A chat with Jay Tomlins from Retro Football Kits

Jay Tomlins

There was a time when wearing the last seasons shirt meant you’re a part time supporter, the type of person who’d buy a half and half scarf or would google chants. But now old gear is no longer something you can paint the house in or bag up for the charity shop, stands are awash with blokes looking like they forgot their PE kit and had to dig around the laundry for something mould free. From 90s geometric prints, 80s shell suits and 70s Harry Hill collars; whilst its enough to give Gok Wan a heart attack, it's an opportunity for fans to show they’re intertwined with their clubs history and culture.

But it's not just middle aged men and their edgy sons embracing the trend, recently Kim Kardashian has been seen in Roma and PSG retro shirts, rocketing Roma searches by 2894% to 2.3mil (sportbible.com). Some would say she copped out with the mainstream choices, whats wrong with Hull City’s 93 tiger print Kim?

One of these lads emerging from his loft with sacks of his dads old shirts is Jay the social media manager at Retro Football Kits, a Chelsea fan residing in Manchester, he was keen to explain the phenomenon and the culture surrounding it.

“When you’re younger you want every kit from every season, but I dont really count that, the shirts got to mean something! I started collecting properly during a college trip to Italy I wanted a football shirt as a momento - 2012 Italy shirt. From this point everywhere I went I started getting shirts!”

But why is it this renaissance happening now? let Jay explain:

"Designwise the late 80s and early 90s clubs were coming out with some really cool designs and prints resembling the club or even an ironic poke at itself. Whilst through the 2000 and 2010s it all kind of disappeared as it became more performance based. For fans this meant the kits didn’t mean as much, and was further detached from the clubs culture and history.” 

Jays top 3 shirts of all time

97-99 Chelsea, its a stunning kit 90s design, the collar, yellow and black accents make it proper pop, not to mention the old school badge. But also thinking back to the players, Wise, Zola, Di Matteo and they started to form the club as it is now.

97-99 Chelsea Kit97-99 Chelsea Kit

97-99 Herta Berlin, during lockdown I just chose them as my Bundesliga club. I love this kit, the adidas stripes on the collar and down the sleeves, the shiny feel and even the sponsor is top!

97-99 Herta Berlin Kit

97-99 Herta Berlin Kit

1995 Italy kit, italian kits in the 90s were incredible. The designer went to Italy and took inspiration from there, the zig zag on the kit is dereived from the cobbled streets and the old republic logo is included. Theres so much meaning to the kit.

1995 Italy kit1995 Italy kit


A retro shirt is not just that, it encapsulates a season and with every new shirt released, the book is closed on its predecessor. Whilst the tales of the season will be documented in the history books (and premier league years), the supporters are able to wear those memories on their back.

Cult Hero - Gianfranco Zola

He was at the forefront of bringing Chelsea forward to what it is now, he brought the flair, stunning player. As a fan you tend to idolize the era that came before yours, oh and he wore 4 of my 5 top Chelsea kits of all time too.

Gianfranco Zola