Style and substance
With the World Cup on its way, PhilosophyFootball.com have produced a typically original take on the tournament, perfect for football fans looking to throw some revolutionary zeal into their support. Beautifully designed as always, their 32-nations T-shirt presents all the competitors as stamps of national flags but with the customary silhouette of the head of state replaced with the instantly recognisable Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. They have also reproduced the England stamp at full size and it, too, makes for a striking shirt. Traditionalists may prefer a replica strip and need look no further than what is proving to be the most popular shirt from Scoredraw.com. They produce a range from across the decades at a very reasonable price and the one flying off the shelves this winter is the England 1990 World Cup Finals third shirt, recalling one of England’s truly great tournaments. For cricket fans, a tough Ashes series might be making the festive season difficult to bear. They may take comfort in sporting Douglas Jardine’s 1928 quote: “All Australians are an uneducated and unruly mob” from Bodylinetshirts.com. They have a great selection and if the suffering is all too much, fall back on the sublime Duckworth-Lewis formation T-shirt.
For understated retro fashion around Formula One, Hotfuel.co.uk have some standouts. Their original take on helmet designs from the top down is innovative and eye-catching. Ayrton Senna’s yellow provides a striking background and Damon Hill’s blue is equally impressive. Celebrating Britain’s most successful driver is also achieved in style with the red, white and black Lewis Hamilton 44 design – his car number proving appropriate in the year of his fourth F1 title. On two wheels, all things cycling are celebrated at Velolove.cc and their designs bring a stylish twist to the sport’s great events. Their bright blue take on the Milan-San Remo will delight fans, as will a similarly striking look for the Paris-Roubaix.
Clobber and kit
Staying warm while enjoying days out at festive matches is always welcome and gifts fans can continue to enjoy through a cold winter on the terraces will be highly appreciated. At the top end, the superb traveller jacket from Blazewear.com is a stylish creation that boasts rechargeable batteries that heat the coat, with three different settings of warmth. It’s nicely cut, lightweight and breathable. It is also flexible and comfortable, with the heating elements entirely unnoticeable, and genuinely ensures the wearer remains toasty throughout. The small battery that tucks into an internal pocket can even charge a mobile phone if the central heating is not required. Anyone who has stood in a biting wind longing for a match to end will revel in this luxury. For truly dreadful conditions, however, take no chances and pair it with the traveller heated gloves from the same company. Big but comfortable, these gauntlets are also battery charged to ensure the sensitive extremities are kept at a reasonable temperature while clutching a pint in the sub zero – and to top it off they are touch-screen sensitive.
If that all seems a bit too much, a simpler option is to start with a decent base layer. Variations on this theme abound but for men the Tog24.com merino Recreate long sleeve with zip neck is ideal. Pair it with the company’s Ergo TCZ diamond trousers, both of which are almost half-price at the moment. For women, the range at HellyHansen.com offers warmth and style. The light and breathable Lifa crew top is a standout and can go with their double-layered Lifa merino leggings. There’s also an intriguing take on the theme from Boody.co.uk, who have opted to make their base layers from bamboo, an eco-friendly and sustainable source material that offers the same moisture-wicking properties and temperature regulation but without any chemical treatment. Their range is light, exceptionally soft and ideal for anyone who has sensitive skin. They also offer a long-sleeve top for women, a T-shirt for men; socks and boxers, all made from the unlikely but adaptable source material and at very competitive prices.
Finish the job with the thermonet wrap from Buffwear.co.uk. A soft but flexible neck wrap that can be used as a neckerchief, beanie, headband, scarf or even bandana, it is light, warm and ideal for a variety of outdoor activities. Which will require some sturdy footwear. Strong, waterproof but very lightweight (just 968g a pair), the Merrell Chameleon 7 Mid Gore-Tex boots from gooutdoors.co.uk are a perfect choice. With an above ankle height these are as comfortable on serious hikes as making it to the match and unlike many similar are not cumbersome but maintain sufficient rigidity to offer real protection across tough ground. Even more lightweight and designed for rocky terrain, the Arc’teryx Acrux SL approach shoe is both specialised and stylish from arcteryx.com. Weighing in at 600g, the shoes have been made to enhance any rock-based hike, are beautifully constructed, look great and perform superbly on the slabs. If all that sounds too much and sticking to a traditional Christmas gift is required then keep it simple and go for the neat novelty of football ball socks from findmeagift.co.uk.
