Historical Football Kits: 5 facts about kit design

Posted on: August 12th, 2020 | by Laura Murdoch | No Comments

Football has a long history in the UK and the modern game has gone through many changes over the years. Just as the game has evolved, the kit has adapted a lot too. Footballers used to wear thick cotton shirts, knickerbockers, and heavy leather boots. Players were responsible for their buying their own kit, so they often wore different shirts to the rest of their team.


Football Team 1891 Rutgers
Higgins, F. J. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

5 historical facts about kit design

Football kits are a lot different now but it’s always fun to see where we’ve come from so we’ve compiled a list of facts about the history of football kit design.


Number 1 on the back of a Pendle Apollo Goalkeeper Shirt


The earliest historical record of specific clothing being made for football is 1526. It comes from the Great Wardrobe of King Henry VIII and was a reference to a pair of football boots. They cost 4 shillings to make (about £100), were ankle-high and made of thick leather.


Number 2 on the back of a Pendle Roma Football Shirt


The first person to use shin guards was Sam Weller Widdowson who played for Nottingham Forest. In 1875, Sam made history by cutting down a pair of cricket pads and wearing them outside his stockings. He was ridiculed by his fellow players, but it soon caught on.


Number 3 on the back of a Pendle Roma Football Shirt


It wasn’t until the 1970s that the first sponsor was seen on a shirt. On the 24th of January 1976, Kettering Town wore shirts with “Kettering Tyres” on the front. The FA ordered the team to remove the logo but the team’s CEO, Derek Dougan, only removed the last 4 letters. He claimed, “Kettering T” stood for Kettering Town but the FA threatened them with a £1000 fine. In 1977 the FA officially allowed shirt sponsorship and the rest is history.


Number 4 on the back of a Pendle Roma Football Shirt


In the 1970s, Leeds United became the first club to produce replica shirts for their fans. The club entered a historic partnership with the manufacturing firm Admiral so the club received a royalty on each shirt sold. Other clubs started to follow suit and it quickly became a significant revenue stream.


Number 5 on the back of a Pendle Roma Football Shirt


Speaking of replica shirts, the trend of wearing football shirts as leisurewear led to Man United’s infamous grey kit in 1996. It had been designed specifically to look good with jeans, but Alex Ferguson was not a fan. You could definitely see this during the team’s April 1996 match against Southampton. At half-time, Ferguson stormed into the changing room and demanded his team switch kits.


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