As you might have calculated from reading my many groundhopping blogs on this blogsite, I am a Holywell Town fan. For this season, and throughout Holywell’s history (that I am aware of) Holywell have always played in red and white vertical striped shirts. It was during a home game, where the new strip had been unveiled for this coming season, that it got me wondering on a question.
“How many other teams in the world of football play in red and white striped shirts, and are there any particular links between them all?”
As far as I am aware, I don’t think any other team inspired the Wellmen to adopt their historic red and white stripes, so the origin of the colours is unknown.
However the question still lingered in my brain, and got me wondering if it a common shirt design for other clubs in other countries, or whether it is fairly unique within football. Therefore this is the start of a new series, which sees me investigate which other clubs within the world of football wear the red and white vertical stripes, and how (if known) they came about to choosing that particular design.
The first part of the series, sees me start my investigation across the border, into England and the Football League.
Currently in within the top five tiers of English football, there are only EIGHT teams whose home shirts are currently red and white vertical striped shirts:
- Stoke City
- Sheffield United
- Exeter City
- Lincoln City
- Cheltenham Town
The most successful team in England, who currently wear the red & white stripes are Sunderland, who have played in that famous strip since the 1887-88 season. Originally starting out in an all-blue kit, and then switching to a red and white half-and-half shirt, they adopted the stripes in 1887. This was apparently a result of local side, South Bank FC, lending them a set of strips when the club were financially struggling during Sunderland’s fledgling years.
The Black Cats have won all of their six league titles playing in their famous red and white stripes. Plus, Sunderland are still the last English champions to have won the title playing in red and white stripes, winning their sixth and last tier one title (so far) way back in the 1935-36 season. Sadly they far away from winning their seventh league title, as they are currently spending their second season in League One (only their third ever season in the third-tier of English football).
They are also the last club to lift the FA Cup trophy whilst actually wearing the stripes, when they famously beat the all-conquering Leeds United team, led by Don Revie, by a shock scoreline of 1-0 in the historic 1973 cup final. A cup shock considering Sunderland were in the Second Division at the time, and were the first team since West Bromwich Albion in 1931, to have won the cup from outside of the top flight of English football. The match is in the annals of English football folklore for Ian Porterfield’s strike, goalkeeper Jim Montgomery’s world-class double-save, and manager Bob Stokoe running on the Wembley turf in his iconic mackintosh and trilby hat. A statue of the latter, in mid-celebration, is currently displayed outside of the Stadium of Light.
Stoke City are another team to embrace the stripes having originally started out in blue and black hooped shirts. They first played in red and stripes between 1883 to 1891, therefore having played in the first ever Football League season in 1888, in the stripes. Being founding members of the Football League meant the Potters are the original and first red and white vertical striped shirt team in English league football.
However in 1891, the Football League decided that only one club could use one style of strip per season, and as Sunderland were allowed to formally adopt the red and white striped shirt as their defined shirt, Stoke City had to change theirs. They then played in numerous colours and designs, before they were wound up in 1908. Immediately, a reformed Stoke FC returned to the famous strip from 1908 onwards as they played in the Birmingham & District League. Thankfully, the FA came to their senses, and in 1919, the strip rule was scrapped. Therefore Stoke City rejoined the Football League, and back in their historical stripes.
After spending ten years in the top flight, and playing in their first ever FA Cup final in 2011 in their striped shirts, Stoke are now currently in their second season within the Championship, having been relegated from the Premier League in 2018.
There are two teams in this season’s Premier League who currently play in the red and white stripes, with Southampton and newly-promoted Sheffield United in the colours. Sheffield United were formed by members of Sheffield United Cricket Club (being the first English sports club to use the suffix of “United” in its name), and originally played in white shirts, no doubt influenced by the cricket team’s white uniforms.
The Cutlers (the old nickname of Sheffield United, who now use The Blades) adopted the white shirts with red pinstripes “butchers’ shirts” between 1891 to 1894, and a design the club would briefly return to for their 125th anniversary in 2015-16 season. However since 1894, Sheffield United have fully embraced the red stripes on their white shirts. They would achieve their four FA Cup triumphs playing in the stripes, as well as being another club to have won the English top flight in red & white striped shirts by winning the 1897-98 First Division title.
