BACK in more simple times the only writing to be found on a Liverpool shirt was the letters under the Liverbird. “L.F.C.” No space was given over to Hitachi, Crown Paints or Candy. There was no room for the name of the kit manufacturer, just a small logo – at most. The numbers on the back belonged to that player for that game alone – he didn’t get his name over the top of it because it might not be his number to wear the next week.
Players trained at Melwood in kit that was for training in, not posing in, so there wasn’t exactly any demand for countless varieties of training wear to be sold to fans. Supporters didn’t find themselves hit with marketing at every turn urging them to wear clothes that would supposedly show their pride in their club – designed by people who probably couldn’t name the manager who won the club’s fourth European Cup. Let’s not mention the word ‘blue’, even if it does try to play down its wrongness by calling itself ‘cyan’.
There isn’t any really need for a big marketing drive aimed at persuading fans to show their support by wearing their colours. For those living in Liverpool and a couple of other places the official club shops are filled with merchandise of just about every imaginable kind, including clothing that’s like what the players wear on duty for the Reds. It’s available online too, catering for one of sport’s biggest worldwide fanbases. Fans want to let it be known, blatantly or subtly, who they support. Just point them in the direction of the stuff they can choose from and they will almost certainly choose something, in fact they’ll probably walk away feeling spoilt for choice and wanting to go back for more.
But not every fan sees the offerings from official outlets as right for them. There’s a time and a place – and some say an age limit – for a home shirt with a player’s name and number on the back. There’s a time and place for a Hawaiian-look polo shirt made up of a multi-coloured, oversized, overprinted club badge too (probably). It should be possible to show support for your team in a way that doesn’t look out of place when football’s got a day off. Subtlety can and often does win. Hands down.
Ian Maloney was growing more and more frustrated at what was on offer from the various official lines available from the club. He wanted to wear something that was LFC, but he couldn’t find anything that was his definition of LFC. That’s when the old saying sprang to mind, if you want something doing properly, do it yourself.
With that he set up Love Follow Conquer, a new menswear label aimed at like-minded supporters of Liverpool FC. “Basically I set it up out of frustration,” he says. “Frustration at there being nothing out there for normal lads. A badge of honour if you like, something that was LFC inspired but was just like a label you’d normally wear.”
What’s in a name, why Love Follow Conquer? Think about it: “The name is obviously based around the LFC initials,” says Ian. He had come up with a way to wear LFC in a style that really was LFC – not in a style that really was rebadged Swiss cycling team.
The label began with t-shirts and polo-shirts with sweat shirts soon to follow. The prints on the t-shirts and sweatshirts and the styling of the polos are a nod to different periods of Liverpool’s illustrious history; the banners, the days out, the weeks away, the lives we lead as followers of that famous bird.
The inspiration comes from a city that is truly unique, a city that influences the world as much as it is influenced by the world, a city that doesn’t just exist within its own walls.
Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard feature on t-shirts influenced by the cover of The Beatles’ Revolver album, a cover designed by a man who knew them from their days in Hamburg. The history is there in the detail of those prints; banners behind The King and ‘Huyton’s Best’ act like postcards from battles won as Europe was conquered – FIVE TIMES – including Rome ’77 in glorious technicolour.
The nods to the past sit alongside signposts to the future. ‘El Pistolero’, the new star, on 45, Luis Suarez. We Just Can’t Get Enough.
And sometimes a t-shirt just won’t do, sometimes it’s just not the right kind of casual. And that’s when the polo shirt comes in. We conquered Europe in London sometimes. Like in 1978, Wembley Stadium, when the King was crowned.
New for this winter are a range of jackets that take us back further than the conquering of Europe and to the times of laying foundations that would set us on our way.
Bill Shankly’s famous track-top gets an upgrade without taking away what it had – it becomes a track jacket that can be worn at the match, but not just at the match, and it might seem a small thing but it has pocket. Two with zips, two with buttons, on the lower chest and on the sides – and you already know exactly what you’ll use them for.
The Shanks-style top comes with pin badges included for those who want to wear them, as does the Away Days smock jacket - which also comes with a slight fish tail. See the description on the Love Follow Conquer site to find out what the fish tail’s there for – and try and imagine the corporate types thinking of something like that. They’d probably struggle to come up with ideas like including a big chest pocket for your programme to go into as well because, let’s face it, it’s the corporate types who think plastic flags given away straight off a production line can trump banners made with love sweat and laughter.
Love Follow Conquer don’t do plastic flags.
New to the Love Follow Conquer website are some of the items from sister label, Saviour Projects. The standout product there has to be the Dead Man’s Shoes M65 Jacket. It was inspired by Shane Meadows’s 2004 film and what Ian describes as: “A brilliant performance by Paddy Considine.” Mr Considine likes the jacket too, he got in touch with Saviour to tell them: “I’m flattered that Dead Man’s Shoes was the inspiration for this design. I’ll wear mine with pride.”
The detail and thought that has gone into the design work across the Love Follow Conquer range reflects the passion that its designer has for the club, the kind of passion and determination to get everything just right that this club has always been about. And there’s much more to come. “We’ve got loads of ideas moving forward,” says Ian, “We’ll be producing staple pieces, we want to get known for designing great gear you can wear for the match or just going out for a bevy.”
* Love Follow Conquer have kindly offered to give away one of their jackets in a competition open to all Liverpool supporters. Check out the @LoveFollowConqr Twitter account for details of how to enter. And don’t forget to look at the full LFC range at lovefollowconquer.com.