Created by a teenage football fan, Surprise Shirts are a global hit – now you can win your own!
Set up during the pandemic, Surprise Shirts dispatch mystery football tops to curious fans happy to part with £35.99 to receive a secret gift on their doorstep. Sourced worldwide and now delivering to 56 countries, Surprise Shirts have put the fun back into football fashion, garnering 50,000 followers in a short space of time and hooking up with international charity Tackle Africa.
We meet the man behind the boom and tell you how you can win your own Surprise Shirt – completely free!
An enterprising teenager from Lincolnshire, Louis Jones hit upon the idea of Surprise Shirts after doing one early-morning paper round too many. A whim became a cottage industry and now a major global enterprise involving Louis’ whole family.
We caught up with Louis as he had just come off the phone with his new partner operation in Montevideo, Uruguay.
“Our concept is a ‘Surprise Football Shirt’, so essentially, you buy a shirt from our website, tell us which teams you don’t want and we send you a shirt from any team around the world. It’s a perfect way to grow your collection and add an element of the unknown!”
“We wouldn’t send a customer a shirt from their home country unless they specifically told us they wouldn’t mind. We know that with the tribal nature of football, especially in England, fans wouldn’t want to wear a shirt that may be considered a rival of their favourite team.”
“I’ve always collected Coventry shirts and had a love for football shirts from all around the world, so the idea to box up a shirt and sell it as a surprise, charging a premium for the surprise element, came pretty naturally.”
“We were founded in August 2020. It was fairly seamless in that it all kind of just happened so quickly. There wasn’t really time to stop & think, ‘okay, now we need to do X’. Everything just fell in place as we grew in sales. It helped especially at an early stage having my Dad involved who had an understanding of how to run a business from previous experience, so we always had a good foundation in place.”
“In a funny way, we owe a lot of credit to the pandemic as people were stuck inside and had a bit of money to spend. A football shirt providing them with a bit of excitement was an attractive proposition at a time where days felt like they all merged into one. I also think it was – and still is – a new and emerging concept which people hadn’t seen or heard of before. The football-shirt market is growing all the time and teams are always willing to push the boat out even further with their designs, so we caught the idea at the perfect time, really.”
“From what we see and hear online, the feedback is always very positive, which is an amazing feeling. We always try and send out the best and craziest shirts we can possibly find, and it’s especially rewarding when a customer gets a shirt they just otherwise couldn’t get in the UK, without having to paying £30/£40 for delivery.”
“We don’t really see people sending back shirts from a rival club as we always do our due diligence on all of our customers, looking at which teams they tell us to avoid and their location to work out any rival clubs to steer clear of. If anything, we actively try and find a club which will have a link to that customer in some way. For example, we sent a green shirt to a customer in Japan who is a Plymouth Argyle fan, or another example would be a Leeds fan to receive one of Marcelo Bielsa’s former clubs.”
“The shirts are sourced from various different places, manufacturers, clubs or brokers all around the world. Since we started we’ve gained a significant number of contacts all over the globe, so that’s how we’ve managed to source such a wide range of shirts. We’re expanding our contacts all the time, of course.”
“We are keen to grow our business as much as possible. Without giving too much away, we’ve already set up an arm of our business in Latin America, based in Montevideo, which has seen a successful first month of trading.”
“We’re open and receptive to growing in as many was as possible, but you have to walk before you can run. There are cards up our sleeve in terms of ways we want to expand, one of which will be revealed publicly, fairly soon!”
“The shirt I like to wear is Atlético Mineiro’s Manta Da Massa jersey, designed by a fan of the club and released as a limited-edition. When you’re into football shirts, we’re looking at these sort of releases all the time and this one was just too good to pass up! It’s a great shirt.”
.“Do I have a favourite shirt? That’s a tough one… There are so many incredible designs. I’m going to cop out and name one whose design was actually my own idea. It’s Uprising FC of Anguilla’s away shirt for the 2023 upcoming season. The club are sponsored by Surprise Shirts for 2023 and 2024, and I was asked to lead the club’s design team. It was my own idea and seeing the design come together was such an amazing experience. It will soon be available in our shirt boxes. Keep a look out!”