Friday, February 16, 2007

Shirt Legend: England

The big debate following last week's Friendly international between England and Spain wasn't whether England could have played better or whether Steve McLaren should be replaced as manager. The main discussion seemed to revolve around whether the new England home strip was all that much different from the previous one.

You see, what Umbro and many other kit manufacturers seem to forget is that all genuine football fans feel a tingle of excitement at the time when a new kit is launched, and that's because they're expecting to get something new and exciting for the next season or two. What we saw last week was all well and good, but if you squinted a bit it could have been the same kit as the one England had before.

All of which leads us to dwell on England shirts of the past. Not all of them were great, but they were definitely all interesting for one reason or another. Since 1964, England have sported fourteen white shirts and here they all are in pictorial form (click on the image to see an enlarged version).

(Image removed pending replacement - apologies for any inconvenience)

Shirt A, of course, is the classic shirt worn by the World Cup Winners of 1966. Plain and simple, it was made by Umbro and became a design classic. When Don Revie became manager in 1974, though, it was all change. A new commercial era had dawned where the demand for replica kit grew and grew, so to reflect that, Admiral were drafted in to make a snazzy new shirt (Shirt B). It featured a lighter shade of blue, stripes along the sleeves and a proper collar.

Not everybody liked it, least of all Jimmy Greaves who likened the new England kit to pyjamas, but it became the image of England in the 1970's. Admiral's second kit came into force in 1980 and this time there was even more red and blue to upset the traditionalists. Shirt C achieved maximum exposure during the 1982 World Cup and has recently become a cult favourite among fans looking for that essential bit of retro kit.

In 1984, Umbro were reinstated as official England designers and their first kit back (Shirt D) saw a return to a more traditional look with navy blue coming back and red colouring being almost discarded. There was now a shadow pattern woven into the fabric as well, a feature that continues to this day, but in 1987 it was all change again with the reintroduction of a round collar and a splash of red here and there (Shirt E).

Come 1990, it was World Cup time again and yes, you've guessed it - they dropped red from the kit once more. The new kit had a navy blue winged collar and a funny triangular bit of business just below it but that was about it, apart from an Umbro logo pattern around the sleeve ends (Shirt F).

Shirt G is one of the less memorable ones of recent times, coinciding with the wilderness years of Graham Taylor's managerial reign, but it did feature some cleaner lines and of course, the return of that red colouring around a rather odd-looking collar.

When Euro 96 rolled around though, there were wholesale changes for England's white shirt design. For a start, Umbro's famous diamond logo was replaced with a big fat depiction of the company name in text only, but more controversially than that, the red had been ditched again - this time in favour of light blue as a complement colour (Shirt H).

A year later and Umbro went for their boldest design yet (Shirt I) incorporating navy blue and red side stripes. It was smart enough, but some felt the clean white appearance of the shirt was being compromised, so in 1999, Umbro went for a change which was just as dramatic but for different reasons. Their next kit (Shirt J) was more like the one worn in the early 1960's with it's round neck and simple white with navy blue trim. The Umbro diamond logo was also back with a vengeance.

2001 ushered in a return to more modern-looking fare (Shirt K) with a simple red stripe being used to give a splash of colour to an otherwise straight-forward design, and in 2003 that red stripe transferred to the shoulders and sleeves in a move that more prominantly than ever reflected the Cross of St. George from the English flag (Shirt L). It was also the first ever England shirt that could be worn inside-out, the reversible version having a navy blue stripe along the sleeves.

In 2005, the Cross of St. George appeared fully-fledged, albeit in stylised form, on one shoulder of Shirt M. All other stripes and trim were done away with to leave another clean, predominently white design. It would appear this was uppermost in the minds of Umbro's designers when Shirt N entered the public domain last Wednesday, a red ribbon-like stripe replacing the cross and traversing from one shoulder to the other. There's also a hint of the Three Lions badge in the navy blue trim that runs down either side of the new shirt, not to mention a sparkly gold Umbro badge that appears above the red stripe.

So that's the full collection, but which one's your favourite? Do any of them fill you with pride or do some of them make your blood boil?

Let us know by leaving your comments, but also by way of a survey, tell us below which shirt you like best. Simply click on your favourite choice and hit the 'Vote' button to register your preference.

