Think hi-tech footy kit is a new thing? Nuh-uh. While the bright boots, extra-round balls and self-drying kits of today's game might seem a long way from our leaden-footed forefathers, innovation in footy tech is steeped in history. It's just that they haven't always got it right...
5/ The Beaded Boot, 1922
Whie pundits and managers love to moan about fancy players, enterprising inventors have been engineering improvements since the twenties. Even though footy boots were ankle-high leather affairs that weighed as much as a small family Sedan, crafty Nuremberg resident Georg Willmöhr filed a patent in January 1922 that used beads in a horseshoe-shape around the laces to improve power and accuracy, humbly starting a revolution that would soon grow into a multi-million pound industry.
4/ Hook, Line & Stinker, 1968
At the forefront of that revolution was Adolf 'Adi' Dassler, whose fierce rivalry with brother Rudolf - founding father of Puma - would define the sports industry with inventions like the first screw-in stud and individual player sponsorship. However, one of his more infamous moments came in 1968. In a search for a material that offered the best grip on the ball, Adi created a boot whose surface was coated with the skin of a cartilaginous fish. The idea was that the scale structure offered particularly good ball adhesion. Needless to say, Mr. Dassler soon found the downside to essentially covering a boot in fish, and replaced it with a synthetic version less than a year later.
3/ Puma's Slip-on Slippers, 1992
Staying in Germany, the early '90s saw Puma trying to create the world's first laceless football boots by employing a rear-entry system on their latest model. Rather than any conventional shoe-tightening mechanics, Puma hoped that a player's foot would lock in place with a strap and a tightening mechanism similar to ones still used in their running range today. This elaborate quest for a lace-free model ultimately ended in failure, as the strap and lock were unable to cope with the rigours of a match. The design was canned.
2/ Shape-shifting Shirt, 1998
In 1998 a French design company created a novel way to cut down on that most contemptible of footballing offences; shirt-pulling. The idea was simple enough - when a player's shirt was pulled hard enough, the fabric would permanently deform, making it obvious to officials that a player had been tugged back. In execution, however, the players had all yanked off the sleeves and seams of friend-and-foe alike within five minutes. The result? A bunch of grown men charging around a pitch looking like they'd all borrowed a shirt off their dad.
1/ The Invisible Player, 2007
Nike have always pushed the boundaries of design when it comes to their football kits, but the American mega-brand really went for it when they designed a kit that would make players harder to detect by opponents. By strategically placing 'Counter-Productive Visual Stimuli' across the torso and the shorts, Nike would make players moving at speed harder to see.
The thought of strikers being nothing but a blur to defenders, or midfielders catching keepers off-guard with a shot from range was cool enough, but someone forgot to remind the design team that football is a game in which players, you know, pass to each other...
This was a guest post from Kyle Elliot at footy-boots.com. Voting for the Football Boots Awards 2011 is now open.