A Short Story

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I lived with a mate once who was a die hard Evertonian – one of the angry ones. He was also a top bloke and a real scouser. He knew how to dress and in the true sense of the word casual he liked to do things a bit differently, seek out lesser known brands, the obscure.

Something particularly strange though was that he had a pair of Aston Villa shorts that he lounged about the house in. When I questioned him on it, he just said that he liked the look of them and nothing beat football shorts for lounge wear. A seed was sowed in my head. Was he the ultimate hipster?

This was also around the time that classic old school football shirts were becoming a thing. 5-a-side was no longer about who had the best rabona. It was who had the coolest and most obscure shirt from 90s Serie A. I always felt I won with my Sampdoria shirt with Guillet on the back.

But despite my love of that shirt, I have never been big on football shirts, even classic ones. To me, no grown man should be seen wearing a football shirt unless he is actually playing football. I did like what some of these shirts represented though.

Football and travel have always sort of coincided for me. Visiting a European City or finding out about a place, usually revolves around the local football teams. What is their kit like, what is the stadium called? What division are they in? What are the politics of their ultras?

I’m not a two team person, Liverpool is my club and nothing will change that. But I have found myself attached to certain other teams through geography, family and friends or politics.

My Dad was a Bristol Rovers fan as a kid, but never forced it upon me, in fact I think I forced Liverpool upon him. But when I spent a few years living and working in Bristol I naturally felt an affinity to Rovers, not City. My Dad and I went a few times and so when it came to Christmas and they asked what I wanted, I said, get me a pair of Rovers shorts. I didn’t want a shirt, it didn’t feel right, but a pair of shorts to lounge around the house in, perfect. Plus, I’ve always liked the Rovers kit and the badge, with a pirate on. It always felt a bit different.

Bristol Rovers Shorts -The Gentleman Casual

That’s where it all started. The next pair of football shorts I bought, naturally had to be a Liverpool pair. I hadn’t bought a shirt of any official merchandise since my University days and I’ve never been fussed by the latest kit. It’s a con. So I bought a pair of home shorts towards the end of the season in the sale. Next up, a pair of the black away shorts with No.9 on. My favourite current player – Bobby Firmino.

The Idea of Collecting Football Shorts

So my collection was at three and Liverpool dominated. Then came my annual trip to Hamburg to see FC St. Pauli with a load of my left wing lunatic mates. Usually too skint by the end of the weekend I had never come back with any sort of souvenir beyond a three day hangover and an existential crisis. This time I thought; I’ll get a pair of shorts. Made sense, they were really smart and not that expensive. They are still one of my favourite pairs of football shorts.

The idea of collecting football shorts was really starting to take hold. I have never been inclined to get a tattoo. I don’t like football shirts. I bought the odd fridge magnet on holiday. But a collection of shorts from places I had been and from football clubs that meant something to me really appealed. It was another little way of making a statement about who I was through what I wore. Even if it was just around the house!

From there it gathered pace, even when I hadn’t been somewhere myself, I asked my parents to bring me back a pair of shorts from their travels in Italy rather than some other sort of trinket. First on the list of course was Napoli from their trip down the amalfi coast. Despite my dislike of Napoli Ultras from their clashes with Liverpool, as a club and a city, it’s hard not to be drawn to. And the crystal blue and simple N badge is just sublime. The fact they were made by Kappa was even more appealing.

The only other pair I have from somewhere I’ve not been is Torino. Again a gift from my parents when they went to Turin. I have no affinity with Torino, but I couldn’t bring myself to have a pair of Juve shorts. They are the Man United of Italian football to me. So Torino it was and another lovely pair from Kappa.

Other clubs that feature in my collection so far are Sevilla after a lovely few days I spent there with my good friends who were travelling around Europe with their little girl and their dog in a camper van! The most recent addition is actually just a pair of Dutch National shorts from a long weekend with friends in Amsterdam. I didn’t want a pair of Ajax shorts so this seemed the best alternative, especially with big Virgil and the beautiful man that is Gini Wijnaldum bringing both Liverpool and the Dutch national side back to their best.

Another favourite pair are from another trip to Amsterdam, but this time my mate and I went to visit an old friend who lives in Utrecht. We were desperate to go and see a game, I think she thought we were a bit mad. Maybe we were as we watched a drab game where “we” lost 1 nil to Willem II and we missed the goal anyway! But I got a pair of home shorts in the club shop and I love them.

Perhaps the nicest of all though are my green away shorts from Athletic Club Bilbao from a weekend trip there with my, at the time, new girlfriend and her friends for a music festival. I had always wanted to go to Bilbao and to be honest didn’t see as much of it as I wanted to, due to being at the festival all weekend, so I’ll definitely be going back.

What’s on the wishlist? Well there are too many to mention. Certainly UD Ibiza. I’ve been to the island enough times. Rayo Vallecano in Madrid, I went there with my St. Pauli going mates and went to a match, but forgot to get a pair of shorts in a haze of gluten free Cerveza. Le Harve in League 2 in France is another on the list. I don’t really have an affinity with any top flight French clubs and Le Harve is somewhere I went as a kid as my Dad, being a French teacher, had a good friend there who he met on a school exchange. We went back to visit when football and family came together brilliantly as Liverpool played a preseason game against Le Harve in 2002. We won 1 nil from a Milan Baros goal!

Liverpool had plucked a couple of their young stars under Houllier, Le Tallec and Pongolle and I suppose a friendly had been part of the deal.

We also by chance were staying in the Liverpool team hotel, an incredible treat for 13/14 year old me and where I famously snubbed my later hero Djimi Traoré for Emile Heskey’s signature. I made amends with “Jimmy” at breakfast.

My concern now is I’m wearing them too much. I think a bit like serious trainer collectors, I might have to start getting pairs to wear and pairs to stare. I’m also looking into ways to display them in our flat – my girlfriend is very understanding!

They are more than football shorts. They are souvenirs or my travels, good times with my mates and family memories as well as a sign of my identity, my passions and my beliefs. And they are great to lounge around the house in!

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