Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The message behind the merchandise

When you bedeck yourself in a replica, spending 40 quid in the process, ponder this: are the brains behind it conditioning you into a thought system that perhaps you'd not considered?
When England was Britain in '82 

Have you looked more closely at the new England kit for Euro 2012? If you have, I reckon you're helping reclaim English nationalism.

The England badge is suddenly red; blue's been removed. If you think that's just a fashion issue, think again. England's identity is now red and white - not red, white and blue. Is this preparation for Scotland's devolution? To create an English identity lost in the fog of a British one for generations?

There's moves in the media to superimpose the idea of Englishness on top of Britishness. Programmes about the Church of England and other institutions which are intrinsically different from those north of the border. The Scots have a more a stark tradition in both imagery and belief.

Heaven knows what the devolutionists thought of the Diamond Jubilee, but it definitely included Scotland, Mr. Salmond!
1986: English nationalism expressed as British
In football, defining England's been going on for years. Matchday flags with the pub or football club on the red horizontal banner are on St. George's, 20 years ago, it was ALWAYS the Union Jack.

What'll happen to design if the Scots reject devolution? I suppose nothing: the tectonic plates of our Britishness are moving permanently.

And if you tell me, "There's no difference between being English and British!", I say to you, if you've a thick foreign accent, but have the desire to embrace our lifestyle in Leicester, Newcastle or Ipswich, you can be British on day one in a way that truly you could never be English. For me, the English should have a say in the devolution poll. It could have as big an impact south of the border as it would north of it, especially on immigrants.

Cardiff City are the Bluebirds no more. From next season, they're red with a new nickname of "The Red Dragons". Research concluded the colour rebrand was essential if they wanted to extend appeal beyond their current fanbase. All this in the year the blues of Chelsea won the Champions League and the FA Cup. Blue is the colour? not anymore in the Welsh capital!

And in London, the Arsenal shirt is definitely different from that of Tottenham's.

I'm not imagining this, but all over North London, boys from nice homes are wearing Arsenal shirts as an extension of their own aspirations and brand values (with tacit permission of their parents). Arsenal play in a beautiful stadium, they are managed in a continental fashion and have been for a generation and put simply, a Spurs shirt doesn't convey those values at all.

2010: England is now England
Is it to do with Redknapp, their substandard matchbox stadium or even the Tottenham riots? It's a combination of those things that not even a banner of straplines around White Hart Lane's midriff proclaiming To Dare Is To Do and Glory Glory Hallelujah will make a jot of difference to change.

Liverpool FC is brilliant at legendising their brand. Telling the story of Hillsborough and five European Cups is a tip of the hat to the Munich story at Manchester United. Most might say after sacking icon Kenny Dalglish, the sum of their legend is greater than the individual parts. But what can't be denied is that far-flung fans who've never even been to Merseyside eulogise a legend which in reality is little different to that at Aston Villa or Leeds United, just perhaps better narrated to an international audience.
Baked in Red tradition: Shankly would've approved

I picked up a Manchester United replica in a discount sports shop the other day - and it doesn't half look and feel miles away from the fans who buy it. Literally and geographically.

In the seventies, when I wore my Villa shirt, the fabric was made from something I recognised from clothes that mum bought me. These days, not only does the United badge have a trade mark petroleum fuzz, but you get the feeling if you burned it, it'd dissolve into fossil fuel.

Next time you look at a shirt, take a closer inspection beyond the tangible: ask yourself, "do I really want to wear all that this represents"?

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