In my lifetime, Italia 90, and USA 94 remain the greatest World Cups that I have witnessed. I also recall spending much of my youth watching Mexico 70 and 86 on old battered VHS and being in absolute awe of the spectacle.
For me, these tournaments are the purest representation of what football should be all about. The colour, the kits, the stadiums, the merchandise the fans, the iconic players, the celebrations and the romanticism. I could get drunk on the nostalgia of it all.
I’ve previously written about my love of USA 94. I remember that World Cup like it was yesterday. Germany vs Bolivia was the first match and the opening ceremony was spectacular. I watched it wide-eyed and amazed. Things just seemed bigger and better in America. Opening ceremony? Let’s just go mad. The game itself didn’t live up to the spectacle, but my oh my did the tournament get better and better.
There was something utterly intoxicating about USA 94. I had a poster of the Brazilian team on one wall of my bedroom and the Italian team on the other. Throughout the tournament, I would fall in love with so many players, Hagi, Stoichkov, Oleg Salenko, and Thomas Brolin. Then there were teams like Bulgaria, Romania and Sweden which were filled to the brim with a golden generation of talent.
There were also so many moments I can still see now: Saeed Al-Owairan running 80 miles to score one of the goals of the tournament, Leonardo’s forearm smash on Tab Ramos, (great name) Bebeto’s celebrating the birth of his child, Maradona screaming like a maniac directly at the camera and into the homes of millions, and Roger Milla once more defying biology to become the oldest player in history to score at a World Cup (Milla is now 71 years of age! Insanity.)
One man also captivated by all that USA 94 had to offer, was Margate’s very own self-confessed dreamer, creator and purveyor of knock-off bootleg football fashion, Josh Steeples. ‘To this day USA 94 is still a World Cup I have a real soft spot for.’ He tells us. The wild memorabilia that came with it had never been seen on a scale of soccer collectables before.’
Josh, is the founder and owner of the wonderful, A Store Like 94, a celebration of his love for football, toys and memorabilia and a homage to cultural icons and phenomenons, the past and the present. It also happens to be the home of the football rug. (we’ll get onto that a bit later, but needless to say, they are bloody fantastic…get one bought)
A Store like 94 proudly flies the flag for bootleg football clothing and memorabilia, and in many ways is a symbol of resistance against the business of football. The disconnect between fans and clubs has arguably never been wider, but A Store Like 94 serves as a testament to the enduring power of football fandom.
It is football made with passion, and it unites millions of fans worldwide, creating a sense of camaraderie and shared passion, beyond the corporate world of overpriced official merchandise produced by clubs and governing bodies, offering a rebellious alternative, challenging the mainstream by embodying a sense of individuality and non-conformity.
Bootleg football clothing and memorabilia tap into the nostalgic sentiment shared by so many football fans. Vintage-inspired designs, iconic player tributes, and nods to historic matches, kits, and players from the past evoke memories of cherished moments in the sport’s history. The retro aesthetics produced by A Store Like 94 allow fans to pay homage to the past while adding a contemporary twist, creating a timeless allure.
Bootleg memorabilia thrives on the imaginative minds of their creators. They blur the lines between fashion, art, and fandom, resulting in unique pieces that showcase remarkable creativity. From bold graphic designs to unexpected collaborations between teams or cultural icons, these items push the boundaries of what football merchandise can be.
To find out about the man himself Josh Steeples, and A Store Like 94, The Atlantic Dispatch sat down to discuss everything from retro football to rugs.
VINTAGE FOOTBALL SHIRTS AND MEMORABILIA
So, I kind of fell into selling vintage football shirts by accident in 2014 after unearthing a shop full of 90s dead stock in Leicester, where I was living at the time. We are talking about finding 100 plus Arsenal bruised bananas kits, Liverpool Candy shirts and the legendary USA 94 away to name but a few, and also a ton of soccer caps, tracksuits and training gear. All brand new in the bag, with tags and for the grand price of 10 pounds or under per item.
This kickstarted my journey into the world of buying and selling authentic vintage football shirts and memorabilia. (Not documenting this is also up there with my biggest regrets)
Although this was fun for a few years and I did fairly well, I noticed how saturated the vintage shirt market was becoming and also how hard it was to find reliable and affordable contacts. Combining that with the rising prices and import taxes made for quite a stressful dealing. So this was my crossroad period when the first A Store Like 94 dreams started to form.
