Every season in English football includes a round of fixtures held around the time of Remembrance Day that sees clubs and fans up and down the country honour fallen soldiers. Minutes of silence are observed, memorial wreaths are placed, and the ubiquitous poppy adorns the shirts of players as they take to the field in one or more games. Worn just once or twice, these so-called ‘poppy shirts’ are auctioned off in support of the Royal British Legion, fetching a pretty penny as each kit is very much a collector’s item. Today we are proud to feature another one of these tops, as worn by Northampton Town this season;
Besides having that coveted poppy applied to the chest, this shirt is also still currently in-use which always makes for a good review. With no end-of-season discount in the mix yet and still sternly priced at 45 Pounds for an adult size (child sizes go for 40), bargain hunters need not apply for a few months still. If you’re on the fence about buying one, perhaps today’s closer look might encourage you to take the plunge – or hold on for a while longer still, knowing the shirt could be priced as low as 20 Pounds come the final stages of the season.
Before we tuck in, it is worth calling out that Northampton shirts have featured on this site twice previously! Both were matchworn, both were signed by their respective players, and one of them featured a poppy just like today’s shirt – give either of them a look if you’re curious;
- Matchworn Northampton Town 2008/2009 Home Shirt
- Matchworn Northampton Town Poppy Home Shirt 2018/2019
It has been to full seasons since that second shirt, a Nike catalogue template worn by David Buchanan, so it’ll be good to see what Northampton are up to on the kit front.
Clearly there has been a change, but it’s a good one; Nike are no the longer the supplier of choice at Sixfields, as hummel have taken over – clearly to good effect at that too, as this looks to be a bespoke design created exclusively for the club. That was the biggest complaint we had about the 2018/2019 shirt, which was shared with over half a dozen other teams in the Football League.
Some things change, but then some do stay the same; the University of Northampton remains as main sponsor, which is once again applied with white stickers across the chest. The local uni is now into its ninth season in this position, tying the record set by Nationwide Building Society between 1998 and 2007 for being the longest-running main sponsor of the club. With the university set to continue its stint next season, they’ll mark a full decade on the shirts and better Nationwide’s longevity to boot.
It’s not all about the sponsor though – that would be doing a disservice to the work hummel have put into this shirt. The brand’s trademark chevrons on the sleeves stand out as does the finely-striped collar, but the real selling point of this shirt is the embossed pattern that repeats itself across the torso.
The club are known as the Cobblers and the town has traditionally been associated with the shoemaking industry, but beyond a boot featuring in the crest this link has never been explored on the shirts. Up until now, as hummel’s designers have sought and found inspiration in brogue shoes, a style of footwear that utilizes perforated layers of leather to create decorative figures on the shoe’s outer shell.
Now the actual shoes tend to feature perforations rather than debossed dimples as this shirt does, but considering that multiple layers of fabric don’t make for good high performance sportswear, this concession is both welcome and sensible. Funnily enough, the club’s official press releases as well as the store make mention of the pattern being embossed, but it is, in fact, debossed. Embossing involves raising a given design above a base layer (think Braille script on paper) while debossing involves a design being imprinted to sit lower – resulting in this case in little pockmarks on the shirt. Funny to think the wrong term is used throughout official communications, but it does not detract from the end product at all.
Even though the entire front of the torso is covered by these dimples, they only come in a single design which is repeated throughout in three different sizes. The biggest of the three is flanked on both sides by the second largest, which are diagonally set, while the smallest copies are turned upside down and sat in right in the middle of every quartet of the largest figures. Hard to put into words, but the orientation of each on the shirt should be clear to see.
It’s both clever and economical; just design the one figure, shrink it down and rotate it a little, and job’s a good ‘un. Brogue shoes feature endless design variations from one pair to the next when it comes to their perforations, but it is usually only the one that features on a given pair. In that regard, hummel is remaining true to life – while having multiple figures feature on the shirt might make for a disjointed look as compared to what we have in front of us today. However, the pattern comes at a cost; the sponsor is stickered over the debossed dots, creating a rather strange textured effect.
The main takeaway, though, should be that this was a really clever and exciting way of representing the history of the town of Northampton on the shirt of Northampton Town. Having plain claret shirts with relatively little white trim year in, year out (except that one aberration of a kit that included a load of yellow) makes for little variation and potentially has an adverse effect on sales figures, so to trot out such a comprehensive print to perfectly differentiate this shirt from anything worn by the club previously was a masterstroke by hummel’s designers. If you’d ask us to predict which of the home shirts featured in the past twenty-odd years was most likely to be seen as a fan-favourite classic down the line, the 2021/2022 shirt would likely be our pick.
