It isn’t fashion. It’s tradition.

The problem with the new Barça shirt isn’t that it’s ugly, it’s that it’s repugnant in all senses of the word.

adjective: repugnant

extremely distasteful; unacceptable.
“the thought of going back into the fog was repugnant to him”
synonyms: abhorrent, revolting, repulsive, repellent, disgusting, offensive, objectionable, cringeworthy, vile, foul, nasty, loathsome, sickening, nauseating, hateful, detestable, execrable, abominable, monstrous, appalling, insufferable, intolerable, unacceptable, contemptible, unsavory, unpalatable; More
informalghastly, gross, horrible, horrid;
“the idea of cannibalism is repugnant”
antonyms: attractive, pleasant
in conflict with; incompatible with.
“a bylaw must not be repugnant to the general law of the country”
synonyms: incompatible with, in conflict with, contrary to, at variance with, inconsistent with
“the restriction is repugnant to the tenancy”
given to stubborn resistance.

It’s visually distasteful, but it is also in conflict with decades of tradition, the synthetic-fibered embodiment of so much of what the now-gone board stood for.

“You have your money. What’s the matter?”

It’s like a manager who manages the work instead of the people, not realizing that if your people are happy, the work takes care of itself. They market, they sponsor, they trumpet record profits and forecast a bright, shiny increase in club revenues for the coming season. But they fail to realize that it’s about more than money, just as that shirt, that thing they so casually screwed with, is more than a shirt.

It’s difficult to speak for everyone but for many culers, myself included, the shirt was automatic. Every year when the shirts went on sale, we bought them. Home, away and third kits. Reef blue? Okay. Variations on a theme? Okay. For me, that automatic acquisition ceased when the board decided to sell the front of the shirt to a commercial sponsor.

It ain’t the morality. It doesn’t matter who it is on the shirt front, though it might for some and is certainly lurking in an anteroom of the house of contention. It’s the simple reality of it. Someone scoffed at me that the shirt selling was essential, that the club couldn’t compete in the modern, big-money market without it. Of course. That 30m for a club with a half-billion Euros in annual revenues is life blood. Of course. I would have sold players before I sold the shirt.

But even with the sponsor, the shirt was tradition. Vertical stripes. How far back do you want to go? 1980s? 70s? 50s? 20s? Vertical stripes. This season, the club decided that horizontal stripes would be the way to go. Why? Good question.

Big clubs want to sell more shirts. Like fashion houses that attempt to capitalize on the whims of a public susceptible to marketing, clubs eye shirt revenue as a way to pad coffers. You can’t make money selling the same old shirt, right? Ask Real Madrid that as year after year, they sell an all-white home shirt. Not cream, not taupe, not off-white or beigeish-white. White. And people buy it. They buy it because they want a symbol of that club.

In all the years of buying Barça shirts, “I already have that one,” never entered the picture, nor did “I don’t like how that one looks.” That year’s shirt was and is, when donned on a match day or just because, a visible sign of love. This is my club. More casual fans wear the shirt. They pick one up because everyone is buzzing about Barça, maybe pick one up because Barça is cool. Reckon those folks don’t care about the hoops.

When I first started wearing Barça kit, more than dozen years ago, nobody asked. Nobody. Years passed, and by the Ronaldinho era, every now and again someone would shout “Ronaldinho!” at the sight of me in a Barça shirt.

Then one day, the year after the Guardiola Treble (how cool is it to have to designate which treble?) at the grocery store after watching a match at a pub, a checkout person said to me, “Barka! I love them!”

In the here and now, you can’t wear a Barça shirt anywhere without someone commenting on it. Picking up pizza last night I was wearing a jacket, and a guy walked up and said, “Barça! They had a pretty good season this year, huh?” Everywhere.

You wear the shirt because of identity. The club’s site says it best in the section on club identity: “But what is certain is that the Barça shirt has gone on to be one of the most recognisable and enigmatic shirt designs in world football.”

That same treatise, on the new-and-improved club site, suggests that the tradition is claret and blue. It says nothing about the stripes and the direction thereof, but make no mistake about it — the home kit has vertical stripes. It has always had vertical stripes. It is not something to be screwed with on a whim, because marketing guys think they will sell more shirts.


