STYLE AND SUBSTANCE
For the football fan who wants to stand out this Christmas, look no further than CopaFootball.com. The company, based in the Netherlands, does a beautiful collection of unusual and distinctive retro shirts – here then is that Dukla Prague away kit next to the marvellous long-sleeve Bastia design from their 1977-78 Uefa Cup run. It does a range of baby-friendly sizes in the My First Football shirt collection but also features something really eye-catching: Copa is the kit supplier for the unofficial Tibet national side whose shirts are a much more striking proposition than another Barça top. As is the silhouette range from the Theboydonegood.com. Classic moments – such as the Cruyff turn – rendered as sequential illustrations.
Rugby fans can show their support for the Lions in New Zealand next year with the official replica tour jersey from store.lionsrugby.com and it’s nice enough but comes plastered with corporate logos. Far more stylish is the Winger polo shirt, in a dark navy blue, with white and red trim and only the Lions badge – it’s a real looker and is less than half the price of the jersey. Equally good value is the supporter beanie, a glorious Lions red and just £10.
England head to Australia to defend the Ashes in November and punkcricket.com has some nice alternatives to replica shirts. Established in 2004 by fans, it makes a wide range of wit and wisdom but its take on the Ramones logo celebrating previous episodes of Aussie bashing – with the names of the team in that classic Blitzkrieg Bop typography – is a real gem. There are county variations of the same as well.
Petrol heads underwhelmed by modern Formula One fashion will delight in the range of recreated classics at retrogp.com. Its T-shirts are handmade and printed beautifully to celebrate a remarkable range of lost gems, from Wolf to Ligier via March and Matra. The Leyland-Williams design commemorating their 1980 championship with Alan Jones is a piece of real beauty. It also does a fine line in classic prints, including a glorious one from Monaco 1965. It owns the Hesketh brand, forever associated with James Hunt and its teddy bear logo adorns many items – and is a striking blast from the past. Appropriately for Hesketh, it does a beer named after the team too, celebrating Hunt’s win at Zaandvoort in 1975 and brewed by the Silverstone Ale Company.
On two wheels, Chapeau!, a company based just outside Exeter, makes stylish and original high-performance cycling gear and boasts a fine range of jerseys, jackets and hats at chapeau.cc. It also makes a neat set of original T-shirts, including one with the traditional rider acknowledgement across the front and a rather good take on geometric interpretations of wheels. It also makes the merchandise for the British cycling legend, Vin Denson, who has provided memoirs and photographs to illustrate moments from his career, recreated as illustrations on unique shirts.
Underpin them all with the 100% merino wool base layers by Bergans of Norway from castlebergoutdoors.co.uk. Light and breathable, they make endless layering in thicker jumpers unnecessary. All of which sartorial elegance deserves a suitable bag – and whether simply for going to the gym, taking kit to the match or travelling abroad to away games, the new Giovane from maxwellscottbags.com is perfect. This British-designed and Italian-made leather and canvas holdall is absolutely beautiful, built with exceptional quality and makes an exquisite addition to any wardrobe.
GADGETS AND GEAR
Any members of the family who are cycling a lot will enjoy the comfort and padding provided by the dnb Aeron Short Finger Glove from wiggle.co.uk as well as the chance to make their intentions clear with the innovative system from Cyndicate.bike. A simple idea done very well – this handlebar-mounted device transmits a signal indicating which way you intend to turn to the large, bright LED indicators on a backpack or vests worn by the rider. Keep the pedal power safe with the gold-standard security of a bike lock from the British company litelok.com – a rock solid a piece of kit that is lighter than most equivalents and, crucially, more flexible, allowing it to be employed in a variety of locations.
Back home take a new approach to cycle storage with the clever wall hanging systems from cycloc.com. These mountings combine smart design with functionality – the Solo holds the bike up – horizontally or vertically – making a statement and decluttering any hallway.
For younger, budding sport fans, begin with the delightfully fun soft toy-cum-rattle sets from schmaze.com before moving on to the World Cup Winner activity centre from Toysrus.co.uk – an interactive goal with all sorts of fun to be had for the under-threes. For slightly older children the LeapBand from leapfrog.com is a wrist monitor that encourages activity by awarding points towards the in-built customisable pet – encouraging active play. Which can only be further helped by the lovely wooden rounders set from dotcomgiftshop.com. Grown-ups looking to improve their game indoors should try the PGA Tour Putting Mat from onlinegolf.co.uk – the water hazards and flags are superfluous but it does a decent job of replicating a putting surface out of the elements.
If waking up is an issue on dark mornings, follow TeamGB’s swimmers, who used the Lumie Zest in Rio this year. Lumie.com makes alarm clocks that wake the body by mimicking a sunrise and are used by sportspeople to improve the quality of awakening and regulating schedules, especially during the winter. They take a little getting used to but genuinely work and the sunset setting and low-blue light feature for getting to sleep on the Luxe 700, is a particularly clever – and relaxing – way to reach the land of nod.
FITNESS AND FORM
Beginning with motivation, key at this time of year is staying warm. The Australian company 2XU.co.uk makes serious base layers and its thermal compression top and G2 Wind defence compression tights are perfect for cold days. Thermally insulated, wind and rain resistant, they are used by an assortment of triathletes and teams and provide the starting point for heading into the cold. Also very impressive at holding heat and slightly less expensive are the ACTIVE compression top and leggings from Proskins.co. England’s rugby league side favour these and the light fabric has a malleability that makes them extremely comfortable and an excellent base-layer, ideal for anyone looking to cover a range of sports. It also does a warm and snug neck tube made from the same material.
