Many of us will have a few football shirts in a cupboard and call ourselves a collector, but at what stage does it become serious? 100 shirts? 200? 1000? To get an idea of what the shirt collecting world is like, we spoke to local collector Paul Jolleys, who has amassed an impressive collection in his 20 years as a collector. A Manchester United fan, Paul's collection has always been split between his favourite team and the company that was creating their football shirts when he first starting collecting - Umbro.
'Every collector has a particular area of interest, and mine has always been United shirts and Umbro shirts,' Paul explains. 'Umbro have just always seemed to be the most consistent brand in football in terms of the ideas behind their shirts and how they spread out to all the teams they make shirts for, and it was a natural thing for me to explore as a United fan at the time. Also, it was a time when I'd left school and for the first time in my life I had a little bit of money in my pocket. From there, I went into England shirts, and then I discovered all the South American shirts that Umbro produces....'
Like many collectors, Paul soon discovered that it's pretty easy to fall into a seemingly bottomless pit when it comes to collecting, something that hasn't been helped by the online community. 'I started off getting them from specialist shops here in Manchester,' he explains, 'but with the growth of online sites and the ability to import shirts into the UK, it became so easy to spend £100 on a shirt. Maybe a little bit too easy! Now there's tons of websites and Facebook groups dedicated to particular clubs or eras, plus great places like Classic Football Shirts, but it's dangerous that they're so close to where I live!'
Indeed, Paul is reluctant to guess how much he's spent on football shirts in total over the years, with a collection that numbers in its hundreds and many rare 'player-worn' kits included. The amounts that are spent on some shirts would make many normal football fan's eyes water. 'I've heard of rare player-worn shirts going for £1000s,' Paul suggests. 'The most I ever heard a shirt going for was nearly £10,000 at an auction. It was an extremely rare Manchester United shirt, a long-sleeve version of the blue and white away striped shirt we wore in the mid-1990s - sadly it wasn't me that sold it though!'
Like any collector, ask Paul about his favourites and its difficult for him to pick out one in particular. He was kind enough to allow us to photograph some of the more unusual ones that we spotted in his collection, which you can see in this great Facebook gallery. The passion and interest he and any collector has in their chosen area is clear though. Mention certain elements of his collection and he can talk in depth about materials, fashions of the time and the games that these kits were worn in. But has he always had the urge to collect? 'Definitely!' Paul confirms. 'When I was a kid it was Subbuteo, I collected that for a while, and I know guys now that have bought back everything they had as a kid and then some. The only reason my shirt collection has been trimmed down a bit is because I ran out of space - the spare room is now my sons rather than my kit room. It's definitely hard to get rid of them though.'
The most difficult question for someone with such a specific specialist area though, is how do you feel about having the shirts of your main rivals in your collection? 'I did have a couple of City shirts for a while, but I couldn't keep them!' Paul laughs. 'It hurts to admit that I really like the current City shirts that Umbro have been making, but I think I'll leave them for other people to collect!'
It just goes to show, for even the most committed collector there's always a limit.
Thanks to Paul for showing us his terrific collection of Umbro shirts and speaking to us - take a look at some of the favourites we picked out here.