Toon Kit Curiosities – by Philip Marriott

Posted by John Devlin

Regular contributor to the site Philip Marriott, a diehard Newcastle United fan and kit obsessive has sent in this wonderful article on the Toon’s strange use of away kits over the years. A fascinating read from a fan’s point of view. Cheers Philip!

They play in black and white….or most other colours!

The situation with Newcastle’s away kits has always been a curious one. The Magpies have traditionally opted against change colours in the past or even changing the shorts and socks on the home kit. Indeed, the Toon wore white home shorts for the first time at Chelsea in 1980. Since then, white shorts and socks have been worn on the home kit many times, even at the expense of seldom worn change kits. Third kits have been irregular for Newcastle pre 2003, with the Green asics design of the 90’s and plain red or blue being worn very occasionally in the late 60’s/early 70’s. This is peculiar considering that away designs have often been unhelpful, sometimes in white or silver. The latter was worn on a regular basis in the 80’s causing regular clashes as Spurs and Luton among others.

The concept of a new away/3rd colour every year is a clear way to lead Toon fans to part with their hard earned, but also provides great anticipation as the colours often change yearly. In 03/4 there was a black away and silver third whilst in 04/5 there was a two tone blue effort and a great yellow third kit. The change kits were traditionally seldom worn up until 03/4 when each kit was worn several times regardless of clashes, exceptions being the 07/8 Argentina style kit and the 08/9 silver strip.

The addition of new kits has often proved popular, with a surge in the club shop for the 08/9 purple kit and 98/9 shiny blue away shirt. The only problem with some of these kits has been the inconsistency of their use. In 98/9, the home kit was sported at Spurs whilst the shiny blue design remained in the kit bag, likewise at the Southampton and Leeds matches that season.

The two designs of focus on are the away kits for 95/6 and 97/8, possibly the best and the worst Toon kits ever.

NEWCASTLE-AWAY-95-96Worn with ecru shorts and maroon socks, the maroon and blue hooped kit in 1995, created by adidas in their first season and resembling the old kit worn by Newcastle West End was an instant hit yet saw only 5 competitive matches, the last of which was in October 1995! Strangely, it was not worn at Blackburn or Leeds later in the season. This great kit was worn during happy times, made even more iconic by stars such as David Ginola and Les Ferdinand. The shirt is a great reminder of traditional values and modern materials being merged into a classic design which reflected the wishes of the fans and the rigours of Premiership football.

NEWCASTLE-A-97-98Now contrast this with the outrageous 97/8 design, worn only three times competitively. This kit was neglected for the matches at Derby, Spurs, Bolton, Sheffield United, PSV and more. It was used in three defeats, 4-1 at Leeds and then 2-1 at both Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton. Crazily, it was worn with three pairs of shorts and three pairs of socks, using similar colours! The standard kit at Leeds, customised white shorts and socks at Hillsborough and then the white HOME shorts and UNMARKED purple socks at the Dell. The curiosity here is the inconsistency of use and the number of shorts and socks worn. The rationale for kit choices by kit managers can be no more baffling than on these occasions, where the kit should probably have been worn regardless of its unpopularity. Nevertheless, the shirt sold well, as this was 1997 when replica shirt sales were soaring in this country. But surely the fans deserved more for forty pounds than 3 matches that season? Surely the clashes at Bolton, Spurs etc should have been avoided?

Whilst teams like Milan, and in most cases Manchester United, have a set away colour, Newcastle never have. White prevailed from the 1920’s until the late 60’s but this is highly unpractical and was before kit replicas became a fact of life. Should teams have a set away colour? A yellow and green design similar to the 70’s would sell well, but are Newcastle, by luck rather than design, at a commercial advantage to most teams? If yellow and green was worn every year, sales would surely decline but if there is anew colour each time, fashion conscious fans are faced with two forty pound change kits a year, and a good income for the club. Quite what has happened with the away kits over the years or why, only the kit manager of the time can answer. But like the strange two blue kits scenario at Portsmouth in 03/4, it remains one of the Premier Leagues’ kit mysteries. What is indisputable though is that the shirts will sell, money will be made and we can expect new designs each year. Enjoy.

