In the 1970s, when statically charged polyester was the height of footie fashion, semi-pro midfielder Alan Finch hankered after the comfortable cotton shirts of decades gone by. In 1990, with his wife Michele, he set up TOFFS - The Old Fashioned Football Shirt Company. From an initial order for 150 shirts from Alan's beloved Arsenal, TOFFS now scores an annual turnover of pounds 1.5 million.
Dealing directly with club shops, TOFFS's timeless products stand apart from disposable football merchandise. 'We refused to go down the high street route,' says Finch. 'Our shirts are not fashion items to be discounted one minute and discarded the next.'
And when www.toffs.com kicked off in 1995, the game of two halves began. A single web page where customers ordered catalogues is now an award-winning site accounting for 70% of mail- order sales, which have increased 700% over the past two years.
Whether you support Man United or Moscow Dynamo, you can select from 650 high-quality nostalgic cotton shirts - designs date from between 1885 and 1984 - before ordering online. A photographic archive features the original shirts in action.
The site attracts 45,000 visitors a month from as far as Iceland, Mexico and Africa. Says Finch: 'The advantages have been tremendous on a global scale.' There are plans to translate the site and register with web domains worldwide, except in Germany - 'Someone's already registered the name TOFFS there.' When it comes to football, the Germans always beat us to it.