Southampton have always played in red and white, although starting off playing in white shirts with a red sash (something which was later copied in their 125th anniversary shirt for the 2010-11 season). The Saints then went to red and white quartered, then halved shirts, before the stripes were finally embraced in 1896, although with dark blue shorts and socks.
They are also the last red & white striped club to have won the FA Cup. They shocked English football as they won their first major trophy as a Second Division side, by beating that year’s third placed team in the First Division, Manchester United, 1-0 in the 1976 final. Also ironically for that final, they played in their away kit of yellow shirts and blue shorts, which has also become iconic for Saints’ supporters, and repeated in various other away kits throughout the years.
Their kits would also be the source for the colours of a couple of Spanish clubs, who adopted the striped shirts also, but they’ll be mentioned in a later episode of the series…
League Two side, Exeter City, first played in a green and white kit, which was adopted from St. Sidwell’s United (which had merged with Exeter United to form Exeter City in 1904). However after a poor start to their 1910 season, the Grecians got rid of their supposed ‘unlucky’ green and white kit, in favour of an alternative shirt: the red and white stripes. In their first game in the new kit, they drew 0-0 but then had five consecutive league wins in the month of December. As a result, the ‘lucky’ kit was kept by the club and the colours stuck.
It is the colours that they also used during their historic tour of South America, which saw them play against a Brazilian national eleven, which is regarded as the Seleção’s first ever game.
Championship club, Brentford, adopted the red and white stripes in 1925, whilst they were competing in the Third Division (South). The Bees originally started out playing in claret, salmon and blue hooped shirts, the colours of the rowing club they had originated from. They then switched to blue and gold shirts in 1903, as they were the racing colours of their patron, Lord Rothschild, who had donated the shirts to the club. They then switched to the striped in 1925, with the colours no doubt inspired from the crest of the historic county of Middlesex, of which Brentford is within its borders.
They did return to a gold and blue shirt for one season in the 1960-61 season, although this was just for one season, and the stripes returned for the following season.
Lincoln City currently play in English League One, and have played in red and white stripes for nearly all of their history. Their kit originates from Lindum FC, who were one of the biggest clubs in the city, and had played the trailblazing clubs like Sheffield FC and Hallam FC. They eventually merged with city rivals, Lincoln Rovers, in 1884, to create Lincoln City. As a result, they adopted Lindum’s historic colours as their own.
The Imps did play in aptly ‘Lincoln Green’ shirts between 1897 to 1900, and fully red shirts in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, but have returned to the stripes every time.
This season, Cheltenham Town are playing in League Two in the striped shirts, with red, white and black being the clubs predominant colours throughout their entire history. The red in their shirts coming from the town’s coat of arms. For the majority of their early career, the played with an all-red shirt, which garnered them their current nickname of The Robins. Then switching to red and white hooped shirts, and then white shirts with red sleeves.
They first played in the red and white stripes between 1957 and 1966, before adopting a red shirt with white pinstripes, and later an all-red shirt from 1968 on wards. Despite a couple of re-appearances in the 1980’s and early 90’s, it wouldn’t be until the 1996-97 season, when the stripes finally returned back to Cheltenham, and became the Robins’ permanent colours.
Since 1996, there have only been two seasons when the club reverted back to an all-red shirt, but the following season has always seen them go back to the stripes.
Other clubs initially had red and white vertical striped shirts with Wolverhampton Wanderers (1883 to 1891), Bournemouth (1899 to 1936) and Oldham Athletic (1895 to 1907) all playing in that specific design, before changing to their more traditional colours.
That concludes the first part of the ‘Red and White Stripes‘ series. In the next few series, I will look at other countries, such Spain and the Netherlands, where other prevalent ‘candystripe‘ clubs play, as well as other clubs around the Europe and the rest of the world, trying to find the big clubs who play in the red and white striped shirts.
If you have any other suggestions of teams who play in red and white vertical striped shirts in either England, Wales or other countries, please either comment below or tweet me @The94thMin. I would love to hear from you.