It’s the time of the season when hope runs high. Mainly because no one has yet kicked a ball in anger and it’ll be at least a fortnight until a trigger-happy chairman gives their unfortunate manager the boot. Most importantly, all the latest Premier League kits have been unveiled, ready for us to mindlessly invest a year’s worth of triumph and agony in.
To paraphrase Morrissey, “Some shirts are better than others.” So this GQ staffer has been nominated to assess each of this year’s 20 new Premier League kits for their style-related merits. Apologies in advance to at least half the fanbases on this unarguable and factually correct ranking. Don't blame us for your side's poor performance. Fashion is the true villain here.
Sometimes it’s nobler to have tried and soiled the proverbial bed than never to have tried at all. Everton’s latest home kit is not one of these instances.
In fairness, the Toffees deserve some credit for cottoning on to fashion’s Nineties revivalism instead of embracing the anonymity of another cobalt-blue shirt. In reality, the two-toned latticed chest of this kit recalls the kind of vintage sportswear only worn with irony. Given the sleeve sponsor of this shirt is Angry Birds, the joke is very much on anyone unfortunate enough to play in it.
19. Aston Villa
To lean on footballing cliché for the first of many occasions, Aston Villa are one of those clubs you just feel belong in the Premier League. This kit, however, was seemingly yanked from a designer’s first drafts folder after Jack Grealish’s post-promotion night out proved an exercise in team-building gone too far.
18. Tottenham Hotspur
Forgive me for embracing my inner Paul Merson and having a PFMM (that's: proper football man moment), but the fact Tottenham’s new kit costs $80 is outrageous given how bland it is. Granted, you’ll find other kits on this list that will burn your wallet for the exact same amount, but this white and navy-collared design is profoundly uninspired. It’s almost as though Spurs have bigger fish to fry in the form of a $793.6 million new stadium-related debt.
17. Sheffield United
There’s a fine line between the noble philosophy of traditionalism and the significantly less esteemed attitude of “Will this do?” In exposing this precarious divide, Sheffield United have called a solid 50 percent of my journalistic career into question and I will not stand for it.
Given Burnley’s brand of football is so stoically bland, you might have hoped they’d have taken the opportunity to bring a flash of creativity to Turf Moor with their new kit. Fear not, Burnley fans. You can’t spell "fun" without four-four-two.
15. Wolverhampton Wanderers
An absolute masterstroke for those Sunday league players who haven’t embraced a preseason fitness regime in quite the same manner as their professional counterparts.
“Sweating after five minutes in the rondo is it, Carl?”
“Nah, boss. It’s the new Wolves kit. Honest.”
No Southampton kit will ever be as good as the 125th anniversary red sash design that Adam Lallana, José Fonte, Morgan Schneiderlin and several more soon-to-be traitors all wore as they marched their way to Championship promotion. Given the Saints now exist in a fallen utopia, this red and white-striped affair is perfectly fine. The LD Sports sponsor logo is a bit egregious, but at least it’s not for a betting or payday loans company. Just as in the Premier League itself, fans should relish these small, infrequent victories.
13. Manchester City
If being rich truly buys you the freedom to disregard whatever anyone else thinks of you, Manchester City have let themselves down here. Rather than heading into the new season with the swagger of someone who dines out at their local Chicken Cottage while dressed head-to-toe in Balenciaga, the domestic treble winners have crafted a kit that is as sleek and uncaring as their FA Cup final demolition job. It’s a needlessly classy sky-blue affair, right down to the navy trim on its sleeves. Just the thought of Sergio Agüero in this thing fills me with existential dread.
Everyone likes Bournemouth, don’t they? They’ve got a dashing young manager in Eddie Howe, they have a ground that's so small you can comfortably call it quaint, and they dole out points like confetti to pretty much everyone when crunch time arrives at the end of the season. In essence, they are the perfect mid-table side and so they shall be rewarded with a staunchly mid-table kit ranking. The gold-embossed badge here is a neat touch, but otherwise this is a by-the-numbers kit for the Cherries.
The last time I went on an away day to Brighton, I paid $12 for a delightful platter of vegetarian curry, watched Southampton’s obliging hosts offer up a 1-0 victory and met a jovial security guard who let me collect my reusable water bottle from him at the end of the game. I say this not only to prove I am the worst football fan going, but also that Brighton are too nice to dunk on for comedic purposes. So this plain blue and white-striped kit gets a passing grade.