Which of the white England shirts worn since 1964 do you like best?
Shirt A
Shirt B
Shirt C
Shirt D
Shirt E
Shirt F
Shirt G
Shirt H
Shirt I
Shirt J
Shirt K
Shirt L
Shirt M
Shirt N
Free polls from


Flicktokick said...

Don't forget the real controversy. The colour of the numbers. With the exception of the 1996 shirt England always wore red numbers, but then with the last two shirts its been Navy Blue numbers. Years of tradition out of the window.
Oh and don't get me started on the varying size and quality of the badge. There was the 1975 style stick on version. The lollipop one had a badge that looked like it was drawn with felt pens and for some reason the Graham Taylor shirt had a ridiculously large badge with the lions dwarfed in the centre.
All this noticed by a Scotland fan!
By the way look out for the new Scotland change strip to be launched around the next qualifiers. There have been leaked pre-order pictures which show it to be a real shocker.

Chris said...

Interesting points you make there. Actually, I've been meaning to talk to you about the Scotland badge, now you bring up the subject.

What's your view on those badges appearing on the Scottish shirts over the years? I noticed the Scotland flag appear underneath the badge a few years ago, but it's changed again recently, hasn't it?

I personally like the plain yellow crest with the lion on it myself. I was never overly keen on the white circle going around it that you had during the 70's and early 80's, but that's just me. What's your thoughts?

A new change kit coming soon? Excellent! Oh dear... bit of a shocker, eh?!? lol... Scotland have had a few over the years, haven't they? I seem to recall salmon pink appearing once, didn't it?!!?

Ah, but my favourite - a shirt that I owned and wore happily (even as an England fan) was the change shirt Scotland had for the 1990 World Cup - white with yellow and blue stripes. I think it was worn in the Costa Rica match if memory serves. Brilliant piece of kit!

Smart said...

Answering posts in a Miss World Reverse order stylee...

Chris, I remember you wearing that Scotland top. I also remember your goalkeeping skills rapidly diminishing is you put it on too... ;-)

I like the current Scotland home kit.

Back to the main topic...

I have several favourite England shirts for varying reasons.

Kit C is a classic, even if it was an Admiral kit.

D evokes memories of the best World Cup in my memory - Mexico '86. Socrates, Boniek, Laudrup, Diego Maradona, Terry Fenwick - such depth in talent never seen since...

F - I had one of those. OK, so it was a mess, but I had it.

H was a great shirt. The badge in the middle (I'm always a sucker for that old one), the sharp new blue collar, total football against the Dutch (4-1) and Gascoigne beating the Scots. A great kit.

And M - That kit was THE most comfortable England Kit I have
ever worn, possibly of any kit. Given that my playing days are long gone (war wound), I guess the thing I notice with kits has changed! That kit was the best thing to wear on a warm summers day.

Compare that to J, where it had a thick band across the shoulders like army lapels, and was the best thing to wear on a winters day.

Well, suffice to say my vote has been cast, from one of the above.

Chris said...

I actually owned Shirt C as an 11 year old and even got my Mum to buy a number to sew on the back. I think it was a red number 5, if I remember correctly. That would have been Terry Butcher's number at the time... such young naievity I had... lol...

Lol @ Terry Fenwick...!

I liked Shirt H but even to this day can't get on with that light blue trim. I wonder what it would look like with red instead...?

Speaking of which, I think the last England shirt I owned of any sort was a red away shirt from about 5 years ago. I suppose I'm still waiting for the big one to come along before I part company with my £44 again...

For what it's worth, I think it's time Umbro were given the elbow so that someone else like Adidas or Nike can have a try. I'm sure they'd make a better job of it.

Thomas Dunmore said...

Interesting post, enjoyed it. How about a similar retrospective on the away and third kits sometime? The return of the red in '96 seemed to mark some kind of epochal change somehow, and was certainly a marked improvement on the dismal grey alternative.

Chris said...

Thanks Thomas!

I must admit, I was considering doing a similar article on England's change strips, so I think you've convinced me to go ahead and give it a try!

Watch this space - it'll be here soon!

alphabet said...

Lilly white with a spash of colour, the others have no character ! Make a shirt look like a shirt, not a T-Shirt !


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