Best England kits
International glory has been hard to come by for England in recent decades, but Gareth Southgate and his brave boys seem intent on bringing football home this summer.
Before then, we’ve picked out the 15 best ever kits worn by the Three Lions – featuring striped sleeves, buttoned-up collars and, er, Peter Gabriel…
15. 1995-96, home
This was hardly high style, particularly looking back from the modern era of skin-hugging kits. Thanks to the baggy mid-90s trend, these shirts were absolutely ginormous, making beanpoles like Darren Anderton and Steve McManaman look like they’d just run through a bedsheet on their mum’s washing line.
The centralised badge and Umbro logo are also fairly basic, but this remains one of England’s most fondly remembered uniforms. Much of that, of course, has to do with the glorious summer of 1996, but that’s just how these things work.
14. 2003-05, away
If an England shirt could take your nan down the road to vote for Brexit, it’d be this one. Featuring the most patriotic shoulders possible – as if the players’ kids had draped small St George’s crosses over dad’s back – it still somehow looked pretty good.
As a bonus, it was the exact same shade of red as the shirt won in the 1966 World Cup Final, with the hue also helping to accentuate the blue lions in the badge. If FourFourTwo closes its eyes we can just picture a teenage Wayne Rooney storming through the Croatia defence at Euro 2004…
13. 2009-10, home
Remember the time Wayne Rooney didn’t take kindly to supporters’ grumbling after the dire 0-0 draw with Algeria at the 2010 World Cup? “Nice to see your home fans booing you,” spat the DC United new boy. “That’s what loyal support is.”
At least he looked terrific as well as grumpy in this very workable Umbro number, although the same can’t be said for Fabio Capello’s men on the pitch. This kit was probably helped by the fact that England wore their change strip for the 4-1 humbling by Germany in the round of 16.
12. 1984-88, home
If you were being harsh, you would say there’s something of a ‘lost property’ vibe to this kit, worn by England for four years between 1984 and 1987.
In fact, a classy neckline and pale stripes gave this top a businesslike feel, and business was also reasonably good for the garments’ occupants – especially Gary Lineker, who won the 1986 World Cup Golden Boot wearing one (the towel was optional).
11. 1987-89, home
A staple eighties England shirt, this has been boosted in the public perception by that famous pic of Terry Butcher: bandage around head, dripping in claret after either fighting off numerous wild animals or bonking his head during a 1989 World Cup qualifier with Sweden.
“I needed seven stitches in the wound, the problem was that the doc did only five,” recalled the defender. “But if Bobby Robson had substituted me, I’d have hit him.”
10. 1997-98, away
England won something in this! True, it was only the 1997 Tournoi de France, but it was easy to mentally substitute the ’98 World Cup trophy for the weird footy gong that Alan Shearer held aloft afterwards in the mind’s eye.
Alas, France ’98 didn’t quite go to plan, but their clobber looked reasonable, and even the subtle flag pattern embedded in the design wasn’t overkill. Critics may argue it’s slightly too shiny, but overall this kit gets a thumbs-up.
9. 1949-54, home
A post-war peach: plain, with long sleeves (usually rolled up to the elbow), a giant button-up collar and a simple badge, the Brylcreemed likes of Billy Wright and Tom Finney looked pretty splendid. Oddly, the badge sometimes featured an eleventh Tudor rose dotted amid the lions (there are usually just 10), but we’re willing to let that lie.
This, incidentally, was the kit England wore in the infamous 6-3 home defeat by Hungary, who could easily have reached double figures had they been more clinical.
8. 2001-03, away
Umbro churned out some rank England shirts, but this was a pearl: moving on from the 1990s over-meddling, it was a simple and striking red, and with an England flag collar that was nicely understated.
It was reversible too, the manufacturers creating a shirt which, when turned inside out, became a blue England training top. If only the Golden Generation had been so adaptable.
7. 1974-80 away
Enjoy a good old moan about England being rubbish these days? Then you’d have loved the 1970s, in which the Three Lions didn’t even qualify for two World Cups (1974 and 1978) or the European Championship in 1976.
Which is a shame, really, because they had a lovely Admiral shirt, with pleasingly striped sleeves (a rarity for England, who have curiously never had an Adidas top) and a great, discotheque-ready collar.
6. 2010-11, home
A true fashionista might pop this one in pole position: it was designed by Peter Saville, the genius behind album covers for Joy Division, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Pulp and Suede.
And it really was a thing to behold, with red, blue, green and purple crosses dotted on the shoulders, a tasteful collar, and royal blue highlights. All lovely touches, but sadly this kit was worn far too few times given the commercial ‘need’ to unveil new threads every year.
5. 2018, home
Perhaps we’re missing something, but it doesn’t seem too taxing being a Nike shirt designer at the moment: simply drag a Photoshop swoosh and a country badge onto a plain tee, tinker with the neck a little bit, and it’s pub o’ clock.
Or perhaps we’re doing them a disservices, because the lazy sods have undoubtedly produced a striking top worthy of glory right here. And if they really did whack it out in an hour, doesn’t that show the sort of efficiency England have often lacked?
4. 1990-93, home
Most famously pictured being used as a snot rag by a very upset Paul Gascoigne, the Italia ’90 shirt donned by Gary Lineker, David Platt, Gazza and the rest has stood the test of time.
The slightly flammable looking material and subtle zig-zags give it an unmistakable but pleasant early-nineties feel, which very much works for us. All together now: Nessun dorma!
3. 1980-83, home
England didn’t lose a game at the 1982 World Cup, overcoming France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait in the first group phase, but missing out on advancing from the second stage after two frustrating goalless draws against West Germany and host nation Spain.
At least they looked the part, thanks to a cracking Admiral outfit with a wonderful v-neck straddled by blue and red shoulder flanks – a lovely addition which sets this offering apart from other England home kits, which are often too bland.
2. 1990-92, third
England kits have rarely been cool, but this was a glorious exception, primarily because Barney Sumner from New Order stuck it on for history’s only acceptable England song, World In Motion.
Despite being Manchester City blue and covered in the Umbro diamond formation which besmirched many other kits, this shirt just worked. But although it’s associated with Italia ’90, England never actually wore it at the tournament; in fact, they only pulled it on once, against Turkey a year after the World Cup. Sometimes, though, less really is more.
1. 1966, away
If England had been a mediocre bunch of cloggers when they hosted the World Cup in 1966, this would still have been a beautiful, uncluttered and striking piece of work – but it can’t be separated from its context, and nor need it be. Part of this kit’s success is related to what the Three Lions did on the field, of course, but it’s also a clean, classic design which thoroughly deserves its ranking here.
Not everything was better in the sixties – at this point, dentistry was apparently almost as illegal as homosexuality – but the images take us to a happy place. And not many other England kits can do that.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.