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The History of the Football Kit

The football kit…it’s been around since the 1870s and has long been the way a team distinguishes itself on the pitch. From the first long-sleeved jerseys of the late 1800s to today’s lightweight, breathable shirts, the football shirt has gone through quite the transformation.

(1955 Raymond Newitt - handing out York City players new white shorts for the FA Cup semi final when they took on Newcastle, watch some highlights of the match HERE)


Today, football fans wear their teams’ shirt to show their support. It’s a pledge of allegiance but the first football kit was a far cry from what you will see on the pitch, and indeed on football fans around the world, today.


Back in its early years, the football shirt was made out of very heavy cotton with a collar and long sleeves. The shirts didn’t have numbers on them so you could only tell the two sides apart based on the colour of their socks.  Numbers were unsuccessfully introduced on the back of shirts around the early 1900s but it wasn’t until the first major match, the 1933 FA Cup Final, that numbers became standard. It was around this time that goalkeepers got their own kits, to enable the referee to distinguish them from the other players.


By the 1950s, synthetic materials began to be introduced in football shirts. These were more breathable and lightweight than their predecessors and, teamed with shorter sleeves, were much more practical for footballers playing in hotter temperatures.  The 1960s didn’t see much innovation in the football kit but by the 1970s, football clubs were starting to wear much more unique designs. The 70s also saw the first team to sell a replica kit to fans. In 1975, Leeds United changed their football shirt to a design that was more marketable. Around the same time, football shirts began to bear the sponsor’s brand logo on the front; a move which brought many commercial benefits and prompted other clubs to rapidly follow suit.


In the 1990s, designs on football shirts became much more detailed and technological advances over the past 25 years have allowed great developments in the way football kits are manufactured and printed.


Today, football shirts are made in much lighter synthetic materials, usually a polyester mesh. High-tech polyester, such as wicking polyester, absorbs very little water and actually draws moisture away from the body, allowing football players to stay cool and dry.



Other technologies such as Nike’s Dri-Fit also draws sweat away from the body and allows ventilation. Ziland’s Z-Cool/Heat football shirts also adapt to the body’s temperature in both warm and cold conditions. One of the latest material innovations in the sports industry is SKINS; is a range of shirts, shorts and compression equipment made out of a fabric called carbonyte. SKINS products deliver many benefits for footballers and other athletes as the kit has been designed to reduce muscle damage and risk of injury thanks to the wrapping effect and compression of the fabric, moisture management due to the wicking built into the fabric, and temperature control which adapts to both warm and cool conditions. SKINS shirts are ideal for wearing under a team football shirt or during training, as they are an easy to wear, supportive thermal base-layer, and the smart tech fabric ensures that players can stay cool, dry and focused.

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