When it is particularly brisk, the Softshell from Soarrunning.com is a fine complement. A cosy running top that maintains warmth but wicks excess perspiration away, it is beautifully made and sealed and the cut and design is stylish and practical with a tidy pocket for phones tucked in the back. In proper heavy weather, however, the Minimus 777 from montane.co.uk will be truly valued. Crucially, it weighs in at 140g, barely noticeable on a run, but with three layers of breathable membranes, seams that have a higher than standard stitch-count and a cut that brings it nicely up the neck, the hardest rain is shrugged off with ease. It, too, looks great and they also do a slightly heavier-duty Gore-Tex variation, the Spine jacket, designed for hitting the mountains and fell running.
Good footwear is also essential and three trainers – all designed for neutral runners – stand out. There’s tried and tested performance and quality with nothing to fault in this year’s Nike Pegasus Zoom 33 from JD Sports.co.uk. A design with years of usage, here upgraded to include an extra zoom air unit in the forefoot – making for more lift and stability, it’s ideal for everyday use and runners who vary their distances. In the mid-range is the newly released Triumph ISO 3 from Saucony.co.uk. Again, an upgrade of an already successful shoe, the Triumph series uses an “Everun” cushioning insert in the heel that has been doubled in size from the previous iteration, providing greater heel bounce. It is comfortable, durable and the cushioning makes it perfect for putting in real miles on a regular basis. Finally, at the high-end, the Asics Gel Kinsei 6 from sportsshoes.com is packed full of the technology the company has developed over the past decade – forefoot and rear gel cushioning, a seamless upper and heel cradling to counter energy loss – to craft a shoe that now has many fans. The price tag is weighty but the impressively comfortable and light trainer is not. Coming in at 343g, it will be hugely appreciated by runners who take their task seriously.
Finish the job with a set of deliciously warm Jogger 2.0 running gloves and the moisture-managing Intensity Hat from odlo.com. Cooling down afterwards is taken care of with Mission.com’s EnduraCool Techknit cooling towel – a clever construction where the fibres provoke evaporation to create an intense cooling effect. Swimmers can look for success with the kit of a champion in the form of the XCEED swimming goggles from Michael Phelps – with the high-end including a titanium frame and mirrored lenses at proswimwear.co.uk.All of which needs to be accompanied by tunes, often tricky when on the run. A problem solved with elegance by snugsearphones.co.uk. Its earbuds are custom fitted to each person after taking a digital scan of the ear and once fitted slot into place – the perfect fit, comfortable and in no danger of falling out regardless of weather or sweating. They are a huge improvement over one-size-fits-all earbuds and although the scan means they cannot be a surprise they are a very personal present.
UNIQUE AND UNUSUAL
Starting off with the kids, spoil budding bikers with the glorious Marc Márquez Kiddimoto.co.uk balance bike. This year’s MotoGP champion has endorsed this lovely superbike, beautifully made of wood in Márquez’s colours that is designed for two to five-year-olds to gain confidence, strength and have a lot of fun before they step up to a pedal bicycle. They do a full range, all wonderfully finished, and there’s a nifty selection of brilliantly colourful helmets for little ones too. They might need something to hang those on, as will grown-ups, so don’t let it cause a clutter but rather a statement by hanging them on the Adamo wall-mounted stand (kitchenways.co.uk) – an Italian-designed acrylic head cast that puts crash hats in their place and has hooks on the arm for hanging coats.
Another nice variant of which comes in the form of the Five-A-Side Football Coat Hooks from theletteroom.com – a hanger that uses brightly coloured sliding table football players to take the load. The same company also does a nice line in personalised cushions. With your name and number in the style of the back of a shirt, they are plush and beautifully made. Also able to be personalised is the Ladybird Story of Football – the old-school history of the game adorned by borngifted.co.uk with the child’s name on the front and inside. They may wonder why the footballers look so different but will be thrilled to see their name in print.
Older children and romantic adults can take on a proper task by building a Meccano LaFerrari, available at model shops and very.co.uk. Recreated with steering, suspension and working doors, the quality of Meccano is as good as it always was and the sheer pleasure in putting it together is an experience that will delight and probably surprise youngsters more used to gripping a videogame controller than a spanner – they do a Lamborghini and a Ducatti as well. Sign off on the job with a suitable tool – a Ferrari pen – presented by Sheaffer – ballpoint or fountain, in the marque’s distinctive red, yellow or black and as classy as the cars themselves. Add to it sartorially with some football cufflinks; not a new concept but the ones at creategiftlove.co.uk are very distinct with the football inset in eye-catching walnut rather than metal. Prepare for better weather with the BBQ tools golf bag from findmeagift.co.uk – a nice idea where the spatula is shaped like an iron and all four utensils are sheathed with golf club grips, after which a dessert will be in order in the form of the Chocolate Golf Ball and Iron, a club face and ball that look like the real thing but are hand-made Belgian treats, from the same website.
Finally, a limited edition to adorn the wall – soniceditions.com has a superb collection of Muhammad Ali prints that capture some classic moments in the champ’s life. Numbered, framed and mounted, they begin at the unheavyweight price of £79.