From the world's very first
international match, in 1872, right through to the present day, the team we
call England has consistently turned out in white shirts. It was not until
the 1930s that there was any reason to wear anything other than white
shirts, but as England began to broaden their horizons in the international
football world, they were forced to introduce a change kit for use against
the other countries that wore white; namely Austria and Germany.
That first international also saw
England kitted out in white knickerbockers and blue caps. The caps were soon
discarded and the knickers changed to navy and became shorts. Players
provided their own socks in the early days and these could be any colour,
but navy eventually became the norm, with red provided for colour clashes.
Blue shirts were initially used
as change shirts, but these were replaced by red in the 1950s, a period
which saw big changes in the England uniform. Lighter, short-sleeved, v-neck
shirts replaced the old woollen, collared and buttoned shirts. Shorts became
shorter and the socks, too, were made of a lighter material. Red replaced
blue as the first-choice sock colour as the navy pair was clashing with too
many other countries' uniforms.
The 1960s saw further refinement,
with white becoming the new sock colour, and the very plain white and navy
combination became forever associated with England's most successful period,
but in the 1970s, commercialism arrived to drastically overhaul the
Manufacturers' logos broke
through onto the chest and shorts, and England's uniform was suddenly edged
with red, white and blue piping. A more flamboyant design appeared in 1980,
before Umbro recaptured the contract and returned the kit to a more
traditional style, at the same time adding more fashionable embellishments
to entice the fans into buying replica versions.
Red continues to be the popular
second-choice shirt colour, but different shades of blue have been
experimented with on a number of occasions, usually without success. On even
rarer occasions, England have also been seen in yellow.
In the 1990s, Umbro established a
pattern of introducing a new uniform each year; white one year and red, the
next, each shirt incorporating the latest breathable fabric technology,
whilst to the chagrin of the traditionalists, yet another in the seemingly
endless succession of tinkering was the verdict of each new design.
As if in response to these
feelings, a sudden about-turn was experienced in 2009, when the uniform took
on a retro feel and reverted back to a 1950s-style collar. It became a plain
all-white kit with only minimal design features, proving once more that
although England's uniforms have to be fit for the purposes of playing
international football in the 21st century, the proud heritage and
traditions can never be completely discarded.