Highland League Club Nairn County showed a shirt’s power to catalyse grief prefacing hope in August 2022. They gave their third team shirt over to TeamHamish, a local charity set up by Sam and Susan Hey as, like the Stansfield Foundation, a legacy for their son who died in 2017 at the heartbreaking age of eight. To add to the family’s despair, by the time they were ready to open a play area known as Hamish’s Splashpad, Susan had lost her battle with cancer. £10 from every sale of an adult shirt and £5 from every kid’s shirt went to TeamHamish and the vibrant, multi-coloured chevrons were a tribute to Susan’s favourite dress. The club went on to raise £3,356.50 for TeamHamish in the 2022-2023 season through shirts, donations and charity matches. I was delighted to get in touch with the kit’s originator Michael Bochel in late 2022 and his passion, determination and innovation allowed the shirt’s story to flourish and resonate. Let’s hand it over to him to tell us more:

‘I’ll tell you now. Up until working with Nairn, I have only been involved in launching kits. It was quite the experience going through it all from design to manufacturing and then launch. As a club, unless there is a change in sponsor, we are committed to keeping our kit for two seasons. The way we see it, we are a non-league club. It doesn’t make any sense to us for our fans to change kits every season. When I joined, we were going through the second season of our kits and it turned out the final year of sponsorship with our main sponsors, due to a takeover at their end. Historically, we have had shirts made by the usual suspects; Nike, Adidas and more recently, Puma. They did a bespoke away kit for us that featured all the names of the players who helped us win our first ever trophy as a club back in 1920. However, with the pandemic as a contributing factor, they were scaling back their operations in the North of Scotland, so we were going to be on the hunt for a new supplier. When I joined the club, I wanted to do more things that brought the club closer to the town. One way was to have a bespoke kit that was heavily inspired by the town. The idea was to have a home shirt that featured Bandstand, which is a landmark in Nairn that anyone from the town would recognise and the away shirt to feature every street name in the IV12 postcode, which covers the Nairn area. We had a third kit the previous season and while not every club at our level had one, I felt there was a lot of potential to do something very special with this kit and make it a charity third design. I’d seen some examples of this with other clubs and, for me, if we were going to do it, there was only one charity I wanted to try it with. TeamHamish. The thinking with the third kit was that if we could help shine a spotlight in any way on the charity and fundraise for their phase two plans, we wanted to do it.

Greenock Morton fan and part-time concept kit designer Gavin Macintosh helped with the designs of all three. For TeamHamsh’s third kit, it is no exaggeration when I say how Gavin absolutely smashed the brief the first time of asking. Using the information I had given him about the charity and pictures of the Splashpad and Nairn, he went and did his own research. He found a picture of Susan in one of her favourite dresses and designed the shirt we have today. Straight off the bat, we knew as soon as we saw it that it was the one. But, of course, we only had the designs. We still needed a kit manufacturer, so I reached out to Hope and Glory. Ric Dennis, who started it, went above and beyond on more than one occasion to make sure we had our kit, including when we hit issues with sponsor logos. However, we still had the third kit to deal with. All we had was an image file rather than an appropriate file type that we needed and there was no guarantee that the vibrancy of the rainbow design would come through. Speaking to a couple of people that had done bespoke kits before, I took a calculated risk and signed off on the designs. The third kit didn’t launch until mid-August due to the timing of getting the kit made and sent over.

In the past, for photoshoots, we had just used players at the ground, but for this one and the special nature of it all, I wanted to do something a bit different. I lined up a mate who had two young kids aged five and seven, a couple of his teenage staff to be part of the photoshoot and after speaking to Sam at TeamHamish and asking Hamish’s sister (who also got involved which brought it completely together) we then added three of our own young local players that all took place at the Splashpad and Nairn beach. When we launched, the response from the local community, football fans and non-football fans was unbelievable. Timings worked out well, coinciding with the Nairn Highland Games where we had a stall and could sell it. I sent out press releases to local and national papers at 10 AM on the day of the launch and the local STV news. We sold out by lunchtime of game day. In all the years of selling kits, the club has never sold out in such a short space of time. We were cautious with how much we originally ordered but, in hindsight, we should have had faith in just how special this kit was. Our second order was huge in comparison with a view to Christmas and a dedicated league match for TeamHamish.

The aim for me was to have three kits that resonated with the town and I’m happy to report that all three have done just that.’

I am one of their proud customers and it certainly turns heads in the gym. It is unapologetically bold, life affirming and unique. Just what any kit design should speak to. There was no letup in 2023 for the club’s support of Team Hamish, either. As of March 2023, Nairn County FC has raised over £3,350. The club committed to continuing its fundraising efforts in the future and held a fundraising match against Elgin City FC on April 2, 2023, with all proceeds from the match going to Team Hamish. The power of a shirt to ease the hurt.

(By Matt Riley – @caboodle68 on X/Twitter)