This year, when Athletic Club worked with Nike on new shirts, tradition was upheld. You can bet that when Real Madrid decides to work with Adidas, there isn’t a question about the home shirt. White. Our marketing guys? “Hey, what about hoops! I saw this other team with claret and blue hoops, and it was pretty cool.” Tradition isn’t a question. One Euro more is.

Those who find the sponsor business hooraw silly, scoff that there is no room for romance in the modern game, that the quaint idea of trading the shirt front for a commercial sponsor is selling a bit of the club’s soul is just silly romance. But romance is part of why you love a club, part of why you stare at a crappy stream on a tiny laptop at an ungodly hour of the morning, why we weep with joy and rage, scream when a player is sold or when the ball just refuses to go into the net. That is romance. And it isn’t just that there is room in the modern game for romance, it’s that romance is all that there is when you love a club.

A supporter doesn’t switch when a club has a poor season. “I followed Barka last year, but Chelsea is doing great this season. I want one of their shirts.” You’re in. All in. It’s pure romance. Donning that shirt becomes part of that romance, part of that attachment to a club. But romance is also tradition, romance is also pride. Romance is also not being able to countenance when marketing guys decide that a few Euros more is of greater value than tradition.

I like to think that the new site and its focus on claret and blue, without any mention of stripes is just because that’s what the historians believe, not some sort of marketing setup. “Don’t mention the stripes!” That such a thought even enters the picture is symbolic of the new world, in which seemingly everything is for sale.

One part of me hoped that tradition wasn’t, that romance wasn’t, that some things were sacrosanct. This year’s shirt is a symbol that such a thing isn’t true, that it is indeed about a few Euros more. It’s the modern game. Suck it up and get with the program. Sell the Camp Nou naming rights, paint a sponsor’s name on the stadium seats as big as “mes que un club.” Let’s go for it. “How else are we going to be able to afford Suarezes and Pogbas, you fool.”

“Mes que un club” is so often misused and misunderstood. When the club bought Luis Suarez, some misused it. As the club moved into the big-money world, still others misused it again. Even many supporters don’t quite grasp what it means, equating the phrase to some sort of moral crusade.

“Values” is a weird word. I believed, and still believe that the club ran afoul of its values when it signed Suarez. I think that values are important. Values are part of a club’s tradition. Any maybe, just maybe, in this season in which those values have been violated in so many ways, discarding tradition is a symbol in and of itself, as the last little bit of soul gets auctioned off to the marketing guys.

“Hoops! Yes! Brilliant!” Long skirts, short skirts, double-breasted jackets, single-breasted jackets, cuffs, no cuffs, and hoops. All are fashion items in the here and now, things to be marketed so that people will buy, buy, buy.

It has been said, never more so than this season, that the differences between Barça and Real Madrid are now insignificant. Same impatient, expectant fan bases, same giant clubs, the word “Galacticos” has even been tossed about in relation to the Barça front line. Culers have scoffed and snarled at those comparisons, which makes it a rather grim admission that at least they didn’t stomp on their tradition.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Kevin I agree wholeheartedly. What is passing through these folks’ heads? The Catalan people have generally struck me as honoring both tradition and fashion, and this might be one more reason to vote out this board. I’m serious.

    My only jersey is a bootleg Messi 19 shirt, unicef style with collar, bought for a few bucks from a street vendor in Cara Sucia, El Salvador in late 2008. Not inspired to update at this point.

    1. I’m on record as saying the design of the shirt isn’t my top priority – must have been a good season if that’s a major talking point – but tbf, the colours are the same and two tone coloured strips, unlike all white where it’s tough to play around much, lend themselves to alteration a bit more. I don’t particularly like the new design but I don’t read too much into it.

