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James Crawley

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Posted Tuesday, March 31st 2020

A history of City kits and crests

This week marked a year since the club rebranded, so we dive into the history books to look at the kits and crests of old which played a part in the club's journey...

Traditional football supporters may associate red with City and blue with Rovers, but in those early days as Bristol South End, the team in fact wore red shirts with blue shorts and blue socks.

It wouldn’t be until 1897, when the club turned professional and became Bristol City Football Club, that the blue element of the kit was ditched to become red shirts, white shorts and red socks.

Bristol South End started out with blue shorts

To commemorate election to the Football League Division Two in 1901, a badge of the Bristol Coat of Arms on a shield was sewn on to the players’ shirts. This was worn for two seasons before plain red shirts returned.

The City of Bristol Coat of Arms reflects the city’s maritime history. It dates back to medieval times, featuring Bristol Castle and a ship leaving the port of Bristol. The full version has unicorns either side, scales above and underneath it the motto “virtute et industria (Adge Cutler’s ‘virtual and industrial’ meaning ‘by virtue and industry’.

In 1909, City made it to the FA Cup final where they were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United. As both teams normally wore red, the FA instructed a change of kits to avoid a strip clash and, as a result, City wore blue shirts with a simplified all-red version of the Bristol Coat of Arms, white shorts and blue socks. City inside-right Bob Hardy’s shirt from that match was sold recently for £13,000.

Blue returned for the 1909 FA Cup final

From then on, up until 1939, City always wore plain red shirts and white shorts with a variety of red-and-white, or red-and-black socks. The Second World War intervened but, from 1945 to 1949, City wore red shirts, white shorts and red-and-white hooped socks. City introduced white collars to their shirts for the 1949/50 season which saw a badge depicting a robin standing on a football appearing on the shirts.

This badge was worn until midway through the 1950/51 season, when it was changed back to the Bristol Coat of Arms, embroidered on to a white shield and attached to the shirts. This was worn until 1961.

In 1954/55, City won the Division Three South championship, securing a record 70 points (two points for a win, one point for a draw) wearing Arsenal-style red shirts with white collars and sleeves, white shorts and red-and-white hooped socks, but this shirt design proved a one off and would never reappear.

Gunning for glory - this shirt design proved a one off and would never reappear

After this season, from 1955 to 1961, City donned red shirts with a white collar or trim, white shorts and red-and-white socks, although from 1961 to 1970, the badge was not worn on their kit. In the winter of 1963, a long sleeve version was introduced until 1965.

City won promotion in 1965, as runners up in Division Three to Carlisle United, and then opted for a Liverpool-style strip of all red shirts, shorts and socks. This all-red kit lasted for six seasons.

The Bristol Coat of Arms was reintroduced for 1970/71 and was embroidered on to the shirts. This season City reached the League Cup semi-finals for the first time, losing to Tottenham Hotspur over two legs.

From 1971 to 1976, City wore red shirts with two white rings around the neck and cuffs, white shorts and red socks with two narrow white rings around the top. The last season in this kit saw City promoted as runners up to the old First Division – now the Premier League.

In 1972, a competition was held to design a new badge. The winner featured a Robin against a five-bar gate but did not appear on the players’ shirts. It was used on the programme cover throughout the 1972/73 season, alongside a drawing of captain Geoff Merrick, and was also supplied to the other clubs for the away programmes.

In 1976/77, with the club back in the First Division, a new shirt was introduced. Running down from the neck of the shirt to the cuff was the manufacturers Umbro motif. Adorning the shirt was a new badge featuring the return of a robin on a football, with the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the background, all incorporated on to a shield and embroidered on to the shirts. Back in the Third Division for 1981/82, City wore red shirts, black shorts and black socks. It was the first season that sponsors names first appeared on the shirts.

From 1982, City continued to wear the traditional red and white kit and, from December 1983, a pure text “BC82” logo was used as their badge, representing the new company formed after the club’s survival.

A simplified version of the robin on the ball, with the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but not in a shield, was embroidered on the shirts from 1986-94 before the Bristol Coat of Arms returned once more in 1994/95.

It was tweaked slightly in the years that followed, and was used until 2019 when City adopted a fresh look. During this period the kits were either all red, or red and white, except during 2012/13, when City wore an all-red kit with black shoulder yokes.

The 2019 rebrand looked to bring a more modern touch to all elements of the club. It celebrated the new crest with the return of the robin on a ball while on the back of the shirts – red for home and black away – the Clifton Suspension Bridge sits on the neck.

The 2019/20 season kit

One-off-specials

Purple and lime away kits have been popular in recent seasons, partly due to its use in the famous 1-0 win at Anfield in 1994. It inspired the away kit for the 2017/18 campaign and was voted the best strip in the EFL. In the same campaign, a third kit was produced, predominantly lime with a purple collar.

City reached the Auto Windscreens Shield final in 2000 against Stoke City at the old Wembley Stadium, a match City lost 2-1. A special shirt was produced for this game in navy and gold, designed to be a collectors’ item. The Robins had donned a lime/blue kit away to Stoke City earlier in the season.

Who remembers the lime/blue?

When the club marked 100 years of Ashton Gate as City’s permanent home in 2004, a special supporters shirt was produced in a limited edition of 1,000. It featured the names of all 762 City players over that time.

City won the double in 2014/15 as Division One Champions and Johnstone Paint Trophy winners at the new Wembley, beating Walsall 2-0. This kit had more of a traditional feel, including a collar.

For the 2018/19 season, a revamped robin was introduced on City’s white third kit.

And to mark the 125th anniversary, a commemorative shirt was worn in the league game against Fulham in March 2020.

Celebrating 100 years of Ashton Gate

When City wore the blue and white quarters

City played Rotherham at home on January 9th 1954 in the FA Cup third round. City lost 3-1 with John Atyeo (pictured during the game) scoring their only goal – but what stood out from this fixture was the fact the Robins had to borrow a set of Bristol Rovers’ shirts due to a clash of kits.

The same situation arose on January 3rd 1958, when City played Accrington Stanley away in the FA Cup third round. They drew 2-2 with Wally Hinshelwood and Dermot Curtis getting City’s goals. For the replay a few days later, the Robins once again borrowed Bristol Rovers kit and this time won 3-1, with Atyeo scoring two goals and Dermot Curtis getting the other.

A similar situation happened when City played Blackpool at Ashton Gate on January 24th 1959 in the FA Cup fourth round. This time, however, they borrowed Cardiff City’s kit of blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks. The match, featuring the great Stanley Matthews, was drawn 1-1 with Bert Tindill scoring for the home side. City unfortunately lost the replay 1-0.

John Atyeo in action wearing City's borrowed Rovers kit

With thanks to: Roland Stubbins.

This feature is one of a number inside the 125th anniversary commemorative brochure, which can be bought online via the Bristol Sport Store for £5.