Retro football shirts leave a mark on you that modern football shirts just cannot create.
Whether it remind you of being intoxicated on holiday in an Irish bar during a world cup (Yes we’ve been there), or it reminds you of your teams most successful era playing their best football, there is always an emotional connection where a vintage football shirts bring you right back to.
So the lads here at Inside Forwards have been discussing….What are the best retro football shirts of all time?
The results are in, with classic football shirts across club and country.
Let’s get started…
Holland 1988 (Home)
A team including superstars such as Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman and the magic of Marco Van Basten (who can forget THAT goal?), the Netherlands donned a chequered orange kit that matched the high levels of their squad.
In a memorable tournament, one of the best international teams kits of all time got the outcome it deserved as the Netherlands became European Champions with a 2-0 victory over the USSR in the final.
The kit design alongside being worn by renowned players across the world, and being honoured as champions made this kit and instant classic, which remains a popular shirt even to this day.
Newcastle United 1995-97 (Away)
The Newcastle United 1995-97 away kit, with its broad stripes and grandad collar, is more than just a fashion statement. It’s represents of one of the most thrilling chapters in the club’s history.
This was the era of the ‘Entertainers’, a team that played with such attacking verve and swagger that they almost clinched the Premier League title, narrowly losing out to Manchester United in the 1995-96 season.
It was the season of the famous quote ‘I’d love it if we beat them’ by boss Kevin Keegan, and was arguably one of the most exciting title challenges the premier league has witnessed.
This shirt evokes memories of a team that boasted the talents of Les Ferdinand, David Ginola, and Peter Beardsley, and an era that brings goosebumps back even if you are not a signed up member of the toon army.
But the story of this shirt is also bittersweet.
It’s a reminder of the ‘what-ifs’, of a title charge that enthralled the nation but ultimately ended in heartbreak.
Parma 1998-2000 (Home)
Few kits stand out for football fans as much as Parma’s iconic football shirt in the colours of yellow and blue.
So what do you get when you put a stand-out kit with a collection of football icons?
A UEFA cup-winning team that brought one of the most unique of kit colours to the global scene.
Graced by the talents of Hernan Crespo, Juan Sebastian Veron, and a young Gianluigi Buffon, Parma’s squad in this era was one for the history books, and the classic kit with hometown sponsor Parmalat gave them the perfect shirt to match.
Yet, the story of this shirt is also tinged with melancholy.
This shirt also represents the last hurrah of a golden era before financial troubles plunged the club into turmoil, selling off it’s prized assets.
The Parma 1998-2000 home kit is a bittersweet symbol of glory days, a reminder of when a small club from Emilia-Romagna dared to dream big and charmed the continent.
Ajax 1995 (Home)
When you think of European cup competition, it’s hard not to mention Ajax Amsterdam in the discussion.
The classic red and white kit is an iconic shirt that has been donned by some of the worlds finest players, and this football shirt was no different.
The Ajax 1995 home shirt, in its simplicity, carries the weight of one of the most remarkable stories in European football.
This kit is synonymous with a young, fearless Ajax team that conquered Europe, winning the European Cup in a manner that was both dominant and delightful.
This shirt saw the rise of future legends like Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, and Edgar Davids, nurtured by the visionary coach Louis van Gaal.
It’s a testament to the Ajax academy, a system that produced players who played a brand of football that was both easy on the eye yet ruthlessly effective.
The team’s victory over AC Milan in the 1995 Champions League final, with a team whose spine was homegrown, is a narrative that this shirt holds within its fibres.
But this shirt also represents the end of an era.
The success of the Ajax 1995 team was a swansong for a time when youth and innovation could triumph over financial might.
In the years that followed, the team was dismantled as stars were lured away by the riches of bigger leagues.
Manchester City 1999 (Away)
If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen one of the loudest football kits you’re likely to see, it is because this football classic was deep down in the third-tier of English football.
The Manchester City 1999 away shirt, with its electric yellow and and navy stripes, tells a story of redemption and a turning point in the club’s history.
This was the kit worn during the make or break Division Two playoff final, a match that epitomised City’s fall from grace but also sparked their resurgence.
Worn by Manchester City legends such as Shaun Goater and Paul Dickov, this shirt became an emblem of hope for City fans, and remains one of the most popular and iconic shirts in the City collection.
Dickov’s last-gasp equalizer at Wembley, which led to a penalty shootout victory, is a moment forever etched in the club’s folklore.
It was a turning point, marking the beginning of Manchester City’s climb back to the top of English football.
This shirt serves as a reminder of the club’s turbulent times, the perseverance of its players, and the unwavering support of its fans.
Brazil 1998 (Home)
You could probably make an argument for any of the yellow Brazil jerseys to be included in this list.
We’ve chosen Brazil 1998 kit due to it’s connection with the legendary ‘el fenomeno’ Ronaldo.
Designed beautifully Nike, this classic was the kit to showcase the worlds greatest prospect and his ascent to the throne by retaining Brazil’s world cup dominance.
