A lot changed for football in the 90s. The launch of the Premier League, the Taylor Report and subsequent stadium redevelopments, Bosman, Sky TV, and lots and lots of money. Celebs and the middle classes became interested in the sport, and replica shirts truly made the crossover from stadiums and playing fields to the streets. The 90s arguably remains the golden era of football shirt design. (Is it really arguable, though?) In short, the game had changed forever in the UK.
It wasn’t just over here though that seismic changes were taking place in football. In Japan, the J.League was launched, the country’s first professional football league. With a new league, comes new teams, and of course new kits. The job of bringing to life these new clubs and their identities was entrusted to the nation’s own Mizuno brand. Best known over here at the time for their top-spec footie boots, in Japan Mizuno showed they could deliver the whole package. They produced the kits for all 10 founding teams in the league’s inaugural campaign, giving each team a brave and bold look that was uniquely Japanese.
If football leagues were musical genres, then the Premier League would be the most commercial of commercial pop. The J.League on the other hand, would be some kind of underground punk-polka fusion that only the coolest kids know about. The one exception would be the Nagoya Grampus Eight club. It was here that a certain Gary Lineker chose for his footballing swansong, and one Arsene Wenger triumphed in the Emperor’s Cup before seeing out his career at lowly Arsenal.
If European 90s football shirts are ten a penny these days, then Japanese shirts of that era present something altogether more niche. It will delight fans of retro jersey culture then, that Mizuno have collaborated with Nagoya Grampus to resurrect the club’s iconic 1993 shirt. Mizuno’s Japanese designs from the 90s were bespoke beauties that were way ahead of their time, from a land where football kits reflect how the game is played, with passion, imagination, risk, and of course style.
Available from Friday from Hanon