IT WAS THE FIRST TOURNAMENT I CAN REMEMBER
Everything really changed when I started focusing my attention on one of my other passions apart from football, 90s toys. I noticed within that scene there was an ever-evolving bootleg toy trend that was snowballing in popularity, especially with the rise of Instagram and this made me think maybe I could possibly incorporate the same things into the online footballing world.
It was a no-brainer and suddenly it gave me much more of an outlet to be an artist, not just a seller and, combine a couple of my favourite things in life whilst having fun and, giving football stuff more of a homemade look like some of the original bootleg fan shirts from the early 90s themselves. The name just came naturally as it was the first tournament I actually remember and to this day is a World Cup I have a real soft spot for, as the wild memorabilia that came with it had never been seen on a scale of soccer collectables before.
LIVING MY LOVE OF FOOTBALL
Vintage toys and the imagery that went with them definitely inspired me a lot at the beginning, but In recent years it’s been more focused on cult films, hand-painted West African film art and delving back into official and unofficial football memorabilia itself. But really I have one main rule when it comes to influence and that’s to either bring back items that have existed and are sadly not around any more or to try and create something that should exist and hasn’t in a football form before.
I live for international tournaments now. Men and Women. I love the hype, the excitement and also the fact that the players are playing for pride and not for money. Every time they come round they really are a time I can’t wait to share with my mates.
Non-league football has also been a big part of my life for the last couple of years as I love how affordable everything is compared to a day out at a big club. I don’t really want to waste your time and bang on about the modern game too much as the problems are pretty obvious and, I could go on for hours. But I’m happy to have my business to live my love of football through and I guess I am fairly lucky the team I follow Crystal Palace is one of the last few in the Premiership that still has some roots in the community….just
THAT WAS MY DAD’S TEAM AND MY family’s so for me the rules are you follow suit
Crystal Palace Football Club has always been my number one. I’ve been through the hard times of Championship football, relegation battles and near administration and, I really think this has grounded me as a fan of football itself.
Being dragged to watch Palace v Swindon Town on a rainy day in South London by my dad wasn’t always the dreamiest, but I had no option, that was his team and all my family’s, so for me, it’s the rules that you follow suit…But I could dream. So after school, I spent endless hours on Ultimate Soccer Manager and Championship Manager playing and learning about Serie A which during the mid to late 90s was at its peak and, this is when I really got hooked on some of the now most legendary players the world has ever seen. Zidane, R9 Ronaldo, Davids, Batistuta, Vieri, Thuram, Roberto Carlos, Del Piero, Maldini, Totti, Nesta, Nakata, Adriano, Rui Costa, the list could go on.
When you’re in that world for so many hours, you never forget the clothing they wore and the shirt designs that still to this day stand the test of time and have not been beaten for me on a design level.
WHO DOESN’T LOVE A RUG??
I mean who doesn’t love a rug? They really tie the room together after all. I have a real passion for football scarfs and I have always loved the pixelated woven effect that they all mostly share. So at first, I started with having a go at creating some of them but they were very expensive to produce and there wasn’t enough space to get much into the design.
Then one day I spotted some basic rugs/bath matts in 1992/94 Man United and Arsenal Christmas club catalogues whilst having a flick through and, this was the lightbulb moment when I realised that I could still get that dreamy pixelated form but with much more canvas to work with. It was from there that the OG Zidane Juventus rug was born. I’ve created fifteen or so rugs since then, some through collaborations, a couple of commissions, and otherwise, a real drive to idolise some of the finest to have ever played the beautiful game.
when I come out of the other side I think I will be an even stronger person
After a good start to the year and a couple of nice projects with good friends @Danxdraws and @oof_gallery I was hit by the hardest news I’ve ever had to face; I had lost my father. A huge inspiration behind my football addiction and general life.
So for the time being it’s mainly self-care and taking some time away from bootlegging. But I will be back, with some exciting new collaborations and one of the biggest projects I’ve ever set myself. Curating a touring exhibition towards the end of the year with 30 of my favourite football creatives to celebrate one of the true greats of the game. But I will keep you guessing for the time being who that is.
I live my little weird business and I love that about it, but at the moment reflection comes first and I’m sure when I come out of the other side I think I will be an even stronger person and, I’m sure this will come across with any future projects…so watch this space.
Thank you to the gentleman that is Josh Steeples
@astorelike94 / www.astorelike94.co.uk