At the age of 21, he had the weight of a nation on his shoulders, and he did not disappoint with 4 goals and 3 assists on their way to the World Cup final.
However, the final did not follow suit. In an episode that is still shrouded in mystery, Ronaldo was a shadow of the man blowing everyone away in the tournament.
Ronaldo was but a by stander as Zinedine Zidane’s France coasted to a 3-0 victory on home soil.
The shirt however still deserves its place amongst the best football classic shirts.
Croatia 1998 (Home)
It seems World Cup 98 was littered with future classic football kits.
The checkered red and white design of the Croatia 1998 home shirt is emblematic of a nation announcing itself on the world stage.
In their first World Cup as an independent nation, Croatia, wearing this kit, achieved an outstanding third-place finish.
This shirt is synonymous with the golden generation of Croatian football, including Davor Šuker, who won the Golden Boot at the tournament.
Building upon a successful Euro 96 campaign, the tournament delivered a source of national pride, unity, and the sheer joy of exceeding expectations on the biggest stage.
Liverpool 1995-97 (Away)
Ah the green and white quarters of the Liverpool 1995-97 away kit, designed and delivered by Adidas.
This was the era of the ‘Spice Boys’, a talented but ultimately underachieving Liverpool side.
Worn by the likes of Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp and captain John Barnes, this shirt witnessed moments of individual brilliance but also a team failing to live up to its potential.
In this kit the team reached the FA cup final which resulted in 1-0 defeat to arch-rivals Manchester United, which was probably remembered more for those awful white suits than on-field performance.
And although it may be seen as a disappointing transition era for Liverpool fans, this football shirt stands out as a classic design that deserves a place amongst the greats.
AC Milan 1989/90 (Home)
This Milan side have arguably gone down as one of the greatest teams of all-time.
And this classic red and black Milan shirt is steeped in prestige as well as being aesthetically pleasing.
In this kit, Milan were dominant winning the European Cup back to back, with the team being nicknamed the immortals due to their rare successes.
Graced by the likes of Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, and Paolo Maldini, this kit is a symbol of tactical innovation under the legendary coach Arrigo Sacchi.
It represents a period when Milan was the epitome of footballing excellence, combining defensive solidity with attacking flair.
This shirt sets the foundations for a story of a team that set the benchmark for future generations, a narrative of dominance, class, and the relentless pursuit of perfection.
Mexico 1994 (Home)
The Aztec-inspired of the Mexico 1994 home shirt. Back when football shirts weren’t just a slight variation of the previous jersey.
This cult classic was worn during the 1994 World Cup, where the creativity of the kit was echoed by their players, none more so than legendary keeper Jorge Campos.
The Mexico 1994 home kit is a narrative of cultural identity, of playing football in a way that celebrates heritage and tradition.
Blackburn Rovers 1994/95 (Home)
The Blackburn Rovers 1994/95 home shirt will always be fondly remembered to a fairy tale triumph, an underdog story that saw the club from a small town in Lancashire go on to clinch the Premier League title.
Personally funded by local businessman Jack Walker, this iconic shirt was worn by the likes of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, as Kenny Dalglish’s side went on to win the Premier League title ahead of Manchester United.
It represents a time when Blackburn Rovers disrupted the traditional hierarchy of English football, proving that even the unexpected can become reality.
West Germany 1990 (Home)
The clean, white design of this West Germany 1990 home shirt, accented with the German flag colours, is a beautiful shirt steeped in both football and political history.
It was the shirt worn during their World Cup-winning campaign in Italy, a tournament that saw them crowned champions for the third time.
Not only that, this shirt was the last ever shirt of West Germany, with the Country of Germany being formed in the same year.
On the pitch it was worn by the likes of Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann, and goes down as one of the most iconic shirts in world football.
Real Madrid 2001-2003 (Home)
Where would any classic football shirt collection be without the classic white of ‘Los Blancos’ Real Madrid.
The Madrid home shirt of 2001-2003 represents the beginning of ‘Los Galacticos’, a period when the club assembled some of the greatest talents in football history.
This was the kit worn by the likes of French football star Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, and Ronaldo, to create a team that brought a new level of glamour to the game.
It represents a time when Real Madrid was not just a football club but a global phenomenon, showcasing a brand of football that was as attractive as it was effective.
One of the finest moments in this football shirt is the 2002 European Cup winning volley of Zinedine Zidane against Bayer Leverkusen.
Perfect technique, and a shirt befitting of such a goal.
Greatest Classic Football Shirts – Summary
By now, we’re sure reading this you’d have taken a few trips down memory lane.
From iconic shirts blazoned in glory, to wonderfully crafted shirts from periods your club would prefer to forget.
We’ve covered from across the globe some of the most iconic vintage football shirts you’re likely to fix eyes upon.
Do you agree with our teams choices? Drop us a message on Instagram and let us know your thoughts!
All shirts mentioned in this article are available within the Inside Forwards shirt collection.