleeves of modern football shirts, and in this case Acerbis couldn’t resist with a scaled-up version of the ‘A’ found in their name on the chest of the shirt being added to both the left and right sleeve of Llandudno’s 2019/2020 top. Both feature black cuffs with a pinstripe on top – pleasingly smart and congruent with the stripes on the torso – but that’s where the similarities end.
After all, where the left sleeve carries the Cymru North league patch, the right sleeve sports the name and barbell logo of ‘The EZ Bar’. We initially thought this would be a fitness gym where Northern Welsh bodybuilders would come to flex their guns, but it is in all actuality a bar/kiosk inside the Everlast gym in Bangor that is ‘offering snacks, hot drinks, smoothies, slush, meal prep, protein products and homemade cakes’.
This is what we assume to be a very small business making a very big gesture by occupying such a prominent space on Llandudno’s shirts, although it took us a little bit of internet sleuthing to find it. Perhaps a tagline of ‘@ Everlast Gym, Bangor’ would have helped, but we shan’t complain. The EZ Bar sadly didn’t reappear on the 2020/2021 season shirts – somewhat understandable given the state of the economy – but we hope to see their name associated with Llandudno again soon!
Giving the adidas shirt another cameo, it’s a bit of fun to compare the league patches from the 2017/2018 Cymru Premier and the 2019/2020 Cymru North.
The most obvious change is the fact that only one patch is applied for the North, on the left sleeve only to leave space for an extra sponsor on the right. While a clear break from how things were in 2017/2018, this is actually in keeping with the league patches currently used in the Cymru Premier. From 2019/2020 onwards, a rectangular league patch is applied to the left arm while the right arm retains the old circular JD patch. This latter patch only applies to the Premier teams, as the sides in the Cymru North and South are only required to wear the rectangular design.
It’s honestly not the most inspiring thing ever when we’ve seen so many other wonderful patches elsewhere (from Hong Kong to Taiwan to Japan) given that this is just a white rectangle with a grey outline, but it is nice to see the somewhat inspired league logo appear besides the cut-and-dry JD emblem. The seven star-shaped figures that comprise a roughly circular design are, naturally, daffodils which some may recognize as being the national flower of Wales. This decidedly colourful arrangement was introduced in 2019 in line with a larger rebrand of the FAW which also saw the national team’s crest receive an overhaul.
Flip the shirt over and we find a slight surprise; we are big fans of having stripes on the reverse of shirts, but usually they need to be truncated to accommodate player names and numbers. If a supplier can be bothered, they typically add the stripes to the lower half of the kit, but in this case, they feature on upper half across the back of the shoulders. Somewhat confounding, but pleasing all the same as it gives some semblance of this still being a striped Llandudno kit. It also gives Acerbis a leg up over adidas, who couldn’t be bothered to add anything to the back of their shirt.
While the Cymru Premier requires player names, the North and South don’t so Llandudno have used this opportunity to only add the numbers this year. While this saves on stickering this does leave quite a lot of white space, which would have been best filled with another sponsor or stripes.
Much like how no player names are required, the FAW leaves teams in the Cymru North and South free to pick their own fonts for squad numbers, and Llandudno clearly worked with Acerbis on this front as one of the Italians’ bespoke number sets appear here, with a cheeky little ‘A’ added into the bottom half of this 8. A cutout with single solid stripe in the top half is used to emulate a sheen of sorts, which these numbers will naturally lack due to their matte finish.
Any ‘Dudno fan will tell you that squad number 8 belongs to the one and only Danny Hughes, a local lad who lives in town near the club’s Maesdu Park and has spent no fewer than 15(!) years in and around the Seasiders’ first team. Having initially joined the team as a sixteen year old in 2004, only a brief stint with the now-defunct Rhyl in 2011/2012 saw Hughes ply his trade elsewhere.
A genuine club legend who witnessed the club’s rise to the Cymru Premier, was a pivotal part of the squad that survived the drop back down the pyramid on more than one occasion, and remains the club’s only European goalscorer having netted against Sweden’s IFK Göteborg in the 2016/2017 Europa League qualifying round that saw Llandudno crash out with a 1-7 aggregate scoreline. His value to his hometown team cannot be understated, as Hughes also holds the club record for most Cymru Premier appearances at 96. He might have lost a few hairs in the process, but he continues to hold the adoration of many in and around town.
It’d be interesting to check if, by now, Hughes also isn’t all-time leader in the club’s appearances ranking (he should easily have clinched the record of most matches as team captain by now). Pretty much the only thing he hasn’t done by now is retire, which we hope he won’t for quite a while still as the Seasiders’ stalwart is only 32 years of age at the time of writing.
As for the club itself, ‘Dudno continues to play in the Cymru Premier with 2020/2021 being the second season back in this tier of the Welsh pyramid. 2019/2020 proved to be tough with the team lying in tenth at the time of cessation of play, with the infamous Points-Per-Game weighting bringing their final league position down to 12th as Gresford, Buckley, and Ruthin passed them while higher-placed Rhyl folded and were taken out of the standings.
Because the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the British government was somewhat lacking, the 2020/2021 Cymru North didn’t kick off until well into 2021 with Hughes still very much a key part of the squad. The FAW opted for a fifteen round league for the season with each club playing one another only once with promotion and relegation to go ahead as normal.
Regardless of what the season brings Llandudno this year, we are once again proud to own a massive piece of their history what with a shirt worn by a true club legend joining the shirt from the Cymru Premier we had acquired earlier. We encourage everyone to lend this fine side from Wales your support via their Facebook and Twitter pages as the Seasiders look to rebuild and perhaps once again find their way up into the Welsh top flight.
That’s just about all you need from us for now, but as always, we would like to remind you that Club 25 is a weekly publication – expect a brand new article from us next week, so keep checking back for when we have a new shirt going live. Additionally, keep up to date with us on our Twitter page and flick through the site’s Shirt Archive to see what shirts we’ve covered in the past.