Fun and games
Hit two favourite targets at once in the shape of the Star Wars range of footballs from Mitre.com. They have Kylo Ren and Stormtrooper-themed balls and for young apprentices the really fun range of smaller Scriballs that come complete with pens to colour in the characters depicted on the surface. Complete the match in a galaxy far, far away with the marvellous, portable 2-in-1 goal that flips between a Star Wars-themed target and a standard, small garden goal with ease. Football fans of a certain age will enjoy nostalgia on many levels with winning moves.co.uk’s retro Top Trumps, featuring strikers from 1992. Their children, however, may prefer the glorious, evocative stylings of a classic sports pushcar from hippychick.com. Fun for the family comes in the highly-rated, inventive and engrossing challenge of bluff and double cross of The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game at Debenhams.com. If some old school indulgence is required look no further than the Strikeworth Free Kick football table from libertygames.co.uk, which comes with a handsome wood veneer trim and has folding legs to save space. At the end of the day, ensure new presents don’t go amiss with the football-themed storage bag from cuckooland.com.
Fitness and form
Looking to start the new year with a fresh start cannot be encouraged more than with the TomTom Spark 3 GPS Fitness watch from Tomtom.com. As wrist-based heart monitors go, it is very reasonably priced and an impressive piece of kit. Extensive use proves its GPS to be remarkably accurate and the built-in heart sensor is hugely reliable with almost no drop out or erratic readings that many similar devices suffer from. The interface is simple and intuitive and it pairs with an extensive app that has been recently updated to add further incentive by calculating the user’s age as reflected by their fitness with an algorithm based on medical research across thousands of samples. Watching the years come down is genuinely motivational. It also pairs with Bluetooth headphones and can store up to 3GB of music, making for the perfect package for anyone looking to stick to a new regime in 2018.
Taking the phone on any workout can be achieved simply and cheaply with the Floveme Universal Armband from Amazon, and for lightweight visibility on roads, the Active zip up from Bellum.co.uk is a beautifully cut women’s running top. Take no chances with the icy surfaces by using the clever Nordic Mini Grip Ice Grippers from TheFowndry.com, with metal studs that slip over the shoe for extra traction.
Once the weather improves, the Titan X632 sunglasses range from bloceyewear.com is fashionable, tough and perfect for sport – including as it does a clever system to switch between the four different coloured lenses that are supplied to match any conditions or event.
Finally, an ingenious solution for dealing with dripping wet wetsuits comes from the thedrybag.co.uk with their dry bag – a robust carryall that airs the equipment, helping it to dry while keeping soggy kit from leaking all over the place. It is simple and clever.
Gadgets and tech
Don’t miss a moment of live sporting action next year with the beautifully designed, Blighty portable DAB radio from myvq.co.uk. It’s well-priced, with a 10-hour battery life, slim and neatly curved to fit in a pocket. For listening at home, a marvellous piece of upcycling comes in the form of Hearospeaker.com’s HearO Bluetooth tennis ball speaker. It is a lovely piece of design, made from balls used at Wimbledon, and is eye-catching and functional, a great idea, executed superbly.
Accommodate listening on the go with the sporty Aftershokz Trek Air Bluetooth headphones from aftershokz.co.uk. The sound quality is excellent and they are exceptionally light, boasting a flexible fit that ensures they stay in place even during vigorous activity.
Then, for cyclists, the Smarthalo is an ingenious solution to the problem of following a route from a phone while riding. The device from smarthalo.bike attaches to handlebars and communicates with an app, while the phone is tucked away – then proffers directions via clear lights and sounds on its circular interface. An infinitely superior solution to taking the eyes off the road to squint at a tiny map.
Unique and unusual
Pleasingly comfy and quite striking, London Transport’s wonderful, artistic take on cricket with the England–West Indies cushion from welovecushions.co.uk is a real eye-catcher. In a similar vein, the Lord’s turf paperweight in the shape of a ball or the cricket explained beach towel, both from Lords.org/shop are fine items that fans of the game will enjoy.
Finally, for a really personal touch Farrar-tanner.co.uk offer beautiful, handcrafted, leather vintage footballs and rugby balls that can be engraved with a name or message, making for a genuinely singular and memorable piece of sporting kit.