AFC Wimbledon’s recent football history has been a whirlwind of emotions, yet the story of one Wimbledon fan turned club kit designer is a comforting reminder that passionate supporters make football clubs what they are.
Marc Jones, a Dons fan since childhood, was one of AFC Wimbledon’s four founding fathers, who took matters into their own hands in 2002 after Wimbledon FC’s move to Milton Keynes gathered momentum.
He recalled saying to the other three founders at the time: “Now we have to start another football club called Wimbledon, don’t we?”
It was this attitude and love for the club which led Jones, a self-taught graphic designer, to take on creative duties once AFC Wimbledon was officially formed at amateur level.
He said: “When we started AFC Wimbledon there wasn’t really anybody else around to do the kit design and we could have just gone and bought one, but I ended up falling into it.
“I did the kit, the crest, the website and the programme, it was seat-of-the-pants stuff.
“If you told me as a kid, sitting in the sports shop and admiring the Wimbledon kit, that I’d be designing the kits 40 years later, there’s no way I would have believed you.”
Jones traced his affinity towards stunning football kits back to Hales Sports, a local outlet store where he first laid eyes on an all-white 1977/78 Adidas Wimbledon top aged eight.
Since then, he’s been a self-proclaimed ‘football kit nerd’ and went on to design AFC Wimbledon’s first ever home kits from 2002 to 2006, along with several others from 2012 to 2018.
Whilst not a kit designer by day, it’s Jones’ passion for Wimbledon’s club history and his attention to detail that have made his designs appeal to both club and fan base.
He said: “I copied the 1975 kit design for the 2002 kit, it was blue with yellow underneath the sleeves.
“I intentionally made the kit look like the one that non-league Wimbledon famously wore against Leeds to say to people, ‘don’t worry, we’ve been a non-league club before and last time we were in this position, we were a great, famous side’.
“That was the Wimbledon that the world started to understand and know about. If you’re just a kit manufacturer you don’t stop to think about the history and those details.
“You’re representing your area bearing your colours and that’s what I think you have to reflect in a football kit.”
With AFC Wimbledon’s plans to move into the new Plough Lane during the 2020/21 campaign, the club needed a special kit to commemorate what was to be a landmark season in their history.
Unsurprisingly, Jones was the person that the club turned to when they needed someone to make this season’s jersey as nostalgic and memorable as possible.
He said: “It felt like a calling. I redesigned the crest and the kit to reflect three definitive kits that we wore at the old Plough Lane in the ‘80s.
“If you look at the shirts from 1981/82, 1985/86, 1986/87 and compare them to this year’s, you’ll think there’s the shoulder from when we won the fourth division, there’s the stripes from when we won the second division and there’s the collar from when we went into the first division.
“None of it was accidental. I’ve taken a little bit of everything, bundled it up and put it out there on the new Plough Lane pitch.
“So what you have is a modern looking kit but at the same time it’s the sort of kit we were wearing when I was around the same age as my youngest lad who’s 15.”
This season’s jersey was sprinkled with other detailed touches that true fans will appreciate, notably the nine stripes symbolising the nine years it took for the club to get back into the football league.
For a man so synonymous with AFC Wimbledon’s rise from the ashes, though, Jones was quick to play down any personal accomplishment he feels, believing he merely fell into his responsibilities by being a fan first.
Still, a fanatic of football kitwear past and present, from Arsenal’s ‘bruised banana’ to Palermo’s pink strip, Jones can’t help his excitement every time he sees players coming out of the tunnel sporting his creation.
He added: “None of my usual design work ever comes close to giving me that feeling.
“Hearing my hero and current manager Glyn Hodges say ‘that reminds me of the kit I used to play in’, that’s it for me, I did my bit whatever else happens next.
“I love that my kids get to say, ‘my dad did that’ and how it ties into their relationship with the club they love and support.
“That’s something they tried to take away from our kids at one point.”
Featured image credit: Milo Van Giap