The color of soccer uniforms is one of the main components of a club’s identity. Favorite teams are primarily associated with the color of jerseys and club crest for the fans. And, if the emblem is modernized and completely changed over time, then most clubs’ primary colors remain unchanged for many decades.
But what guided the founders of soccer clubs when choosing the now iconic colors for their teams? If you are also interested in this question, I suggest together looking into it in more detail – on the example of the English giant’s clubs in recent years.
In this article, Steve O’Neil, one of the papers writers, shared entertaining details from the history of the current Premier League famous clubs.
The London Cannons did not immediately start to perform in the form that we know today. The club was founded in 1886 under the name Dial Square FC. One of the team founders were Morris Bates and Fred Beardsley, who previously played for Nottingham Forest – they decided to use the uniform of their previous club (dark red shirts with white shorts) as the club colors.
Another theory of the origin of the first club colors is that the team’s management, not having at that time enough funds to buy their own uniforms, was forced to apply to Nottingham Forest with a request to help.
Be that as it may, it is in this form (with slight changes) that Arsenal played until 1933. That’s when the famous manager Herbert Chapman, who appeared at the club in 1925, decided to pick a more original color for the team. And so appeared the already iconic red shirts with white sleeves.
It is believed that Chapman was inspired by the look of a man he once saw wearing a white shirt and a red sleeveless sweater over it. According to various versions, this person was someone from the fans or the famous cartoonist of those years, Tom Webster, with whom the great coach played golf.
The Merseysiders also did not immediately come to their iconic colors. In fact, the moment the famous, all-red kit appeared had to wait more than fifty years. The club was founded in 1892 following a disagreement between Everton executives and John Holding, the owner of Anfield Stadium, over the rental price.
Since the two sides could not agree, Everton moved to Goodison Park, and Holding was left without a soccer club that could play in his stadium. That is why he decided to create his own team – that very Liverpool. The first time this team played in uniforms left over from Everton – white and blue kits – but in 1896, it was decided to change into red shirts and socks with white shorts. This color was not chosen by chance – red and white is the color of the city of Liverpool.
With some changes to the colors of shirts and leggings, this uniform continued to be Liverpool’s basic until 1964. The reformer who created the club’s iconic kit was, of course, Bill Shankly. It was he who once suggested changing the white shorts to red.
The fateful decision was taken on 24 November 1964, on the eve of the match between Liverpool and Anderlecht in the KCL. The story was told in his autobiography by then team player Ian St. John:
“He (Shankly) thought this coloring would have a strong psychological effect because red represents danger and strength. One day he walked into the locker room and threw Ronnie Yates a pair of red shorts. Put those shorts on. I want to see what you look like,” he said. God, Ronnie, you look intimidating, like you’re seven feet tall.
Ron Yates, then team captain, also recalled the story:
“We had just finished practice, and I was about to head home when Shanks called me over. My first reaction was, ‘I did something wrong. Either that or I got a raise! But it was neither. I want you to try on this all-red set. So I went to the locker room and put this uniform on.”
Liverpool won that game 3-0. Yates recalled:
“I came home after the game and said to my wife Ness, ‘You know … when I went out to Anfield today, there was this glow, like there was a fire burning.
Shankly: “Our game against Anderlecht was a milestone. It was the first time we wore a full red uniform. God, the players looked like giants. And we played like giants.”
Since then, the basic colors of Liverpool’s uniforms have never changed again.
“Blue is the color, and football is the game’ are the words of the official Chelsea anthem. This song was recorded by the team’s players as a promo for the 1972 League Cup final, in which the Londoners played Stoke City. And it is blue that has always been and still is the main color of Chelsea.
Team players have worn this color since the founding of the club in 1904. Although in that period of time, the color was much paler and lighter, more reminiscent of a turquoise shade. It was called Eton blue, i.e., Eton blue, because it was similar to the light blue color of the uniforms of the students of Eton College.
The light blue shirts of the first sets of Chelsea uniforms were complemented by white shorts and black gaiters. Such colors were not chosen by chance – they corresponded to the official colors of the viscount of Chelsea, Earl Cadogan, who was then president of the club.