10. Leicester City
From their preseason friendlies and their awkwardly staged team shots, Leicester’s new kit looks almost identical to last year’s. Look up close at this design and you’ll see it has taken on a subtle chequered hue. I can only applaud them in charging $68 for such a high-concept prank.
Cheer up, Toon Army. Your Champions League-winning manager has fled to China, you’ve sold your best striker to Leicester and Mike Ashley is still running the show. But, hey, at least your new kit is quality. Why don’t more clubs have a centre-aligned badge?
8. Manchester United
At the pitiful climax of Southampton’s 2005 relegation season, Manchester United’s fans merrily counted down our remaining seconds in the Premier League. So why does this kit still score so highly? Because it is obnoxiously good and I shall not let personal biases bring the integrity of this list into disrepute. It keeps things simple with a gloriously deep shade of red, while that gold crest is major. Unfortunately, marks have been docked for excessive nods to United’s treble-winning season of 20 years ago. The minutes of Sheringham and Solskjaer’s Champions League final goals have been printed on the sleeves of this kit, which this doesn’t offer the kindest comparison to the team who’ll actually be wearing this shirt. And so this kit’s ranking reflects Ole and the gang’s likely League position come Christmas time.
7. Crystal Palace
Last year, we proclaimed Crystal Palace’s kit to be the best in the Premier League, the Eagles’ social media team mocked up a GQ cover for Christian Benteke and he went on to score just one goal in the entire season. The other month Troy Deeney got his very own cover, with an interview by Alastair Campbell, ahead of the FA Cup final. Watford went on to lose that game 6-0. The moral of this story? The Drake curse has got nothing on us, so Palace should be content to vacate their throne with what is an otherwise lovely kit. Although those white pinstripes almost gave us cause to tempt fate again.
6. West Ham
Easily the best claret-and-blue kit of this Premier League season and it’s not even close. The striped Breton-esque top-third of this shirt gives it personality, while the rest sticks to tradition. The only disappointment? West Ham’s newfound appetite for seemingly sensible transfers means we may well never see the likes of Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturrridge or David Prutton in it.
Half-and-half scarves? A scourge of the modern game. Half-and-half kits? More of these please. The gold-and-black colour clash elevates Watford’s effort above even Juventus’ black-and-white effort.
Liverpool is a club that is unashamedly in love with its own mythos. Sometimes this self-aggrandising comes off as a bit trite (eg, “One of those Anfield nights”, “The spirit of Istanbul” etc) and sometimes that history is acknowledged in a way that emphasises the club’s current legends. This new kit falls elegantly into the latter category, with a pinstriped design that harks back to the Eighties heydays of Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish. Could this be the year that Salah, Mané and Milner rise to the same hallowed status by winning the Premier League? Probably not, but they’ll look damned good trying.
Now this is how to do the Nineties right. Taking inspiration from Stamford Bridge’s architecture for the mesh of beams and supports that have been daubed across this navy blue shirt, Chelsea have created something genuinely likeable for the first time since the days of Gianfranco Zola.
2. Norwich City
Norwich’s home kit is the only tapered design in this entire compendium, which is a crying shame and immediately rockets this shirt to near title-winning status. Alongside the fact that their promotion to the Premier League once again affords us the opportunity to revisit Delia Smith’s legendary halftime team talk from 2005, when she implored fans, “Let’s be 'avin ya! Come on!” Simply incredible. Much like the green dotted effect here, which pays unintended homage to Thanos’ snap.
This shirt is almost as good as Thierry Henry in Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, the time Cesc Fàbregas slapped Sir Alex Ferguson with a slice of pizza and any high jinks involving the Gunnersaurus. Combined. This is not a statement I make lightly, but it is the only way I can contextualise how much I delight in this kit. Everything is spot on here, from the correct shade of Arsenal red to the Adidas stripes across its shoulders. The finishing touch? A triple-toned collar and sleeves that hark back to the club’s 88/89 home kit. It’s a near-perfect blend of nostalgia and modernity, so props to the North Londoners for getting this one spot on.