For this season Admiral Sporting Goods have released their first knitwear piece, the Kelmarsh crew jumper, made with 100% Merino wool, inspired by heritage sportswear and the fact that diving about the six yard box in wool will always be cool.

No international tournament is complete these days without a lanky European goalkeeper cutting a dash in a short sleeved, highly technical shirt, tailor-made using stretchy, breathable fabric seemingly from the future. It’s a far cry from the days of Gordon Banks and Lev Yashin. While clearly the concept of your average football shirt has evolved hugely in the century and a half since the game began being played competitively, the goalkeeper shirt has a story all of its own.

Dino Zoff and Lev Yashin in Knitwear

Born out of public schools and their strong tradition of sporting competition, rugby and cricket teams were soon joined by football teams and across all sports there were high sartorial standards to be kept. Looking well-turned out was important and the only consideration given to function in clothing design of the day was via military wear. In this era the height of what could be termed technical fabrics were either wool or cotton. Polyester wasn't even truly invented until the 1940s. Consequently, for football's formative years, its protagonists proudly paraded around in clothing we'd now run a mile from should we find ourselves contemplating physical activity. Imagine going to the gym in a 100% wool sweater.

In the early years of football at the end of the 19th century, the term 'jersey' was coined to describe a close-fitting knitted top without a collar. Goalkeepers who would spend a lot more time inactive than their outfield counterparts were often found wearing a thicker garment called a 'guernsey', similar to what fishermen wore. It was the height of practicality, and this wasn’t limited to clothing. Gloves weren’t universally worn until the early 1980s, but they did appear intermittently (no pun intended) for decades before as a means to keep a goalkeeper’s hands warm!

Kelmarsh Knitwear from Admiral Sporting Goods

Modern football has become a vast industry and competition isn’t limited to the field. Brands fight each other for the next technological development, particularly in playing kit. Consequently, that founding spirit of looking smart has been replaced by sole focus on performance. It’s a shame the likes of Buffon are outliers when it comes to looking good in modern gear.

Reaching back into history, would those legendary goalkeepers have looked quite so cool and calm wearing anything but a knit?

Inspired by that timeless style, Admiral Sporting Goods has created its own take on the woollen goalkeeper shirt of yesteryear by reactivating historical processes in the heart of where the Industrial Revolution began. So much of ASG’s history is linked to football, yet much of it was from the 1970s onwards. Prior to that, the brand was known for making reliable military wear amongst the chimneys and mills of early 20th century England.

Although much of the UK’s manufacturing might has waned somewhat, the indelible impression left by it remains. Keeping alive tradition is one thing, but as brands finally begin to accept their role in looking after the future of the planet, making local has found a new reason for being. Cutting down on our carbon footprint is a responsibility of everyone and ASGco are no different in this respect.

Kelmarsh Knitwear from Admiral Sporting Goods

The ASGco Kelmarsh jumper is the perfect winter garment for those who appreciate quality. Produced from 100% Merino wool, it boasts a softer feel than other wool pieces, and benefits from the natural insulation properties of these special nature fibres. Designed and Made in Manchester the Kelmarsh jumper has taken direct inspiration from the original goalkeeper jerseys of the early 1900s, and being manufactured so close to home means the only serious prospect of it impacting the earth is if someone took things literally and wore one to dive about a six yard box.

If sweatshirts and heritage sportswear of the last century have found a home in modern, everyday wardrobes, so too can that early incarnation of a goalkeeper jersey.


Words by Mark Smith