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the little black kit

the little black kit

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The legendary Don Revie introduced the all white kit at Leeds United

Don Revie and Coco Chanel may seem like unlikely partners, but as so often with such obvious opposites, there was more common ground than you would ordinarily expect. When it came to clothes, for Don and Coco, simplicity was the rule.

By the seventies Don Revie had reduced his own wardrobe to a single power-outfit – his lucky blue suit – and we can’t know for certain that this dependable get-up wasn’t inspired by Chanel and the black cocktail dresses that dominated western women’s fashion in the twentieth century. At the start of the sixties, at the height of Chanel’s influence, at Revie’s command Leeds United threw their various blue and yellow uniforms to the back of the cupboard and appeared in all white shirts, shorts and socks: a classic, unspoilable look. Elegant, durable and adaptable: for Coco and the Little Black Dress, see Don and the All White Kit.

The key to both designs was that the hard work lay beneath the surface and made the final product seem effortless. When the eleven white shirts of Revie’s Leeds ploughed the likes of Southampton into the turf at Elland Road, the plainness of their kits hid the hours of hard work that had gone into the result. Revie’s all night drives to sign young Scottish players for his team, his long days spent nurturing their talents, the thick dossiers that prepared them for every eventuality – all of that disappeared on matchday behind a spotless white shroud. That was the beauty of the little black dress, too: the diets you attempted, the nerves you felt, the wine you spilt – all would be hidden by the sleek black wrapper as you confidently descended the nightclub stairs. 

Which is where the black Leeds United away kit of last season and this went so wrong: you can see the ladder in Leeds United’s stockings, the deodorant stains on her sweaty armpits. An all black outfit should mean immediate style; but the effect is ruined if you pair it with a gaudy, uranium-green handbag. What should look effortless looks laboured when you make such an obvious and glaring attempt to stand out. Early confidence gives way to paranoia once you catch sight of yourself in a mirror, lit up like a glowworm by the harsh dancefloor lights; instead of looking like you just stepped from a Coco Chanel fashion shoot, you look like you’ve run away from Coco The Clown’s circus.  

And it’s not just the way it looks; it’s what it reveals about the disjointed image the club presents. The LUTV logo revealed around the same time was outlined in white on a black background; the membership cards were mostly black but fading to grey like a bad print of an old silent movie. Both seemed intended to have tied in with the new kit to create some sort of exciting and unified cross-promoted ‘product’; but only the shirt had the neon stripes, while the designs of the Bates Card and LUTV didn’t match, so the final result feels like someone on the marketing side at Leeds sent a memo round that everything should now be in black and white, but never followed it up with the details that explained how. Of course it’s all been slung out and replaced now anyway – the bold, of-the-moment look barely lasting a season. It’s when the club steps away from the tried and trusted all-white, with a touch of blue and yellow, that the strap slips, the mascara runs, and suddenly everyone can see that Leeds United ain’t so pretty in the mornings. 

It shouldn’t, of course, matter. It’s only an away kit, and nobody really cares. Except, that is, for the generations of housewives who have pulled on the ‘L.B.D.’ and suddenly felt like a Hollywood star; and for the Leeds United footballers past and present that are wheeled out in marketing campaigns to declare their pride in wearing the ‘A.W.K.’ It shouldn’t matter, but it does. Coco Chanel understood the psychological impact something so simple as the Little Black Dress could have on its wearer; so, in the All White Kit, did Don Revie. Simple, sleek and strong: if Leeds won’t listen to Coco, at least they should listen to Don.

 

Leeds Digital Fashion Week is produced by Hebe Media and aims to showcase the past, present and future of the region’s fashion industry. This project is the pre-curser to a programme of events and projects that will kick off in 2013, and help to take the Leeds fashion industry to the next level. For more information, or to contact the Hebe team, please click here.


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