The world of non-league shirts has improved dramatically, which has come at a perfect time with this level of football lately having become synonymous with real football. Begone, xG.
Goodbye, Stockley Park. Sayonara, sportswashing. Hello, smoking in the stands. It’s been a while, the FA Vase. Long time no see, Evo-Stik. But not having easily accessible progressive carry-per-ninety stats doesn’t mean non-league clubs can’t look their best.
Should I start buying Non-League shirts?
Honestly, why not?!
The love for football further down the pyramid has only increased in recent years and therefore the demand and love behind non-league shirts Is on the same ascending path.
We wrote a post recently regarding some of the best football docuseries currently available to watch and two stalwarts were the ones surrounding Salford City and Wrexham AFC. Who did both boast some of the highest figures for non-league shirts sales when they were in those lower leagues.
With that being said, let’s get into this list…
Walthamstow has quietly established itself as a hotbed for artistic talent, from Peter Blake to East 17. But maybe more famously for William Morris’ Grade II listed family home, now eulogised in football kit form.
Admiral’s patterned, v-neck number, is a not-too-subtle nod to Morris’ talents, with its 1890 Morris & Co design. Morris famously suggested, ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ This shirt certainly ticks both boxes.
The original pattern was block printed on cotton at Merton Abbey, with green leaves and pastel-coloured flowers, but Walthamstow’s crack-team of East London-based graphic designers digitally reimagined it in an assortment of blues.
No doubt, chants of ‘you’re just a shit Laura Ashley’ will be ringing around the Wadham Lodge Sports Ground away section.
From East London to Shoreditch-on-sea, Margate’s 23/24 addition takes influence from its adopted sons, indie-sleaze bards, The Libertines.
Doherty and Co’s Time for Heroes is emblazoned across their goalkeeper jerseys in graffiti-esque font. In the 2002 hit the band quip, ‘There’s fewer more distressing sights than that, of an Englishman in a baseball cap’. I assume that’s because ‘There’s fewer more distressing sights than that, of an Englishman in Margate’s 23/24 goalkeeper kit’ isn’t quite as punchy.
With Margate sitting fourteenth in the Isthmian Premiere, they need to heed the words on their shirts more than ever. Or maybe they’ve been indulging in too many of Doherty’s pre-match meals.
Llantwit Major AFC
Non-league is a fairly loose term, and in order to get the best kits possible in this article (and to ensure it’s not too London-centric), I will be as slack as I can with that definition. So welcome, Llantwit Major…
Not since the Welsh settlement in Argentina, has there been such a strong tie between the two countries (Falklands War, aside). With Llantwit nodding to Boca Juniors this blue and yellow shirt, sponsored by the lesser-spotted Tor. It is no doubt they’re the envy of Hashtag United fans the world over.
Their Twitter (now X) describes them as the ‘little brother of Boca Juniors’ and with a recent tweet letting fans know that ‘Match updates will not be available for tomorrow’s game as admin will be somewhere on a plane in the direction of Armenia.’ They encapsulate the personable, community feel that is synonymous with non-league.
You wouldn’t get that from Man City.
With one win since August, the Cymru South side will need to channel their inner Edison Cavani and Sergio Romero… and not just sartorially.
Following in Margate’s footsteps, hipster-haven Dulwich Hamlet is now home to dance aficionados Defected Records. Although Elf Bars, sunglasses and Class-A drugs are not encouraged at Champion Hill, house music is.
Hamlet forward Sanchez Ming and midfielder Luke Wanadio have names that wouldn’t look out of place at a Boiler Room set, and nor would their pink and blue shirt, slung over the shoulder of a sweaty twenty-something chewing his jaw off. Indeed, ‘The Ramble’ (Hamlet’s Kop equivalent) certainly create a party atmosphere.
But, a hostile environment it ain’t, with Hamlet fans insulting an opposition fan goalie by suggesting he votes Lib Dem. This shirt will certainly fit in with the good vibes of the Hamlet fans.
Loch Ness FC
Non-league football is full of myth and apocryphal tales, from the old bloke in the corner whose gone to every game since the war to tales of a left-back’s weekend debachery, and Loch Ness’ away kit pays homage to theirs – Nessy.
The red kit has Nessy silhouettes on the sleeves and running diagonal on the kit, it is probably the only kit that can weave in a conspiracy theory with a playful tone. I doubt we’ll ever see New York City FC’s ‘jet-fuel doesn’t melt steel beams’ third kit or Liverpool’s ‘Paul is Dead’ commemorative shirt.
Much like Nessy-truthers, non-league is the domain of those obsessed with ideas, stats and images that have very little real-world relevance. One imagines there is often the same number of people in attendance at a Scottish Feeders League game as American tourists at Nessy (A).
The shirt sponsors, Appin Sports, are no strangers to an intriguing design. With Newcraighall Leith Victoira’s hops-based shirt.
For those who are happy to swap Dri-Fit for interesting design it might be time to head down to your local non-league team. It’ll be visually interesting if anything.
Oh, and we shouldn’t forget FC Maybank’s 2022/23 GTA shirt.
Do you have any non-league shirts in your collection?