They’ve become a mainstay in the final major projects of art and design students. They’re replacing T-shirts and badges as the favoured merch format for musicians and producers. And they handily keep your chin toasty while you spend two hours in the cold screaming at 11 people who definitely can’t hear you.
Yes, it’s the humble football scarf, which is being celebrated in a new exhibition at Oof Gallery, based a stone’s throw from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It features over 100 designs by a cross-section of artists including David Shrigley, Guerrilla Girls, Gray Wielebinski and Bedwyr Williams, which line the space in the style of the “little football bars you stumble across on holiday”. A bar counter and stools have even been installed in the space for good measure.
The gallery promises “searing cultural critique” and “tons of humour”, and it’s clear to see how the design tropes of scarves give way to both. The half-and-half match day scarves – considered sacrilege by puritanical supporters – are used to illustrate history’s greatest rivalries, like Diehard’s John McLane and Hans Gruber, or, you know, Marx and Engels.
Other scarves meddle playfully with logos and branding, like one featuring Paul Smith’s famous handwritten wordmark, except Scholes has been subbed in for the design legend. Or there are the scarves showcasing simple yet effective lines. Some encapsulate football fandom as much as life itself (‘There’s always next week’), while plenty subvert the design vernacular to call out the toxic parts of the game.
The exhibition is coinciding with Mark Titchner’s solo show at the same gallery, called It’s The Hope That Keeps Us Here. Inspired by managers, coaches and fans, Titchner adopts the emotional, often peculiar language of football and gives it a universal context. The exhibitions have both launched ahead of this year’s (contentious) FIFA World Cup.
The Art of the Football Scarf runs at Oof Gallery, London, until February 26; oofgallery.com