Liverpool 2014/2015 Home Shirt

Although the mighty Liverpool have had some world-famous kit suppliers – Nike, adidas, Umbro – the Reds spent three seasons in the not so distant past wearing garb made by a brand called Warrior Sports. A subsidiary of the much larger New Balance who would eventually take over kit design duties at Anfield, Warrior and its shirts were met with apprehension by the club’s fans initially, and derision once some of their more, ahum, eclectic designs were revealed. But were the shirts themselves really that bad? We’re going to take a closer look at the final home top made by Warrior, from 2014/2015, to find out.

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Plain red, that’s how they like to see it in Liverpool (unless you hail from the blue half of town, in which case, this article may not really be for you). Red has been Liverpool’s go-to home colour for over a hundred years – specifically since 1896, when the club’s original white and light blue halved shirts (think a washed out Blackburn Rovers top) were swapped out for the municipal colours of red and white.

In 1973 Umbro became the club’s first named kit partner, with the double diamond being succeeded by the three stripes of adidas in 1985, which were then traded in for Reebok in 1996. Less than a decade later Reebok was bought out by adidas, with the Germans resuming their kit-making duties until New Balance won the Liverpool contract for Warrior in 2011. From 2012 onward, the stylized W appeared on the Reds’ chests, which is where our story begins.

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Warrior started in 2012/2013 with a very plain red top which resurrected the golden version of the Liverbird which was first introduced in the Bob Paisley era in the 70’s (although the bird first appeared, in white, in 1955). This drew some criticism from fans, who noted that the twin flames that served as remembrance to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster were now only present on the reverse of the shirt.

The 2013/2014 home shirt didn’t reinstate the flames or the Shankly Gates which had previously featured, but instead featured shadow stripes and some light, white trim. By then, the adventurous away shirts (like this daring white effort) had polarized the club’s fanbase while leading to much hilarity amongst Liverpool’s detractors, and support for Warrior was slowly lapsing. Since this label was mostly known for ice hockey and lacrosse gear anyway, New Balance saw an opportunity to further its main brand and announced that from 2015/2016 onwards, its own ‘NB’ would appear on Liverpool shirts while Warrior would return to focusing on its endeavours in other sports. This applied to all football teams signed with the brand, including FC Gifu in Japan.

This meant that the 2014/2015 shirt we have before us today is the last to have carried that ‘W’ – the swansong for a brand that had perhaps tried too much and incurred mostly ridicule for it. Undeterred by the choice words of fans and critics flung about in previous seasons, Warrior still insisted on somewhat zany details for their final design, which included sweeping white lines and a jacquard pattern across the front of the shirt.

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Those lines are perhaps most prominent along the collar, which is nowhere near as elaborate as you’d expect from a modern football shirt. Interestingly enough, the white here isn’t fabric, or sublimated, but rather, stickered on! Indeed, lines of tape have been stuck onto the shirt’s fabric to create what looks like two mandibles of some ghastly insect making their way around the neck of players and fans.

The white lining on the sleeves, however, is made of fabric. Quite bizarre to note that Warrior opted for this approach, especially when considering how prone tape is to washing right off a shirt in the laundry.

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The fabric lining isn’t just present on the sleeves but also on the sides of the shirt, where it runs from the back of the armpits across to the front of the shirt before raking back to the reverse as it goes down the shirt, terminating at the bottom hem. This ensures that it is partly visible from both the front and back.

Now, one of the main attractions of the shirt is the jacquard print that runs across the front; you can see it above to the left of the white line, but not to its right; this is due to it being absent from the back of the shirt, which is a real shame and really rather hard to explain. After all, when it is this subtle, why not include it on the back as well? We assume this was simply a case of Warrior keeping production costs down, despite this being, for all intents and purposes, a luxury clothing item that retailed for some 50 quid.

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The effect is somewhat hard to make out – it really begs for one to see it in person – but is still legible enough to the point where you may recognize the LFC initialism that appears all over the torso, embellished further by pinstripes, circles, and triangular forms. Terrifically space age-esque, but nothing that really screams ‘This is Anfield!’.

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Two jocktags appear on the shirt, with the rectangular black one espousing Warrior’s proprietary ‘WarTech’ fabric, which is the type of polyester used on Liverpool’s shirts between 2012 and 2015. It promises all the usual features in wicking sweat and moisture away, regulating body temperature, and providing freedom of movement – but this really is just regular polyester that is entirely similar to the fabrics used by all the other brands active in football.

The other tag, a weird sort-of triangular affair, is just a plug for Warrior itself, with the trademark ‘W’ appearing on a silvery grey background. The shaping really is something else, perhaps almost like a shark tooth.

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The W naturally also appears on the chest, set above the company’s wordmark. It certainly is a unique logo, mirroring quite how…. uh…. eccentric some of Warrior’s Liverpool shirts were. They also kitted out Sevilla in Spain, FC Porto in Portugal, Shamrock Rovers in Ireland, Randers in Denmark, Odd Grenland in Spain, and Sagan Tosu in Japan while being supplier of choice at Anfield, with all these contracts being taken over by New Balance starting in 2015/2016. Warrior also had a two month spell with NEC Nijmegen, promising but failing to stock sufficient shirts – with the club drafting in a replacement kit partner right as the season began.