27 Responses to “Toon Kit Curiosities – by Philip Marriott”

  1. Tim Says:

    I agree with Philip about that 1995-96 Newcastle shirt. It’s one of the best shirts to have graced the league in the past couple of decades. Why can’t adidas produce anything as stylish as that anymore? The home kit of the same period was probably Newcastle’s best ever, too.

  2. John Devlin Says:

    Totally agree Tim – that Newcastle away shirt is definitely one of my favourite kits of the past 30 years.

  3. AG Says:

    Good article, Philip.

    For some reason, I can never seem to remember any of Newcastle’s change strips – in my 13 years of being a football (and football kit) fan.

    Maybe it’s because they don’t seem to wear them very often, or whenever I see Newcastle fans at the matches, they always seem to be in the home strips.

    You make an interesting point with “Should teams have a set away colour?”

    Of course, it all comes down to personal preferance. This may sound odd, but I find the way AC Milan, seemingly without fail, have a white away and black third – boring.

    But, I like the way Man United have three colours (blue, black, and white) that they choose their away strip from. Although, it is sort of “set away colours” it’s not in the same rigid way of Milan.

    As this season they have black, and last season they had white (away) and blue (third). So although, it’s sort of a “set away colour” you do get differances from season-to-season, unlike Milan.

    I hope I made some sense there…

  4. Gavin Haigh Says:

    Its good to see that the team are wearing the away and 3rd shirts regularly this season. The 3rd was worn at Forest and Blackpool and the away “Deck chair” shirt has been worn at least 7 times already!!

    In my opinion the away shirt has become quite “iconic”

    Keep the faith!!

  5. Philip Marriott Says:

    Well said everyone! You make some god points there AG. Manchester United are quite clever with the way they operate with set kits. They mix tradition and modernity with certain colours, usually blue, black or white, whilst sometimes the away becomes a third the following year like with the current white one. Having a single colour home shirt also allows them to experiment without creating a clash.

    Re- Gavin Haigh- Its interesting that you say that Gavin. The away shirt is certainly iconic now and if we win the league wearing it, it might become one of the favourites. Imagine if Newcastle won a major trophy one day in an away kit. Its importance would become almost equal to the black and white!

  6. Philip Marriott Says:

    Well said everyone! You make some good points there AG. Manchester United are quite clever with the way they operate with set kits. They mix tradition and modernity with certain colours, usually blue, black or white, whilst sometimes the away becomes a third the following year like with the current white one. Having a single colour home shirt also allows them to experiment without creating a clash.

    Re- Gavin Haigh- Its interesting that you say that Gavin. The away shirt is certainly iconic now and if we win the league wearing it, it might become one of the favourites. Imagine if Newcastle won a major trophy one day in an away kit. Its importance would become almost equal to the black and white!

  7. Philip Marriott Says:

    Sorry I don’t know why that posted twice!

  8. GoogleGary Says:

    On the subject of Newcastle and their kits, did they ever wear that third strip, it was silver with a white trim.

    They had it last season, and maybe even the season before.

    I only ask because my 11-year-old cousin, who’s a Toon fan, had it bought for him one birthday, and I remember seeing him in it and thinking “I bet they never that”.

  9. GoogleGary Says:

    That last line is supposed to read “I bet they never wear that kit”.

    I should really learn to type!


  10. Gavin Haigh Says:

    the only time they wore it was in a home friendly against Valencia in August 2008.

  11. David Says:

    On a smiliar subject to should teams have set away colours…

    Should change kits be worn only because of necessity, as Man United seem to do, or worn at the drop of a hate. I’m thinking of the game I went to the other week, Wolves-Arsenal, when Arsenal wore their navy away strip for no real reason.

    I’d love to hear people’s views.


  12. Philip Marriott Says:

    The silver 3rd kit was worn in the Valencia match only. I wish they had worn it at the Hull matches. As for wearing change kits at the drop of a hat, it would be quite nice to see each kit worn regularly. It wouldn’t matter about set designs so much if this were the case because a regularly worn strip can be identified with the club. Its hard to identify with a kit that only gets worn once or twice. It feels like it almost isn’t there! With this in mind, away kits in every away match would be quite good.

