The 2019/20 season has undoubtedly provided some of the best shirts in years. A retro-powered return along with a more expressive and unshackled design mentality has taken creativity levels to unexpected levels, and that's before we consider pre-match jerseys, GK designs and a focus on collaborations. Here we look at what exactly has made it such a good year and an impressive taste of what could be an exciting new decade.

Grab a pen and paper and list your top 10 shirts of the 2019/20 season. Tough, right? Make it 20. Still not easy, is it? 30? Getting there, but there’s still the odd one or seven that you’re having to uncomfortably leave out. We’re speaking from experience here, having recently and stressfully compiled our top 30 shirts of the 2019/20 season. So what's changed? Why have kit designs become exciting again?

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Like a manager with the old cliched ‘selection headache’, and it’s indicative of a serious step up in terms of the quality being put out there, not just from the bigger brands, but also from some of the brands that are not as mainstream. In fact, the improved quality of design from the likes of Umbro, Kappa, Hummel, Joma and Errea, has made it a far more competitive market all round resulting in the leading pack having to keep moving to stay ahead. The 19/20 season is the season where the minimal trend has finally been phased out with fans' cravings for more interesting designs being satisfied.

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A repeated complaint levelled at kits over the last decade or so has been focused on brands’ use of generic templates. Fans want to see individual stories ingrained in their shirt designs, and that’s where the recent theme of looking to the past for inspiration has really come to the fore, tapping into a thirst for nostalgia that currently has its eyes fixed on the 90s – just look at the Arsenal home and away shirts, the standout adidas offerings for the year by far.

It’s a technique that has been refined to absolute perfection by the Swoosh though, with their exclusive selection of 90s-inspired third shirts designed for their heavyweight hitters in Europe bringing back some serious throwback flavour, including retro collars and big, bold block colours. And of course there was also the return of the ‘Futura’ logo as the cherry on the cake; ripped right off of the 90s to take pride of place across the collection, it typifies the retro-revival that’s dominated this season’s offerings.

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Bringing back the ‘Futura logo’ was a masterstroke, but again it’s a similar move to what Umbro have been doing with the iconic Double Diamond logo, so synonymous with its 90s kit design, and now being used as a design feature itself within the brand’s shirts. The same can also be said of Kappa, with their impressive use of the ‘Kappa Banda’ across the Monaco away and third kits. All elements that have been used to stunning effect this season, providing that previously mentioned identity and unique feel while also satisfying the appeal of a nostalgia-driven design executed to perfection.

When you think of the 90s and you think of wild designs, its hard not to conjure images of goalkeeper shirt designs, and the brands have not forgotten those between the sticks either this season. We ranted about bringing back the 'ugly' goalkeeper shirt designs in the summer, to use them as a statement piece in a kit, and Nike have duly delivered.

Barcelona’s third goalkeeper shirt is one of the most eye catching designs out there, encapsulating the retro-revival, while New Balance delivered one of the most in demand shirts of the season with the gold on black Liverpool GK shirt. Again, an example of attention to every team and every individual on that team. The replica market is huge after all, offering brands and clubs a huge source of revenue, so it stands to reason that brands should be trying to offer what it is that the fans – or consumers, as they are – want.

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This individual approach and the idea of a club’s identity combined with an absolute freedom of creative expression is something that has also seen the pre-match shirt market boom, with the designs being heavily marketed for the first time alongside their on-pitch counterparts. The appeal for prematch shirts is clear: they’re not limited to a timeframe of appearance in the same way, they aren’t going to hurt as much in the wallet department, and with some wildly extravagant designs, they’re able to traverse the white line from pitch to pavement far more smoothly. The fresh wave of design influence also serves to complement what’s in a club’s wardrobe too.

The market has also been given a huge boost thanks to a new angle on shirt design, with collaborations offering an entry to jersey culture to people that don’t necessarily stand in the terraces week-in, week-out, cheering their team on. The PSG x Jordan collab has seen the Parisian club’s shirts popping up throughout pop culture in the last couple of years, while the club’s ever expanding portfolio of hook-ups continues to highlight the reach of the club beyond the pitch, so much so that their shirts are no strangers to leading Fashion Weeks. Rumour has it that where PSG have blazed a trail, others are set to follow, with Juventus heavily tipped to be launching something special with Palace in the near future. And you can guarantee that won’t be the last collaboration between a football club and a non-football related brand.

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Ultimately, brands have been pressured by fans and players to try a bit harder. They've been found out with copy and pasting templates and presenting them to us as unique. More effort, more thought and more quality is finally going into designs and we're all played out part in that. The demand for the bespoke and the unexpected is as strong as ever, and as one decade ends and another begins, we could be heading into a golden period.

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