      I remember being really upset when my home team left their home for a new stadium on the edge of town but after protesting at games leading up to it, the new one opened with a game against Man U ( where at one point all the lights went out suddenly!) and even I had to admit that it was change for the better. Doesn’t mean I don’t look back longingly every time I pass the Asda store which sits where the park used to. Mind you, there is still a square foot of the park in the middle of my lawn at home so that keeps me happy. The supporters’ fanzine on the last match helpfully sellotaped to the front of their edition a plastic fork to take a bit home with us. The sight of hundreds of folk trying to cut up a bit of the pitch with that was priceless.

  2. I could not agree more. The design is just to ‘out of joint” that it doesn’t ‘feel’ Barca. That is aside from the scandalous selling of the shirt to a commercial sponsor (I don’t care whether its Qatar, UAE, China or the USA).

    So I remain stuck with my 04-05 Ronaldinho shirt, and as much as I want a Barca shirt with Busi’s name on it, it will have to wait until the shirt has been purified, again. Hopefully while the great Busquets still plays football!

  3. My first Barca jersey was a kappa one with Stoichkov on the back. I’ve had many jerseys with many different designs and while red and claret vertical stripes have always been there to a degree I believe that the colours, the blaugrana, is far more important than the angle of the lines.
    Our centenary jerseys were halves not stripes. That was every bit as different at the time but still honoured our tradition.

    I can’t say I agree with you on this one Kxevin. For me it’s nit picking. I’ll unashamedly buy one.

  4. Designs will change over the years, but that’s why i usually tend to buy t-shirts, training gear etc., basically everything that is pure.
    And i will never, ever buy a jersey with someone’s name on it.

  5. For me, as for the shirt- specifically the shirt without considering other things, i havnt got much problem with it, tbh it isnt that bad
    But what i find ‘repugnant’ is the fact that some dim-wits somewhere, thought its no big deal to change something thats been there decades before their treacherous legs step into this planet..
    I find it really repugnant, that some one would decide, in an instant, to change something thats been a club indentity for like forever
    Honestly, its just feels like treachery to me, the barca shirt with the vertical stripes was an identity of the club whether you like to admit it or not, and i just cant believe that someone wouldnt have any qualms about changing decades of history in a seconds
    when yo hear stuff about the clubs identity being compromised, these action is just basically the icing on the distastefull cake…
    Felt like this was a sort of sancrosanct area where, no matter how pin-headed anyone might be, there wouldnt dare to dabble in it..Needless to say i was deeply disappointed when i first saw this, my first reaction was like; Nah, its just a silly rumour. unfortunately it wasnt

    Seriously, the screwing-up thats been happening recently is getting to a monstrous level, and if some level-headed persons dont step up to put things right back on track, the Camp Nou being rechristened to Qatar Nou, would just be the tip of the iceberg of some very Scary things to happen

  6. The problem with this club is that it is too political. People can like the new shirt or not for being a bit different just as they quibble with our style of play if it doesn’t conform to a certain standard. Other than some who find that everything the current board does is somehow tainted with evil, I imagine that the shirt in the end will sell extremely well and look better as we see it more and more. From my perspective the away kits in recent years have been extremely unappealing and we somehow survived them. Not sure why this is any different other than this particular shirt has somehow become entangled with election politics.

    In terms of the commercialization of the club there are no easy answers. We certainly need sponsorship deals and revenue to compete with other clubs like Man U and Real that have deals that are much more lucrative than ours. Furthermore, there are clubs that have incredibly wealthy owners in which money is no object. In the end, however, the Qatar sponsorship hurt the club a lot and and I don’t see why we can’t find a different sponsor that will pay us handsomely coming off a treble season. For those ideological purists you can’t have everything. If we want to have expensive signings like Suarez and Neymar and to pay huge salaries like Messi’s then we must generate revenue. The alternative is to be an Atletic Bilbao, admirable to be sure but also trapped in a self imposed mediocrity though they have opted for a shirt sponsorship just the same.

  7. You can’t make money selling the same old shirt, right? Ask Real Madrid that as year after year, they sell an all-white home shirt.

    Are we really sure that is the case? Now when you mentioned it, it occurred to me that this might be a reason why they are so quick to replace players who have not really failed with the club – the shirt is white and there isn’t much that can be done with it in terms of design so onely way to sell more shirts to the same fans is to change the names.

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