The Joy of Retro: Why is nostalgia so appealing?

I have a terrible soft spot for old football shirts, specifically those of the 1970s-90s. As I recently turned 40 I have to ask myself if there’s deeper meaning in this. What is the allure of retro?


There is power in the past. Vintage gear is a hipster craze, the chiptune movement creates music from 1980s synthesized computer sounds, and the Kick Off 2 World Cup is a thing.


Football is all about nostalgia, probably due to its constantly evolving history. There are all manner of retro football folk you can follow on Twitter, like Old School Panini, and the likes of Toffs and Retroshirthaven have made a whole business out of nostalgia.


This habit of mine to collect retro shirts definitely accelerated after I hit 30, but this also coincides with the rise and rise of Ebay and all the wonders you can find there. See how many of these favourites you can identify – most are original but a couple are modern reissues. Answers at the end of this article [Continues…]


A selection of my retro shirts. Answers at the bottom of this post

A selection of my retro shirts. Answers at the bottom of this post

Why nostalgia appeals: The psychologists’ view


According to this article in Psychology Today, there is “a phenomenon called the ‘reminiscence bump’ (Rubin et al., 1998) leads adults of all ages to remember with great clarity and fondness the years of their own youth”.


Apparently, this means we look favourably upon the years 15-30 and the bad things fade into the background. [Continues…]

Vintage Brighton & Hove Albion

In the late 80s and 90s I was a frequent visitor to the Goldstone Ground, Brighton & Hove Albion

When it comes to football, my era of interest actually predates the 15-30 age range. My interest lies in the ‘stuff I missed’ from a cognitive perspective – the 1980s and the 1970s – because I was too young or wasn’t born. It’s only in the post-advertising era that shirts really got interesting – you can date them by sponsor, such as Manchester United’s long-running Sharp deal, or Liverpool and Crown Paints.


Maradona Boca Juniors shirt

Maradona-era Boca Juniors, bought from Argentina.

When was the first tournament you remember? Mine is Mexico ’86. Anything football related before that is pretty vague as I was in single figures: a string ‘Naranjito’ toy from España ’82, radio reports in the car of a goalless draw between QPR and Tottenham, Panini sticker albums with a balding Sammy McIlroy in a Stoke City shirt. Don’t ask me why that in particular stands out.


It’s this period in the early ‘80s when Adidas in particular were putting out some cracking kits: Maradona era Boca Juniors, Zico’s Flamengo, QPR, Platini’s France. Hummel’s chevrons were on Spurs and Denmark’s sleeves, Admiral made the coolest England kit ever.


In the mid-1990s something went wrong with football kits, many of which feature in this horror show gallery. Euro ’92, USA ’94 and Euro ’96 must be the worst dressed tournaments of all time.


What’s your favourite/least favourite shirt of all time?




Top Row L-R: St Etienne (late 1970s), Brighton & Hove Albion (1994-95), Flamengo (1982-84)


Middle Row L-R: Queens Park Rangers (1982-83), Denmark (1984-86), Brighton & Hove Albion (FA Cup Final 1983 – reissue)


Bottom Row L-R: France (1984-86), Boca Juniors (1980-82), River Plate (1984-86)

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