Good stuff from our friends at hummel (like adidas, the name is never capitalized) then, who can always be relied on to deliver excellence no matter the customer (except that one time they partnered with Forest Green Rovers). The Danish/German brand sports a stylized little bee for a logo which is no surprise considering ‘Hummel’ in German means ‘bumblebee’, although it is glued onto this shirt in rather thin vinyl – you may want to consider washing these shirts very carefully, less any part of the bee or the brand’s name comes unstuck.
The trademark chevrons – evoking a sense of momentum – on the sleeves are also stickered, and in such a way that you could identify this shirt as belonging to a British club without having to spot the crest; only the hummel teams in England and Scotland ever seem to sport the chevrons that are half-solid, half-pinstripes. It’s just the darndest thing, but betrays the fact that there is a degree of independence between the British side of the business and the continental parts – which stick to fully solid chevrons on shirts in Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere. We recently covered another English hummel shirt – that of Coventry City, coincidentally one former tenant of Sixfields – which also sported the half-and-half chevrons.
Besides the chevrons, we’ve also got quite a novel take on the sleeve cuffs here which have a diagonal slant to them to add a further point of interest and are quite unlike anything else we’ve ever seen for this area of a shirt. Even though the amount of white that is visible varies, there is just enough of it to provide contrast to the white. The sloping effect is created by having the claret fabric taper off towards the armpit, with the white inset sown into the sleeve becoming wider in turn. With this shirt having been worn in what was likely a much greater number of matches than the two it was confirmed for, it is no surprise that some battle damage can be found here with bits of thread having come loose.
The centrepiece of the shirt – almost quite literally at that – is of course the poppy affixed to the chest. The older poppies we saw worn previously were all made of a material not unlike raised felt, but this new patch – which has been introduced this season – feels almost denim-like. The shaping is slightly different with a solid red outline and a solid black core. The previous version featured a white outline, a blotty red edge within it, with a black core that almost look like a droplet of oil had splashed onto the flower.
No doubt the change was made to allow for easier digital reproduction of the poppies (which is why so many club crests have been changed in recent years), and the new version is by no means bad – superior in material even – but there is something distinctly nostalgic about that old poppy. Even if it was a bit too transparent for its own good, as seen on the inset (taken from our matchworn Cambridge shirt). The new poppy benefits from being made of a more solid material (with diagonal ribbing that you can feel by running your finger over it) and will no doubt retain and display its colour much better.
We also have the collar on display here, which is a fairly straightforward affair elevated by two claret pinstripes running along its length. As with the rest of the shirt, there’s just enough white here to make it stand out, but there’s no sizing information. The inside of the collar is usually where you’d expect it….
But instead it’s hidden on the inside of the bottom left-hand side of the reverse of the shirt, pictured above via an inset. That’s a mouthful, and a first for us – we have never ever seen sizing information being placed. How bizarre.
Plenty to see on the outside as well, with what hummel calls ‘a horizontal pinstripe of white and claret on the hem’. Okay then. This is a triangular (actually diamond-shaped, but folded through the middle) patch of pinstriped white/claret fabric that has been sown into space created by the divergence of the front and back panels of the shirt towards the bottom hem. This is typically done to ensure the shirt is tear-resistant along its seams – there’s plenty of pulling that opponents do on a kit regardless of the rules – but hummel have made this necessity an aesthetically-pleasing inclusion by adding that extra bit of colour in – albeit with thinner stripes than those seen on the collar.
We also have the ‘Official authentic apparel ®‘ tag found across modern hummel shirts designed for the English market (Coventry had it too) plus a shout-out to hummel’s Eco8 polyester, the material the shirt has been made out of. Replacing ZEROH2O from the kits of yesteryear, Eco8 shirts are each made from at least eight recycled plastic bottles. Very environmentally-friendly, obviously, and quite the hip thing to do considering other brands like adidas (Parley) and Macron (Eco-Softlock) have pushed out their own ‘green’ initiatives in making sure new garments are made out of discarded plastics.
Before revealing which player wore this shirt, a word on the goodies contained on the sleeves of the shirt; the rubberized English Football League patches that have been in use since 2018/2019, plus a ‘Not Today Or Any Day’ tag which first appeared ahead of the 2020/2021 season as part of a campaign aiming to ‘encourage behavioural and attitude changes at all levels of EFL football’.
