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England's Uniforms

England's Kit
November1872 to April1879

1880 Uniform

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The Laws of the Game state that "the two teams must wear colours that distinguish them from each other..." Therein lies the problem. That is all that is necessary for a game of football to take place, and it appears that no-one had the foresight to record in any detail what was actually worn in each match. The Football Association, even to this day, do not see it as their responsibility to maintain any records relating to England kits.

Back in 1872, no such rule existed, but it made sense to wear the same colour as your team mates. It was often only the shirts that matched though, and even then there were situations where significantly different designs were used by the same team in the same match. This still happened occasionally in international football as recently as 1977, when Johan Cruyff's sponsorship deal prevented him from wearing the adidas insignia sported by his Dutch team-mates.

Victorian England was a world far removed from the multi-million pound football shirt industry that we know today, where great lengths are gone to in search of the latest moisture-sapping technologies, where sponsors' names appear on kits under strict guidelines and where marketing teams regularly manage the release of new designs to gain maximum exposure amongst the replica-buying public.

This would all have been unrecognisable to the eleven gentlemen that turned up at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow on 30 November 1872 to represent their country against Scotland in the world's very first international match. Arnold Kirke Smith wore a woollen jersey (pictured above) with a diamond motif on the chest (this was not an early Umbro logo!). We have no way of knowing if all of the team wore this exact design or if they were each responsible for bringing their own kit, but the emblem looks to have been carefully embroidered onto the shirt beforehand, probably in Mr. Smith's household. It was obviously intended to be kept as a souvenir of what was, even then, a big event and we are thankful that this particular shirt has now survived into its third century.

Fortunately for us, England have been relatively consistent in their attire over the years, though we have precious few artefacts to go off when attempting to identify exactly what was worn in the nineteenth-century. For the first game, England's hosts, Queens Park Football Club, attempted to hire a photographer to capture the historic moment, but the man in question insisted that he would only attend if the players would each buy a copy of the photo. When the teams met again, just over three months later, at The Oval in London, a photographer did attend, only to be frustrated by the antics of an England player who kept pulling faces at the camera! The England team were eventually photographed in 1876, but unfortunately they were dressed in their suits!

So, we were denied photographic evidence of the England kit in action. We do, however, have illustrations from those early encounters, which appeared in periodicals of the time. The players look similar to modern-day jockeys. It is fairly clear from the pictures that England wore knickerbockers. Most seem to be white, though some appear to be of a darker colour. The stockings also varied, with each player wearing his own identifying colours. These were published on match cards, and enabled spectators to pick out each player.

It seems probable that it was left to the individual to provide their own attire for the lower half (at least) and this remained largely the case up until 1935, despite English clubs kitting out their players with complete uniforms from a much earlier time. The England team also wore caps in this first game, probably navy blue.

As the 1870s progressed, it seems that uniformity was not a high priority. A few photos exist of players wearing club jerseys, with England crests sewn on to the left breast. When they faced Scotland in 1875, the Leeds Mercury reported that, "The Englishmen, who represented different clubs, adopted various costumes..." In 1879, a Birmingham newspaper correspondent suggested that uniforms should become standard as it was confusing for spectators to distinguish between teams. The F.A. listened to these complaints and bought a set of jerseys for the new decade. It was a decision that would set the standard for an incredible 68 years.

If you have any rare England pictures or shirts from this era, please do get in touch and help us build a more comprehensive record of what was worn in these early years.

 England Matches 1872-79
1 30 November 1872 0-0 vs. Scotland, The West of Scotland Cricket Ground, Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow Fr AD
2 8 March 1873 4-2 vs. Scotland, Surrey Cricket Ground, The Oval, Kennington, London HW
3 7 March 1874 1-2 vs. Scotland, The West of Scotland Cricket Ground, Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow Fr AL
4 6 March 1875 2-2 vs. Scotland, Surrey Cricket Ground, The Oval, Kennington, London Fr HD
5 4 March 1876 0-3 vs. Scotland, The West of Scotland Cricket Ground, Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow Fr AL
6 3 March 1877 1-3 vs. Scotland, Surrey Cricket Ground, The Oval, Kennington, London Fr HL
7 2 March 1878 2-7 vs. Scotland, Hampden Park, Hampden Terrace, Glasgow Fr AL
8 18 January 1879 2-1 vs. Wales, Surrey Cricket Ground, The Oval, Kennington, London Fr HW
9 5 April 1879 5-4 vs. Scotland, Surrey Cricket Ground, The Oval, Kennington, London HW
England's Record 1872-79
Type P W D L F A GD FTS CS FAv AAv Pts % W/L
Home 5 3 1 1 14 12 +2 0 0 2.80 2.40 70.0 +2
Away 4 0 1 3 3 12 -9 2 1 0.750 3.00 12.5 -3
Total 9 3 2 4 17 24 -7 2 1 1.889 2.667 44.4 -1