The fanfare and whirl of publicity which surrounded the unveiling of the crest for the newly created New York City FC was in itself nothing unusual in the modern game, but the design itself, a monogram of interlocking white letters based on a typeface originally inspired by the city’s signage, harked back to an earlier age.
A decorative device beloved of royalty, the nobility and the generally wealthy for several centuries it was at the turn of the 19th century that the monogram and football began their association. In the same period of time as Louis Vuitton’s son Georges was creating the famous LV monogram, which would become one of the fashion world’s most recognisable logos after its adoption by the firm in 1896 (and even later would become synonymous with the WAG), the game of football was experiencing an explosion in popularity.
As new clubs were being born across the world it was to the monogram that many club founders turned to for their inspiration when seeking to create a crest to act as a focal point for the identity of fledgling clubs. Among such clubs were Olympique Marseille founded 1899, Real Madrid, founded in 1902 and Inter Milan who were founded in 1908.
In Scotland Glasgow Rangers’ monogramed crest is believed to have been in use as far back as 1872, while in England monograms were variously adopted for use at various times by clubs including Blackpool in 1908, Everton in 1920 and Arsenal in 1927.
It was a later Arsenal crest which would prove to be arguably one of the most well known monograms in the English game, familiar to anyone who ever visited the iconic Highbury stadium where the ‘A-football-C’ monogram adorned the East stand, constructed in 1936. The art-deco design, versions of which also featured on the clubs shirts in the 1936, 1950 and 1952 FA cup finals, served to demonstrate the versatility of the monogram in its ability to use lettering to capture a stylistic zeitgeist. Its popularity enduring to the extent that it is available on a range of products from the club shop as diverse as mouse mats, scarves and coasters.
Despite this potential for enduring appeal however, it appears the monogram had fallen out of favour in recent years. Chesterfield’s longstanding monogram has been relegated from its central position to play a minor-supporting role alongside a crooked spire. Tottenham’s THFC monogram, previously located within a circle under the cock’s foot, has been replaced by a retro football. QPRs elegant entwined letters were also consigned to history in 2008 in favour of a garishly overblown heraldic shield.
It is this latter type which clubs have increasingly favoured when re-designing their old crests. Often the shields are divided up into components referencing different strands of the clubs identity. Sunderland’s crest, introduced in 1997, for example, packs in stripes representing the team colours, a pair of local landmarks, supporting lions from the city’s coat of arms and a colliery wheel representing the areas industrial heritage.
In the United States though the tradition of the monogram has been more firmly embedded in the heritage of baseball and American football, embroidered on the jackets of college jocks and on baseball caps perched on heads around the world. Perhaps the most famous of all is the interlocking NY of the New York Yankees – joint owners of New York City FC – as synonymous with the city itself as with the club it represents. For now all this this is something NYC FC, taking its first steps, can only aspire to, but by embracing the heritage of the monogram they have given themselves the best chance.