The color of shirts changed in 1912 when it was decided to switch to a darker shade of blue, the so-called royal blue (Royal Blue). Since then, this color has become synonymous with Chelsea, eventually becoming the team’s nickname – “The Blues.”
Black socks were replaced by white in 1961, and another three years later, in 1964, the then manager of the Blues, Tommy Doherty, decided to change the color of shorts to the same royal blue. He believed that this option of coloring would distinguish the team because, at that time, in such a combination, other big clubs in England did not play. This color caught on and became traditional for Chelsea. The team plays in it today.
A very interesting story is associated with the choice of sky blue and white colors of Manchester City. According to unconfirmed reports, there were involved… Freemasons. Yes, yes, those same mysterious, all-powerful guys with whom many legends are associated.
So, at the beginning of its journey, Manchester City had a completely different name. The club, founded in 1880, was called St. Mark FC, and they played in red and black colors. In 1887 the name was changed to Ardwick FC in honor of the area near where the team was based. In 1894 Ardwick suffered serious financial problems and was on the verge of bankruptcy. That is why the club secretary Joshua Parlby was forced to look for options to save. It is believed that the Manchester men he found who agreed to help the club were Freemasons.
After receiving the financial injections, it was decided to reform the club – the name was changed to Manchester City (since the team was to represent the city of Manchester), and the club colors were changed to sky blue and white.
The connection between these transformations and the Freemasons was established in 2014 when it was told shortly before his death by Sidney Rose. He had been a City fan since the 1920s, then a club director from 1966-1986, after which he received honorary status as the city’s lifelong vice president. “I always believed that those people who were at the origin of the club in 1894, when there was a sort of financial crisis…they were Freemasons, or at least definitely had close connections with them…That’s why they [city] started playing in pale blue uniforms, in the colors of Freemasonry.”
There is no documentary evidence that these words by Sidney Rose are true, but the theory is at least interesting.
It’s hardly a secret to anyone that the Red Devils were not originally red. In its early days, the club, founded in 1878 by the railway company Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, was called Newton Heath (Newton Heath LYR). And these guys played in white T-shirts tied with blue string and blue shorts.
The choice of white uniforms, most likely, was due to the wide availability and low cost of such shirts (for a team with a modest budget of workers, it was an important factor). And colored laces were usually used to distinguish themselves from their opponents if they played in the same colors.
In 1881, the team received some financial injections – this allowed them to purchase better uniforms. The colors of these kits were quite unusual, green and gold, but this choice had a logical explanation – these were the colors of the founding company. Over the next 20 years, these colors remained dominant for the club, except for a short period, from 1887 to 1893, when the jerseys became red and white.
In 1902 Newton Heath had huge financial problems; the club was on the verge of liquidation. It was saved only by the intervention of local businessmen who invested their money and revived the team.
Tottenham London didn’t come to its current colors right away either. After its founding in 1882, the team initially played in navy blue shirts and socks and white shorts. But two years later, in 1884, it was decided to go to the blue and white half-shirts as Blackburn, who won the FA Cup that year. And this borrowing from the winning team was not the last for Spurs.
This uniform was also removed pretty quickly – since 1890, Tottenham began to perform in red shirts (unthinkable for our time, because those are the colors of the enemies of Arsenal!) with navy blue shorts and white gaiters. The Londoners played in these colors for six years and then briefly (for two seasons) changed the colors of the shirts to strange gold and brown stripes.
And only in 1898 was there a transition to the well-known to us white jerseys, in which Tottenham plays to this day. The choice of this color was not accidental – again, it was decided to follow the example of the winning team. This time Preston North End was taken as a role model.
It was The Lilywhites who were then the most successful English club, dominating the newly created Football League. And in the season-1888/89, Preston won the first in the history of English soccer golden double, winning the championship and FA Cup. It is worth noting that Preston thus did not lose a single match, for which the team earned the nickname “invincible” (in the context of this history is very ironic that the next club to receive the same nickname was Arsenal).