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Are we about to witness the return of a classic Sunderland kit manufacturer?

Thirty years since we last collaborated with them, there are strong rumours that next season’s kits will see some classic branding back on Wearside.

Advert taken from the 1988-89 Roker Review.

Sunderland’s merchandising and retail operation has been the subject of discussion for some time now, with the issue of replica kit availability once again cropping up over the recent Christmas period.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that several youngsters were left disappointed at the absence of a ‘volt’ third strip underneath the tree, and whilst this popular design was admittedly marketed as ‘limited edition’ when released earlier in the season, it’s not the first time that supporters have been unable to get their hands on a Sunderland shirt, and nor is it the first time people have ended up spending their cash elsewhere.

Soccer - Barclays League Division One - Sunderland v Newcastle United - Roker Park Photo by Paul Marriott/EMPICS via Getty Images

However, there seems to be a strong possibility of things improving for 2024/2025, with credible sources confident that Hummel will be teaming up with the club again after a thirty-year hiatus.

With their original templates hugely popular on Wearside, both in the 1990s and the intervening period, it would be the first time that the Danish firm have supplied kits in the Stadium of Light era and on the face of it, it would be a very welcome move.

At present, the gear worn by the Lads and Lasses is mainly manufactured by Nike but managed by their partner, the ‘Just Sport Group’, and Hummel did encounter issues with a similar arrangement earlier in the decade when their UK distributor, ‘Elite Sports Group’, went into administration.

When Hummel initially came on board in 1988, stock first came via an outpost situated in Enfield, Middlesex, and in some pre-season encounters, the team had to make use of some old sets of tops and shorts. With that in mind, an element of caution is perhaps needed as these more intricate partnerships can present control difficulties.

Advert taken from the 1988-89 Roker Review.

For example, certain sizes seen in the club shop at present have to be produced separately because Nike don’t cater for them.

However, the understanding is that this deal would be direct with Hummel’s Aarhus headquarters and if so, would indicate a more tailored offering that could eliminate some of the frustrations. On the other hand, there’s the additional possibility of a third party taking overarching control of retail at the club, and that too has possible pitfalls.

When it was previously taken out of house by ‘Kitbag’, there were some bizarre reports of delays being caused by items that were made and stored locally having to be shipped away for ‘checking’, only to be returned to the area and passed onto the club.

That said, supporters won’t worry too much about the arrangement if they can find products they’d want on the shelves.

Eric Gates Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images

Hummel would be a nostalgic choice, and with the talk of previous designs being reimagined and reintroduced, they’d likely do well sales-wise.

Their blue and predominately white change shirts were real fan favourites, although from a personal point of view a fresh take on the two yellow options would be the preference.

Those looks, like the rarely seen strip turned out before that by Patrick, would have an undoubted retro feel that could also appeal to other age groups.

Stripes allow less scope for experimentation but Hummel’s first output in that regard managed to find a balance between sticking with tradition but still displaying some element of variation.

It’ll be impossible for any sportswear brand to appease everybody, a point highlighted whenever the topic of the type of crest that should be seen on any future new strips arises.

It often feels as though the club badge is discussed even more regularly than its retail arm, and the potential return of some evocative vibes has reignited the debate over the ‘ship crest’ and whether it could be about to make a more formal reintroduction.

Having been replaced in 1997, the much-loved shield insignia has been used increasingly for publicity and social media purposes in recent times and I can see the merits in the arguments for both that one and the current ‘new’ interpretation that’s actually been in use longer, although how that’s crept up on us, I’m not quite sure.

Therefore, some sort of ‘halfway house’, with one used on the home strip and one used for the change or third choices may appease everybody.

Are we in for a retro revival? Image of a rarely seen Patrick effort taken from the Bournemouth 1988-89 edition of the Roker Review.

The subject of the badge brings to mind another talking point, and how it’s manifested on shirts.

It can be somewhat odd to hear football fans arguing over embroidery and the like, but anybody advocating ‘proper’ crests being brought back on the shirts has presumably not played five-a-side in an older kit recently and subsequently spent the next couple of days hours enduring an agonising bout of nipple rash.

Although some people fear that heat transfers and similar methods of detailing are merely cheap-looking cost cutting measures, a lot of players prefer these in terms of comfort, although wider concerns over the general quality are valid.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Anybody who shops at ‘Total Sport’ in Hendon will know that you can pick up Hummel gear very cheaply on their sale rails, and that it’s perfect for five-a-side games or just kicking around the house.

Whilst some firms cut corners and bash things out to an absolute basic level, Hummel will invariably have zipped pockets, linings, and a good standard of overall value. If their training merchandise is of a similar standard, fans might not mind paying the premium that comes with additional Sunderland branding.

Whoever manufactures Sunderland’s next set of stripes, there are some instant wins to be had.

An accompanying goalkeeper’s version going on sale would be an obvious start, but if it’s to be Hummel, there appears to be an appetite for retro looks that they’d be well-placed to tap into.

The popularity of the recent Avec training reproductions backs that up, but the fact that despite selling so well, the latest ranges have already been reduced in price may point towards an imminent announcement regarding new suppliers.

Avec are ‘Just Sport Group’s’ own brand, but with other sides already releasing information about kit supply contracts for the next campaign, it would be good to get some clarity on what it’ll look like for those in red and white.


Acknowledgements

With thanks to ‘Booey’, ‘Di Canios Knees’ and other contributors to the following thread on readytogo.net

Hummel | RTG Sunderland Message Boards (readytogo.net)

and

Eddie Bamber, a Sunderland kit enthusiast with several You Tube videos including this latest summary

What will the new Sunderland AFC Hummel kits look like? - YouTube

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