Sometimes a football shirt can become truly synonymous with the side it represents. From the black and white stripes of Juventus to Celtic’s green and white hoops, specific styles and colour combinations have played a central role in establishing and maintaining a number of timeless team identities. For the first of our series of Kitbag.com #ShirtStories, let’s take a closer look at a current club shirt that fits the bill; Ajax’s classic red and white home jersey.
History of the design
The formative roots of the 2016-17 Ajax Amsterdam home shirt can be traced way back to the summer of 1911. Ajax had just been promoted to the Dutch top flight for the first time in their history. However, the club’s red and white stripey tops were deemed too similar to those of resident contenders Sparta Rotterdam. With league rules forcing Ajax to make a change, the Amsterdam club would quickly introduce the style that we recognise today, with its predominant red block covering the bulk of the chest (and back) and use of white reserved for the sides. Retaining the colours already adopted around the turn of the century, Ajax’s promotion triggered the creation of an iconic image that endures to this very season.
Classic moments and key players
Many of Ajax’s greatest triumphs were achieved in the classic red and white combination worn today, with none more eminent than the European Cup Final victories over Panathinaikos at Wembley in 1971 and Inter Milan in Rotterdam a year later. With the club’s aesthetic identity spreading its influence far and wide, Scotland’s Heart of Midlothian would even adopt their own Ajax-inspired jersey, in the wake of a visit to the Netherlands during the 1970s. As purveyors of Totaalvoetbal, talisman Johan Cruyff, captain Piet Keizer and teammates helped establish the Ajax jersey as a visual byword for excellence; and while the club’s playing fortunes would fluctuate on the European stage, the development of homegrown heroes like the de Boer brothers, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert and countless others ensured the trend remained strong for many years to come.
Crest and other elements
A centrepiece of any Ajax kit, the current club crest bears the striking likeness of the mythological Greek hero who provides the club with its name. A strong and courageous warrior, Ajax has been an inspirational presence on Ajax jerseys since back in 1928, though the circular crest that encases him did not adopt its present stylised form until 1990. Notably, the eleven lines that combine to form the image of Ajax are said to represent the eleven players who comprise the team’s starting line-up. Of extra note are a hat-trick of star motifs that float above the crest; each of them symbolising ten of the club’s 33 Eredivisie championships (the most recent in 2014, with the 30th landed three years earlier). A look at the neck of the jersey meanwhile reveals another triumvirate, with the three small crosses that adorn both its inner and rear neck tape derived from Amsterdam’s civic coat of arms.
Manufacturer and sponsorship
Mirroring the agreements of fellow European heavyweights Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, the current Ajax home jersey is another adidas production; making subtle yet effective use of its signature Three Stripes, through side embellishment that complements the jersey’s red line sleeve trim. Ajax and adidas formed their alliance in 2000; the leading German brand replacing previous suppliers Umbro, who had manufactured Ajax’s playing kit across the 1990s. As one might infer, the Amsterdam club has seldom been hasty to chop and change the make-up of its jerseys, with current main sponsors Ziggo (a Dutch media company) only the third name in history to grace an Ajax home shirt. After 17 years of unbroken sponsorship with Amsterdam-based bank ABN AMBRO, Ziggo secured their coveted, central spot in 2014, striking an €8 million deal to replace predecessors Aegon until June of 2019.
Across the season
Ajax have worn their home strip this season in a number of rousing victories, chalking up wins in red and white across their Eredivisie and UEFA Europa League campaigns. In the league, Ajax would carry their colours in the emphatic home humblings of PEC Zwolle (5-1), NEC (5-0) and ADO Den Haag (3-0). In European play meanwhile, the popular jersey found itself on show in the midweek wins over Standard Liege, Celta Vigo and Panathanaikos at the Amsterdam ArenA, the latter a retread of the aforementioned landmark 1971 final. Ajax have also worn their first choice design in several key matches on the road, notably making appearances in October’s 2-0 win in the Hague and the following month’s 1-0 success away at Heerenveen.
A regular fit design with textbook V-neck collar in tow, the current cut and sewn Ajax home jersey is made with 100% recycled polyester interlock fabric, carrying its crest in woven form at the left breast. A part of the adidas brand’s sustainable product program, supporters and players alike can experience the unruffled comfort of advanced climacool® technology in the stand or the park, while feeling the further breezy benefit of mesh ventilation inserts. AC