In 1872, the first ever official international football match took place at the West of Scotland Cricket Club in Glasgow. The match was between Scotland and England and was watched by 4,000 spectators, and ended in the predictably fascinating score line of 0 – 0. Somewhat more interesting was the fact that this match saw the use of the first ever England kit. This spawned the iconic white kit that we all know today, but much has changed over the years. Let’s take a look at the history of the England football kit.
It’s probably the case that the England players provided their own kit for the 1872 match with Scotland. The strip consisted of a white jersey that featured the famous three lions of the Football Association’s England crest, along with long white shorts and blue socks. The kit looked more like something we would associate with cricket than football today.
For a number of the following matches that took place, it seems that England abandoned the concept of a kit and instead simply sewed the England badge onto their club kits. However, after criticism of the appearance of the team, it appears that the FA chose to offer a kit again from 1879. The FA only provided a jersey, however, so players were forced to use their own shorts and socks.
1900 to 1939
In 1905, England joined FIFA for the first time and began playing matches against European opponents. During this time they played in a strip featuring a white flannel jersey along with navy blue shorts and socks. It wasn’t until 1930 that an official ‘change’ or away kit was required, when England played Austria and Germany who both wore white. This change kit was royal blue jersey along with white shorts.
It was during this period that numbers were first used on the back of players’ shirts. It was in 1937 in a 6-0 win over Norway. This practice was then adopted and it became the norm for all future England shirts.
1940 to 1965
It was over the course of these years that the England kit saw a dramatic period of change. England began competing in FIFA tournaments in 1946, entering the World Cup for the first time. In the 1950 World Cup the team wore a white jersey, blue shorts and blue and white socks, along with a change kit of royal blue. In 1951, however, the colours of the change kit were altered so that the jersey became the red that we are more familiar with. It was around this time that saw the first use of short sleeve shirts.
It was in 1952 that Umbro were awarded the first exclusive contract to create the England shirt. This change saw England move away from older style jerseys, make use of ‘continental’ style shirts along with lightweight socks instead of heavy woollen models. And it was in 1959 that England first used an all-white kit including jersey and shorts. For a few years between 1960 and 1965, Umbro was dropped as the official supplier and responsibility was given to Bukta.
1966 to 1973
Umbro were reinstated as kit suppliers and opted for a classic white jersey, navy shorts combination for the 1966 World Cup. The change kit was the famous red long-sleeve jersey that England won the tournament while playing in.
This was also a time where some unique kits were introduced. In 1970, England used an away strip entirely in light blue. And in three games in 1973 England played wearing yellow shirts – the only time in the history of the kit. The white England home shirt was universally preferred by players and fans alike.
1974 to 1996
In 1974, Admiral took over as suppliers for the kit and this was a time that saw the jerseys embellished with trim colours along the arms and shoulders. This was a move away from the all-over colours that had been seen in the past. This was the time that sales of replica shirts became far more significant, so Admiral redesigned the kit several times over the course of their tenure in an attempt to boost sales.
In 1982 Admiral was declared bankrupt and Umbro was chosen to once again provide the England kits. Shirt sales were now extremely important and as such, the designs were changed every few years. So there were many different iterations of the kit during this time. With red and light blue change kits present. These new Umbro kits were far more ornate than older models, with designs including light pinstripes and diamonds woven into the fabric.
1996 saw another first as England debuted a grey change kit for the Euro 96 tournament staged in England. Officially described as ‘indigo’, the kit has painful connotations for fans as it was the strip they played in when they were eliminated by Germany on penalties in the semi-final.
1997 to 2013
Umbro continued on, releasing a new kit almost every year. Over this period red became used exclusively as the away shirt while all-white home kits were also most common. It wasn’t until 2011 that a blue change strip was used again.
2013 to Present
In late 2012, the FA made the decision to once again drop Umbro as the kit designer, this time signing a five year contract with Nike. The first official Nike design was a simple and classic look with a white home kit with blue shorts, and a red away jersey with white shorts.
In 2014, new kits were introduced. These kits were by far the most advanced to date utilising lightweight fibres to keep players cool for the World Cup in Brazil. And while these were generally met with approval, the following kits created for the Euro 2016 tournament were far less popular, will unappealing ice blue shoulders and red socks perplexing fans.