All good intentions aside, the continued sponsorship of SkyBet despite increased criticism regarding the involvement of the gambling industry in football remains a constant thorn in our sides, disfiguring the league patches that feel wonderful to touch and are almost worth the money clubs usually expect fans to shell out for their inclusion. How the EFL can continue to claim to be socially responsible whilst still maintaining links with their title sponsor is beyond our comprehension (although any and all questions to this topic can likely be met with any manner of answers involving a variaton on ‘£££££’).
We also have a sponsor on the upper back here, with TMG Sports Memorabilia (TMG being short for The Memento Group) replacing PTS Academy. This is a business centered around, well, sports memorabilia with the company’s partners including racing organizations and martial arists from whom TMG collect and sell things like used gloves, signed prints, and other such goodies.
Folding the sleeves open, we are greeted with Fraser Horsfall’s surname as well as his #6 squad number in the EFL’s customary font, introduced ahead of the 2020/2021 season (replacing the ‘Mind’ variant worn in years prior). The player’s signature is sadly absent from the back, instead appearing exclusively on the front of the shirt underneath the sponsor. This season, the club equipped their players with a black ink marker rather than with the grey pens that were used for in years prior.
Like David Buchanan, who had his shirt feature on this site in 2018/2019, Horsfall too captained Northampton Town during the fixtures in which the shirt was worn, which were as follows;
- 30/10/21 – Northampton Town 3 – 0 Carlisle United
- 13/11/21 – Bristol Rovers 2 – 1 Northampton Town
Fraser Horsfall played both games in full, meaning that this particular poppy got the maximum amount of exposure both at Sixfields and the Memorial Stadium. At the latter ground, Horsfall in his role as team captain was also involved in the traditional laying of the poppy wreath at the centre of the pitch alongside Bristol Rovers captain Paul Coutts, as seen above.
However, while that pair of matches were the only two to feature the poppy, the club made sure to mention in the listing of each matchworn shirt that it was worn in earlier matches as well. This makes sense and is an oft-used tactic by EFL teams of all levels; as the Remembrance Day fixtures fall near to the middle of the season, the shirts worn across the first half of the season – with their small signs of wear and tear – are often adorned with poppies to then be auctioned off for the Royal British Legion. Fresh shirts are then supplied to players they make sure they look at their best for the rest of the season. We even saw that inbetween the two poppy-fixtures that Northampton played, as they squared off against Brighton’s U21 team and Cambridge United in the EFL Trophy and FA Cup while wearing fresh shirts without the poppies.
Opinions among collectors may be divided on the matter, but in our opinion knowing that the shirt was used in more than just these two matches raises its value. Others may lament the added damage, which comes in the form of a fair few loose threads and damaged collar stitching on this particular top.
Horsfall himself, seen above congratulating Paul Lewis after one of his three goals scored against Carlisle, has been ever-present for Northampton Town this season having racked up 2154 minutes across 24 matches – that’s an average of 89.75 per match, with the defender having only missed the match against Barrow so far as a result of a red car incurred against Colchester.
The Huddersfield-born and -trained player came up through the Terriers’ youth academy but never played a league match for them, instead enjoying his first senior games whilst playing on loan at Trafford, Stalybridge Celtic, Salford City, Gateshead, and Kidderminster Harriers. That last club is where he signed a permanent deal once his contract with Huddersfield had expried, with impressive performances in the National League earning him a step up to League Two with Macclesfield Town in 2019/2020. The story of the Silkmen is well known by now, but Horsfall made such an impact in tough circumstances that Northampton – then in League One – came calling ahead of the 2020/2021 season. Appearing in fourty matches that season, Horsfall and his teammates ultimately couldn’t stave off relegation but are now in the midst of a thrilling chase for promotion back to the third tier as the Cobblers currently sit fourth in the standings, just two points behind an automatic promotion spot with a game in hand.
For sure this is a memorable design, worn by a popular player who most certainly wouldn’t look out of place in League One (with plenty of room to grow, Horsfall is only 25 at the time of writing), but what would certainly help its case as one of Northampton Town’s best kits would be a nice, juicy promotion achieved while it was being worn – doesn’t even matter that much whether it comes from finishing in the top three or through a win at Wembley in the play-offs at the end of the season. The Cobblers still have a long way to go, especially after a string of defeats in recent matches, but are very much in with a shout to return to the third tier at the first time of asking.
After all, the club’s next shirt – marking their 125th anniversary – is promising to be a real belter, being modelled after the classic strip worn in 1986/1987. Although going white over claret will be a real change of pace, it’d be very exciting to see Northampton wear it higher up in the pyramid than they are now.
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.