Away kits. Everybody needs them. Everybody dreads them. The reveal of a new home shirt can be an anticlimactic affair. After weeks of fevered discussion and anticipation, we’re treated to… some more blue and white hoops, sometimes with some red! (Though this year’s is a corker to be fair).
Away shirts could be anything though. Neon colours, erratic designs, even covered in foodstuffs. Over the past 21 years, Reading have had some good ones, some bad and some just… meh.
Now, kits are a subjective thing of course. The colours you like, the designs and combinations you feel most connected to are personal. Kits from bad seasons are naturally likely to conjure up bad memories, whereas good kits from bad seasons may fall by the wayside. My opinions are often informed by which kits look best on an actual person, or which kits tried to do something unique. I’ll forgive some pretty garish stuff if it’s not basic.
With that warning out of the way then, join me as I dissect the top five best AND worst Reading away kits of the 21st century so far!
5th worst - 2006/07
Finally, we were in the Premier League for the first time in our history. How can we show these top-tier fans that we mean business when we visit legendary stadiums like Anfield, Villa Park and Highbury? Ah yes, we could dress like a packet of smokey bacon crisps.
This shirt comes with a lot of those great memories discussed above, so I’m sure I’ve already alienated some of you. With the benefit of hindsight however, I just don’t think that it’s a good kit. Is it maroon? Perhaps, but the strange yellow snow accent colour makes the red appear a little brighter. So that means it’s red, but not a good red. On top of that, the piping is strange and clashes nastily with the thicker stripes on the sleeves. Overall, I loved the season, but not the kit!
5th best - 2020/21
While I certainly like this one more as a kit than as a shirt, it’s another trendy entry from Macron, who have done us proud so far. What brings this above the older red away shirts for me is the two-tone red and the blue and white around the arms and neck.
I have some concerns that this shirt may age like warm milk, and so look forward to my re-entry into this series next year, when I can compare it without recency bias to 2011/12’s red option.
4th worst - 2013/2014
Who are we, the gosh darn New York Yankees? I’m a huge Red Sox fan, so perhaps pinstripes just fill me with rage for different reasons. That said, I generally like the black-and-red colour scheme that Reading have employed a few times over the 21st century, so why did this one go so wrong?
Well, mostly because it makes the player look like he’s wearing a mesh vest over the top of the black background. I’m not a fan of thin piping on any kit, and this is simply the worst offender Reading have ever worn on that front. Usually, red and black on a Reading away kit is enough to make me open my wallet. This one pushed it decidedly further into my pocket.
4th best - 2005/06
This one isn’t breaking any new ground. You could accuse it of being fairly boring even. The thing is, with the colour choices they went with, this shirt made every player look good. Reading’s training gear is currently mostly a similar navy blue colour. It’s what you see Pauno wearing on the sidelines during most game and we all know how good he looks in it. If Veljko says it’s the colour to wear, you listen.
This entry is the simple black t-shirt of Reading away shirts. Every man should have one in their wardrobe.
3rd worst - 2009/10
I’m not sure what’s worse about this one: the fact that it’s the most boring kit I’ve ever subjected my eyes to, or that accent colour. Seriously, what is that? It’s reminiscent of the unnerving colour of lettuce you’re often treated to in a Big Mac. The whole shirt looks like a Waitrose napkin from the upper-class cafe.
Another issue with, again what is basically a plain white t-shirt: anyone who has to wear a white shirt to work knows that after a year’s worth of use, the armpits are no longer: white. That means anybody who purchased one of these glorified serviettes likely now owns a 90% white shirt with ominous dark splotches around the armpits. If anybody has a replica of this shirt and it’s in pristine condition, I am interested in seeing that, but I’m more interested in knowing which detergent you use.
3rd best - 2014/15
Ooooh, the kit so sleek, I’d wear the long-sleeved version to work. Partially because this is the time in kit history when seemingly every football shirt had a buttoned collar. This one is particularly nice however. It’s not quite black, more of a smoke or even a darker navy colour, and that works nicely with the fiery red down the sides and on the collar. Those accents looked great with the shorts, which flipped the accent and dominant colours.
For being as at home in a business pitch as it is on the Madejski pitch, this one gets on my podium.
2nd worst - 2008/09
A special mention here to the awful orange kit of 2017/18. I didn’t feel it would be prudent to add two orange kits and, for me, the 08/09 kit is the worst of the bunch. Similar to the Waitrose napkin, it’s somehow just dull, which is impressive considering it’s a bright and shining orange. Worse still, I just don’t think anybody looks good in it.
The photo above is of a fantastic moment: Brian Howard scoring with just moments left to take West Brom to extra time in the FA Cup. And yet the shiny orange monstrosity just makes it look as though everyone is clad in the inside of greasy crisp packets. Probably roast chicken.
It’s an orange abomination.
2nd best - 2012/13
This was a disappointing year for Reading. We never really got going in the Premier League, even after a change of manager, and with hindsight perhaps we just got promoted a little too soon in our team’s development. Still, for me the away kit was a silver lining.
I love yellow kits, and if it were up to me, Reading would always wear a yellow and blue away kit as a nod to the Simod Cup years.
On the 2012/13 kit specifically, I love the asymmetrical “C”-shaped blue highlight that runs across the top of the shirt. I love the specific colours they chose. The yellow shines across the whole kit, with a light pattern to the bottom half. The royal blue is bright and bold enough to stand out across the top. This one is a little simple, but the design was unique enough to stick in my head after all of these years. I’m sure that’s not just because I played an awful lot of FIFA 13...
THE WORST - 2016/17
Was there ever any doubt? From the hideous colour to the way the shirt looks as though it’s being faxed to you as you look from top to bottom, this shirt stinks. You don’t even need me to discuss this as much: your eyes are already calling out for bleach.
For years, my family would make fun of me as I wore Reading kit after Reading kit with the logo of an upper-class supermarket emblazoned upon the chest. So, when we moved on, I was happy. How wrong I was. The Carabao logo ruins nearly every Reading shirt it appears on, stealing attention away from any accent color we ever went for.
This shirt would’ve been bad with no sponsor. It’s a neon nightmare from which it took us a year to wake. At least Yann scored a bunch of goals in it.
THE BEST- 2019/20
I love everything about this kit. It might be my favourite Reading kit ever (though it’s in a close battle with the home kit from our glorious 09/10 FA Cup run). I love our crest. It’s simple, but it’s elegant and contains nice nods toward the history of the club and the area. Having it broken up across the hoops then was really a great surprise.
Looking back over these kits, much of what I found is that Championship away-kit design can often be accused of a lack of creativity. Not so here though. The black and gray design reminds me of the 07/08 Premier League kit, and stops the broken-up crest design from being over the top. The red accents pull the kit into the future, and I love how it works on the two-tone crest. I own one of these, and it’s a certified double-take machine, with friends looking once at the mix of colours, and then focusing again on the details of the crest in the hoops.
It’s a winner, and it’s why it’s my favourite away kit of the 21st century so far!