Following on from today’s other new , regular feature (The Last Word on….) part of the big match build up to every Brentford home game now includes a revisit to the Kit Obsessive feature. With Nottingham Forest being this evening’s visitors to Griffin Park, it’s another chance to wallow in kit heaven and kit hell.
The name Nottingham Forest is one that conjures up all sorts of wonderful footballing imagery and memories. Back to back European Cup triumphs. Brian Clough. Stuart Pearce and Des Walker. And, of course, that, famous badge.
Much like Sheffield Wednesday’s iconic outline ‘owl’, Forest have opted for a similar style crest. Equally, it has one that has been left pretty much untouched since it first saw the light of day in March 1974. Then again, why would you need to change? The name Forest, sitting below the outline of a Sherwood tree emerging from the River Trent, is one recognised the footballing world over.
And if the badge has remained untouched over the years, much can be said of Forest’s colours. Their red shirts (with the odd bit of white trim) and white shorts are a template that has had little alteration to this very day.
Despite these apparent constraints, there has still been plenty of room for manouevre in our four categories: The best; The worst; The away; The unfortunate design/Retro Classic.
The best: Adidas 1984-86 home. From the mid seventies to the late eighties, the Forest locker room was dominated by Umbro and Adidas. Pretty much any shirt from this period could have made it into a category that has caused me the biggest challenge of the season.
It was a period that saw the first use of the now famous new badge and the European Cup triumphs over Malmo and Hamburg in a simple but now legendary Adidas top. Even the addition of pinstripes (81-84) or subtle chequerboard effect (86-88) were both contributions that gave a positive twist to this most simple of colour schemes. Truly, it was golden era for Forest on the pitch and off the peg.
However, the winner is one which may cause controversy, simply because it isn’t associated with a trophy or a tilt at the league title. But it is one that sticks in my own mind’s eye, almost thirty years later, as the one worn by Johnny Metgod when he scored THAT free kick v West Ham (even now, the strike, and the celebration, deserve a look YouTube).
It combines the classic red and white trim with a central badge (always popular) and an Adidas logo on each arm, giving a slightly less cluttered feel in an era that had just started to see sponsorship become the norm. People may not drink Skol these days (outside of Brazil where, apparently, it is their most popular beer brand) but even non-Forest fans like myself won’t forget it.
The Worst: Umbro 1996-98. If Forest were football, and fashion, kings during the 80s, the following decade saw them in some serious trouble. For a team whose shirt had only ever been red, albeit with a hint of red, what came next was just bonkers.
The brilliance of Umbro’s 1992-94 effort (more, later) was instantly followed by four years of sartorial pain. The successor to that one saw the addition of black collars along with a broad, vertical stripe in the same colour that stretched from each shoulder then stopped, abruptly, half way down.
It was a motif that, whilst totally at odds with Forest’s natural colour scheme, was then given a twist from 1996-1998 for what is, in my opinion, their worst ever shirt. This time, the black stripe starts in the middle, but gets progressively fainter until it ends at the sponsor. As though somebody had used the shirt to wipe off a paintbrush after creosoting a fence. The same design was repeated down the sleeves.
The famous club badge, meanwhile, is overcomplicated by being styled red and then sat inside a large white oval. The only positive? Black has never again been used since.
The away: Umbro 1996-97. What on earth happened at Umbro following Euro ’96? Whilst, normally, this category highlights a killer kit, I’m selecting one that, given the horror of the home shirt, needs further review to wonder how on earth they also mangled the ‘away’.
There’s nothing wrong with yellow and blue as a scheme. It is one Forest have used many times and, especially in the early 80s, looked incredible. Sadly, this doesn’t. If the home version looked as though somebody had run a paintbrush down the front, the away has had the whole can chucked at it.
Closer inspection actually reveals this as two graffiti style reinterpretations of that famous badge. A clumsy attempt to ‘get down with da kidz’ or something that had been put together by a four year old armed with a blue crayon?
The retro classic: Umbro 1992-94. Now this is a thing of beauty. Umbro’s vintage stylings have already won the best ever Ipswich shirt and this one came awfully close for Forest.
In the end, I’ve opted for it being their retro classic – the quintessential example of simplicity and style as the club looked to revisit the 1930s. Floppy collars, button up neck, decent use of white as the offset pinstripe colour and, for once, a surround that enhances the club badge. It wasn’t until 2010 that the club could even come close to the heights achieved here.