Many sports brands have come and gone over the years; some have produced some wonderful, iconic designs…and some haven’t. However, the past few decades have seen a handful of companies consistently produce innovative, exciting and popular kits for English league clubs. I’ll be taking a brief look at just some of their stories:
Umbro – Arguably the daddy of English kit design Umbro were formed in Cheshire in 1920 as Humphrey Brothers Clothing and adopted the abbreviated version of their name four years later. With commercialism yet to rear its head in football sportswear companies remained relatively unknown and unrecognized until the early 70s. However prior to that period Umbro’s biggest claim to fame was the production of the iconic red England shirt worn in the glorious 1966 World Cup final triumph.
In the 70s and 80s Umbro were rampant and their famous diamond logo was seen prominently on the shirts of the highly successful Liverpool team of the era. The Umbro diamond trim also appeared on kits by Everton, Chelsea, Derby, Manchester City and Southampton amongst many, many others.
Umbro’s peak coincided with the launch of the Premier League in 1992 when the company supplied kits to no less than 11 of the 22 founding clubs. Some incredible designs – some popular, some not – followed and the company enjoyed several long-term high profile contracts.
Production of the England kit had reverted to Umbro after almost 10 years with Admiral in 1983 and the company’s profitable relationship with the English FA sustained them through a relatively low-profile period in the English game throughout the late 90s and early 00s.
However, the mid 00s saw the phoenix-like re-emergence of the iconic diamond logo with new deals with several clubs included WBA, Blackburn, Sunderland and Everton.
A twist in the tale has emerged in recent months with the revelation that Umbro has agreed to be bought by US giants Nike in a deal worth £285m. At the time of writing the deal has not yet been completed so it remains to be seen what impact it will have on the most prevalent of all English kit companies.