When you’re a boy, it’s time to Get Shirty

I finally got round to watching Get Shirty, the story of the Leicester underwear firm Admiral transforming themselves into THE sportswear giant of the 70s.

I will begin by commending the direction. The retro feel was evident throughout with period home furnishings, catalogues and posters as well as a soundtrack including David Bowie, Sparks and the Undertones. The graphics introducing the talking heads were based on 1970s football cards, and some vintage graphical cuts were also utilised. Archival footage abound, but some of it was reused throughout, lending it a slightly cheap feel not helped by the use of soundalike cover versions of T. Rex and Sweet tracks. Why they’d use a cover version when they had the rights to use footage of Marc Bolan on Top of the Pops is kind of baffling.

The rise and fall of Admiral is covered extensively in the 60 minutes (not counting ads). We get straight out of nun knickers territory into the 1966 World Cup and the company’s forage into sportswear. We then skip ahead a few years to 1973 and company owner Bert Patrick noticing Leeds United training next door to a failed sale. He approached Don Revie, who let them do what they wanted with the away kit but refused to let them touch the home at first. In actual fact, Admiral’s first league contract was with Crystal Palace in 1972, but as the club was struggling in the Third Division at the time the director probably made a conscious decision to go with the story of the more glamorous team. At the time anyway.

The talking heads range from key figures including Bert Patrick to former England stars Mick Channon, Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter and Peter Shilton to kit experts such as Paul Devlin to the women who worked on the factory floor. While not from a too diverse range of professions and backgrounds, this can partially be blamed on the narrow subject matter. This did lend it an intimate feel though, because they were talking from their vast experience rather than being some random Z-list celebrity who once bought a Luton Town away kit second hand.

All in all, this was a documentary that managed to be enjoyable despite the narrow subject and painfully low budget. It’s on ITV Player for seven more days, so even if football shirts aren’t your thing, grab it while you can.

And at the very end, we see on a black screen “The Admiral brand name still exists. AFC Wimbledon are the only league club wearing their kit today.” This continued the sad, almost painful, tone of decline that dominated the second half of the documentary. The company that once outfitted half the First Division, England, Wales, Belgium and hundreds of other clubs from Seattle to Saudi Arabia now has only one major contract and that a club that, despite their predecessors’ pedigree, only entered the league in 2011. Like the club formed by outraged Dons as the original team prepared to move to Milton Keynes, can Admiral rise from the ashes?


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