  13. Gavin Haigh Says:

    the concern toonwise is what are next season’s shirts going to be…..puma or knows?

  14. John Devlin Says:

    I’m torn in the away kit debate – sometimes I feel that teams should have a traditional away colour thats only worn if necessary (and then a third kit if there’s still a clash) and sometimes I like the idea of the away kit being worn for every away game (with a third kit again as back up). It would indicate clearly that a team is not playing at home.

    Gavin – its going to take a while to adjust to not seeing Newcastle in adidas isn’t it? I can see them going to Puma.

  15. John Devlin Says:

    Gavin, Phil – I had the very same thought about the 09-10 away kit! Its getting loads of use and seems to have a pretty good record. Maybe it will go down as a classic after all! Bit of an ‘Ugly Duckling’ syndrome perhaps!!

  16. Gavin Haigh Says:

    Yes it will, I have to admit that my own is getting much wear too, far more then I originally thought. It certainly stands out!!

    Yes adidas since 1995, when Iook back on the home shirts they are ultra cool. Your comments John in the book really sum them up. The grandad shirt is indeed iconic, having said that I do like the current home shirt too.

    If it is to be Puma, I just hope they dont mess with tradition, and add unneccesary touches and odd colours.

    Bukta would have been nice, now there’s a bit of nostaliga for you!

  17. True Colours Football Kits » Newcastle Away Kit 1995-96 Says:

    […] excellent article on the site concerning Newcastle away kits over the years (read it here) has commented on the club’s superb adidas 95-96 away […]

  18. John Devlin Says:

    Just posted a great ad for the adidas 95-96 away kit:

  19. Mark Jessop Says:

    Harking back to the 09 -10 away kit, it’s been bugging me since I first saw it as to what it reminded me of and the penny has finally dropped. It is very similar to an Oxford United Umbro home shirt from probably the late 80’s early 90’s. Anyone remember the one I mean?

  20. John Devlin Says:

    I think I know the one you mean Mark – my memory of that though was yellow and a paler shade of yellow whereas I think the NUFC away is definitely amber and yellow. I’ll try and dig out a pic of the Oxford shirt.

  21. john b Says:

    i’ve always got it into my head that newcastles away colours should be grey/silver,perhaps its the grey seats at st.james or probably seeing chris waddle in a kit in the 80’s or perhaps that newcastle is seen as an industrial city and grey fits the bill?

  22. Philip Marriott Says:

    John B- Its a good point you make there about the grey kits John. Grey is usually popular at Newcastle but it is never practical against teams wearing white and unless they play West Brom, Newcastle only wear change colours against teams with white or red and white shirts. The grey kit at Spurs in the 80’s caused an awful clash. The Premeir League wouldn’t even let them wear silver against Hull last season.

  23. Dean Marriner Says:

    My own particular favourite away shirt was the the green and blue striped affair, which I believe we wore against Sheffield Wednesday (can’t remember any other times). Interestingly we did have an all red (blood) away kit, but I think the last time it surfaced was the ‘infamous’ Hereford Utd defeat.

  24. Johnny Says:

    Great article, as a Newcastle supporter the away kit has always been a puzzle for myself as well. I agree with the 95-96 being a great kit – I loved the collar that adidas used for both the kits that year.
    My personal fav was however the blue away kit the year later. I think adidas started of with a bang in their designs for NUFC and gradually went downhill. The ghastly green and purple ntl logo was always a sore point for me.

  25. Rich Says:

    Ive got the 95-96 home adidas shirt. Awesome shirt design by adidas and love the round neckline. One of my fave retro shirts.

  26. John Devlin Says:

    You’re right Rich – that was a GREAT shirt, as was the hooped away at the same time.

  27. Scott Says:

    Reading the article and comments was great. We did wear the yellow custard and mustard shirt a lot but Philips comment about imagine winning something major in an away kit(all white) during the fairs cup of 69 when we played Lisbon, not sure if we wore it again or not.

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