The Liverbird is still done up in gold, as it was on the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 shirts, but sponsor Standard Chartered was presented in white stickering – which leads us to our most scathing criticism of this shirt.

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To be fair, this fault was continued by New Balance a season later (we’ve overlaid the 2014/2015 Warrior shirt, bottom, with the 2015/2016 New Balance shirt, top), but it is still a huge oversight that warrants us harshly condemning it.

Using stickers to add sponsors to a football shirt is a cardinal sin; sportswear needs to be durable, which stickering absolutely isn’t due to its propensity to come unstuck as the garment it has been applied to is used. It’s not just washing a kit that damages stickers, but also simply wearing it as motion bends and curls fabric, slowly but surely eroding the adhesive used for sponsors.

What is especially bad, however, is applying stickers across jacquard printing; because the material is slightly debossed (it sits lower than the non-jacquard parts of the shirt) the stickering is more liable to damage and quicker to let go, as evidenced by our shirt. You can trace the pinstripes on the torso, and where they duck underneath Standard Chartered’s wordmark and logo simply by observing the visible cracks in the stickers.

There is some damage on the New Balance shirt (notably on the C in Chartered), which continued the jacquard in a more sensible manner, but it is beyond bad on the Warrior top – specifically because of the elaborate pattern used. As a rule of thumb, the thicker/larger the sticker, the less likely it is to damage, but in this case even the large Standard Chartered logo has incurred damage where it looks pristine on the New Balance shirt. Both shirts have been washed an equal number of times, which proves one thing; the Warrior shirt was badly thought out (or the brand simply didn’t care about the durability of its products) and desperately needed the sponsor to be sublimated into the fabric rather than stuck on. The fans paid the price for Warrior’s carelessness, as some six years on from these shirts having been used, it has become increasingly difficult to find one where the sponsor hasn’t started to disintegrate.

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Be mindful that the pattern does not extend to the sleeves; instead, these are left plain much like how the back of the shirt is devoid of the jacquard print. Instead, all that helps liven up the sleeves are the stripes on the front and back, as well as a thin white cuff. Also visible in the above image is the mesh fabric used for the panels around the armpits, which differ from the polyester used elsewhere on the shirt.

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We were bemoaning the lack of the pattern on the back of the shirt, but now we wish it had been left off the front as well for what it has done to the sponsor. Still, it isn’t wholly absent on this side of the shirt, as one can observe how it actually peeks around the sides at the bottom of the shirt, offset by the white stripes.

We do have the more or less full continuation of the white striping at least, with the lines on the side weaving in and out of sight whilst those found on the sleeves mirror what was seen on the front. We can also note how the tape found around the collar terminates rather than wrap around fully.

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(top; 2014/2015 Warrior shirt – bottom; 2015/2016 New Balance shirt)

A close-up reveals that the jacquard print has crept over the shoulders here, making a slight cameo on the back where the tape is cut short at the seams. The eternal flames that remember the 96 victims of Hillsborough are housed at the very top of the collar, embroidered to ensure that – unlike Standard Chartered – they won’t soon be washed away. It is of some solace that at least this part of the shirt – perhaps the most important element besides the Liverbird – is guaranteed some longevity regardless of how often the shirt is washed.

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Stevie G seems happy enough here, but we’re not exactly smiling at being faced with wearing this shirt. Everything about it looks dated, from that white trim to the damaged sponsor. We know Warrior released nine outfield kits in all for Liverpool, and some really do look smart, but if we limit our sample size to just the 2014/2015 home shirt, it was a dire, dire partnership indeed.

The season it was used in was pretty dire as well; Liverpool finished sixth in the Premier League, and didn’t come within reach of silverware in the cup competitions either. Both the FA Cup and League Cup yielded lost semi-finals, whilst in Europe the Reds crashed out of the Champions League group stage in third (a huge disappointment in a group featuring Real Madrid, FC Basel, and Ludogorets Razgrad). Brendan Rodgers failed to spur his men onto subsequent success in the Europa League, as the team was eliminated at the first hurdle by Club Brugge in a massive upset.

This would prove to have been Rodgers’ last full season in charge, as in October 2015 he was relieved of his duties and replaced by charismatic German coach Jürgen Klopp. The rest, as they say, is history.

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The one thing Warrior did get right was the decision to supply the supporters with the exact same shirts that the players wore; no fleecing with ‘replicas’ and ‘authentic playerwear’ involved here, the shirts sold to fans were the same as those seen on the pitch. Something that needs to return now that Nike has set up shop at Anfield, flogging subpar ‘stadium’ shirts for no less than 69,95 GBP whilst player-spec ‘vapour’ tops can retail for well over a 100 Pounds.

What doesn’t help Nike’s case is that their shirts are aggressively mediocre, where Warrior at least tried to do something extraordinary. Sure, they failed to provide something that could match demand in terms of durability, but at the very least the Liverpool teams in the Warrior era were always guaranteed to wear something unique. In that light it could well be that this 2014/2015 shirt, as well as the Warrior and New Balance kits that preceded and succeeded it, will one day be consider a sought-after classic. Just a shame that, by then, the number of tops that have the sponsor intact will have dwindled to perhaps just a handful. It pains us to say this, but we feel badly let down.

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.

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