In a week where many questioned the future direction of jersey design, adidas and Ajax brought out not only one of the best shirts of the season, but arguably one of the best shirts ever, hailed as such by the club’s fans and opposition fans alike.

Unless you’re a collector, it takes a pretty special shirt to convince most people to part with their hard earned cash, especially when it’s from a club that they don’t even support. But some designs are just so good that they transcend support, getting almost universal appreciation. We saw it with Venezia’s home shirt recently, and now we get another example in the gloriously exuberant and expressive Ajax third shirt.

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The Ajax 21/22 third shirt rounded off a week in which PUMA showed the world their radical – and let’s face it, brave – set of third shirts for 10 of its top European teams. We say brave because it takes something as maverick as that to alter perceptions and to shift dynamics, but it’s probably also fair to say that it wasn’t widely embraced and maybe didn’t hit home quite as the brand might have liked. But that certainly couldn’t be said for the new Ajax offering.

Ahead of its release rumours and leaks suggested that the design was going to take influence from Bob Marley. So what’s the link between the Dutch based club and the Jamaican Reggae legend? Well, the story of Ajax, Bob Marley and Three Little Birds started in August 2008, when Ajax played a friendly match in Cardiff, against Cardiff City F.C. The Ajax fans were asked to remain in the stands after the game. To entertain the patient fans, the stadium DJ played several tracks, one of which was Three Little Birds. And the rest, as they say, is history. Ajax fans instantly embraced the song as their own and have been singing it at every game since. A true symbol of hope, the fans sing the song regardless of the score in the game. In 2018, Bob Marley's son, Ky-Mani Marley even came out at half-time during a Champions League tie with AEK Athens to perform the song at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

So straight away, what initially may have seemed like of a tenuous link is given added weight. At a time when shirt design is inspired by anything from past glory to the materials used in the construction of a home stadium, this shirt arrives with a contemporary yet significant link. And it doesn’t just stop there either. Marley was widely known to love of football, and this passion makes this collaboration and the collective love for his music from Ajax fans especially poignant with his family. “I am beyond touched that Ajax has taken Three Little Birds and made it their anthem,” explained Cedella Marley. “Stories like this warm my heart and show how impactful songs like Three Little Birds can be. Soccer was everything to my father...and to use his words ‘football is freedom’”.

The shirt was also accompanied by a range that includes a track top, track pant, sweater, t-shirt and Samba footwear, all wrapped out in the corresponding colours. The Samba footwear featured stripes in red, yellow and green, along with the Ajax crest on the tongue of the shoe and the three little birds on Amsterdam’s Andreas crosses on the heel tab. Good luck to bagging a pair of those by the way.

We’ve become accustomed to Ajax and adidas laying on great kits in recent years, but with this, they may well have outdone themselves. Using a black base, the kit features red, yellow and green details – the colours of the Jamaican flag – that pop predominantly on the cuffs and Three Stripes on the shoulders. On the back of the jersey, just below the collar, it features a subtle reference to the iconic song, with three little birds sitting on Amsterdam’s Andreas crosses.

Take a stand out design, simplistic yet impactful in is execution, and add a meaningful story – a true connection to the fans – and you create something that will not only be appreciated in the here and now, but that will also take on a timeless quality, taking its place in club folklore. Further than that even, it will be embraced as a shirt of art in the world of jersey culture; a piece that rises above fandom and its position on the terraces. It’s not often that a shirt receives such widespread appreciation, punctuated by the sheer demand that crashed the Ajax website shortly after release, but the Ajax third shirt has reached those heights, and deservedly so. Certainly one to look out for when Ajax take to the pitch in European competition this season, and one worthy of a place in the wardrobe, no matter who you support.

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As if to punctuate the glory of this shirt design and the status we've given it as a "shirt of art", adidas hosted a gallery exhibition at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. It showcased the full collection alongside the captured imagery with those at the heart of London’s Caribbean community, such as Nintey, a Caribbean chef originally from Jamaica and Clary is a Designer & the Artistic Director of Mahogany Carnival, both of whom were in attendance at the gallery, which was open to the public over the weekend of 21-22 August.

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Shop the Ajax 21/22 third shirt and collection at