Creative Soccer Culture

Neal Heard On Designing The Newport 19/20 Shirts

When we found out Neal Heard was designing the 2019/20 Newport Country shirts we knew we were in for a treat. Neal is an acclaimed author, creative, football shirt guru, and most importantly Newport County fan. With 'The Exiles' becoming one of several clubs who are 'officially unsponsored by Paddy Power' this season, we caught up with the man himself to find out about the design process.

The club have collaborated with Lover's F.C. for the kits heading into the forthcoming season, and that combination of creative class has resulted in one of the most bespoke sets of kits in the Football League, with a retro sponsor-less feel that will no doubt be popular with fans. We travelled to Newport to speak to Neal and to have a mooch around the city to shoot the kits at the Transporter Bridge, the Waterloo Pub, covered market and the iconic Westgate Hotel.


Neal, where do you start when you’ve got a blank canvas to design a football kit?

That's actually quite a good way to explain what I endeavour to do. I'm a big believer in trying not to follow trends, but instead lead them. So though of course I am aware of what's going on in the trend world, including kit trend, I overtly try just to be inspired by it and take a flavour. It sounds funny, but I guess I want to make kits where they maybe aren't appreciated so much on release, but in a few years time when they were viewed as ahead of their time.

Tell us about these kits you’ve created for the forthcoming season, what details can you pick out?

I knew that I definitely wanted to go graphical and bring some pattern and design into jerseys. Personally I'm soooo over the ultra plain era. At the same time I didn't want them to be too try-hard, and just graphic or crazy for their own sake. I wanted to design something for the club which maybe people will then ape and have something people referred to as opposed to referencing something previously done.

The response has already been very positive, as a fan of the club, do you have to take a step back when designing the kit and think about something all fans would want?

To be honest, no, you can't please all of the people all of the time. I overtly wanted to make a kit which would elevate the club's standing, and not all fans get that. The club are very lucky to have a forward thinking chairman in Gavin Foxhall on board, who with the other board members has enabled the club to punch above its weight on the field and he wanted to enable me to help the club do the same off it. So I'm sure there will be group who can't stand the kit, but I'm sure they will like the away shirt which is a little less of an out-there offering.

Even for a bright orange kit, it’s very wearable off the pitch. Is that something you’re conscious of when designing the kit?Orange or Amber as it should be, is a little bit of an out-there colour so it's always hard, but I think the radical design on the arms kinda helps rather than hinders in that sense. It looks cool, whatever or despite of the colour.

I want to make kits where they maybe aren't appreciated so much on release, but in a few years time when they were viewed as ahead of their time."

This is your second season designing kits for Newport County, are there things you learnt from last season that you took into this one?

Definitely, I actually wanted to go graphical the first season, but we didn't have the time, and so in the real world you come up against things like time constraints, or the feelings of the club and board etc. So this time we made sure there was more time for a start.

The shirt is signed off as a Lover's F.C. Is that the first professional team to have that stamp of approval? It puts Newport County in amongst the lifestyle scene, doesn't it?

This is one of the things which most excited me, some of us like-minded people, including your good selves, have seen this fusion of football fashion coming for the last couple of years and so it was really good of Gavin, the board and manufacturers FBT to embrace the suggestion that my football streetwear label get involved with the design and branding. We have collabed with YMC, Selfridges, SoccerBible and more TBA so it's ace Newport are one of the first teams worldwide to officially work with a football streetwear label.

You’ve obviously got so much knowledge about the club but also a rich cultural influence. How much do you enjoy being able to change the game and bring other fashion scenes into football through what you do?

Kinda leading on from above the excitement comes from being able to usher in the brave new world which most of the more youthful demographic want to see happen which the major brands seem to be way behind. Rather than ape these brands or rail against them not listening it's great to lead the way. I have a new role to announce soon which I hope will send shockwaves through the entire football shirt and apparel world, watch this space.

I have a new role to announce soon which I hope will send shockwaves through the entire football shirt and apparel world, watch this space."

We all get tired of seeing templates rolled out, so it’s refreshing when we see pops of colour and a return to interesting patterns. Is that something you want to see more of across the game as a whole?

I cannot believe that even today, after all the consultancy chats and all of social media alive with vivid bold shirts, that the teams and brands are mostly rolling about behind the times staid and boring kits. I mean just look at Nigeria and the England training – they would have outsold the actual strip but they still mostly seem stuck in the past. Well done to adidas & Leicester and Nike & Chelsea and PUMA & Man City with the third strip this season.

The black and orange of the shirt really is a winning combination, you must share that feeling we have in the way how football shirts have this ability to bring colours you’d never normally see people wear out onto the streets?

As you touched upon before with Newport's Amber being a case in point, as strips and colours are so sacred it is one item of clothing which maybe allows people to be braver in what colour or design they would normally wear. Which as a fashion sense has to be a good thing.

The club had a great season last year. The shirts you designed were on the pitch at Wembley. That’s incredible. To see them win something in this jersey, what would that mean to you?

Yeah it's kinda surreal, I think my younger self would not of believed it all, and to be honest I think it will take an older self of me to appreciate it properly in the future. I really hope we do well wearing the shirts, as it adds a nice gloss to the memories of the kit, but to be honest just seeing the club be brave enough to have a can-do attitude and to see them wearing striking designs will be good enough for me. It's my club, and with your club, it's all about helping them, not me. Up The County.


Pick up the Newport County 2019/20 home and away shirts on the club's official online store.

Special thanks to the Waterloo Hotel and The Westgate Hotel.


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