Leaving aside the early nineties ‘tyre mark’ strip, this late 90s shirt could be described as the most divisive in the club’s history. Yes it’s the Puma-produced 1996-98 Wolves Home Shirt.
Wolves had just completed short couple of years with Nutmeg – an American apparel producer normally seen the other side of the pond on shirts for some of our mad sports our US cousins like to waste their time with. There was some anticipation when Wolves announced that we would be looking to Puma for the following season. Puma had a reputation for excellent quality kit and had deals with many premiership and nationwide clubs. What they gave us was radically different. The long- held sponsorship tie up with good year tyres continued but this time it adorned a shirt that was as black as it was gold, had a plunging neckline, oversize fit and when viewed as a whole represented the wolf head that had been brought back for the season. People were shocked at the time. It was unlike anything Wolves or indeed any other team had been seen in. It didn’t fit many body types (I remember a well endowed lady in the South Bank being accused of indecent exposure) and while many didn’t like the shield that contained the new style wolf head which was brash, different and bizarrely the brainchild of the bloke who designed the George line of clothes for ASDA. No I’m not making this up.
It sold well although many were annoyed you couldn’t get the long sleeved version some of the players wore. And it was… fantastic. There I’ve said it. Yes it looked ridiculous on the prodigy Robbie Keane and it was bittersweet seeing the team struggle with the likes of Steve Claridge wearing it while we lost the only cup semi final we’d get for a quarter of a century… but I was never personally put off this one or the teal away version (more on that one another time). Not joking either – I wore this for about 20 years 5 a side footy matches and it was absolutely indestructible. I’ve got shirts from the last few seasons that look tired (I do a lot of sport) and this UK- produced shirt genuinely looks new, never mind 25 years old). Also handy as it is reversible – most people don’t know but you can turn it inside out and it’s white on the other side – great for colour clashes. In fact the only reason I stopped wearing it is because its become very collectable and not just by Wolves fans either. You’re looking easily north of £50 for a decent replica version and £150+ for my player- issued version. There’s a retro version the club do but of course that doesn’t have either the Puma or Good Year branding. If you can find one in decent nick, grab it but get the next size down – these were baggy. Ideally, get the player issue one as I did. The long sleeves and embroidered badges are sublime. Mine always gets noticed at the match. From memory anyway, I’m writing this in the midst of Covid lockdown so it’s been a long time…
Seasons: 1996-97, 1997-98
Finished: Football League First Division 3rd; (lost in play-offs)/Football League First Division: 9th
Honours: FA Cup Semi Final
Style: 9/10 (or 1/10 for some)