Need to Know: The Kits by David Pasztor @D_Peezy

Photo: adidas

Back in the olden days, in the simpler times, football shirts were purely utilitarian of purpose, used to differentiate one team from another as the old playground staple of shirts vs. skins or darks vs. lights presumably did not fit the image of proper football.  Teams adopted colors of their colleges, their founders, or, in the case of Chelsea, neither, and they did not change too often. They had no reason to.

The need to standardize a team’s appearance emerged soon after national rules and competitions were set, but for the first hundred or so years, from the 1870s to the 1970s, uniforms were meant only for the players.  Don Revie’s Leeds United were the first club to sell replica kits in 1973.  Clubs, manufacturers and, soon after, sponsors, flocked to the new business opportunity.  Synthetic materials were introduced in the ’80s, partly as technical innovation, partly as cost-savings, and partly as profit-increasing measures.  With more money and greater exposure came more frequent changes, resulting in more shirts, more shorts, more socks, home kits, away kits (i.e. change kits), third kits, special kits, centennial kits, one-off commemorative kits, kits, kits, kits, and more kits.  It even became acceptable, if not expected, to be seen in your club’s kit on matchday or, really, pretty much any day.

Nowadays, the annual kit release is accompanied by months and months of speculation.  There is a whole industry dedicated to shirt leaks.  Marketing campaigns begin early and drive the ever-increasing amount of hype, pomp, and circumstance.  This year, we even had a sponsor change — after a decade of Samsung to Yokohama "Tyres" — adding to the level intrigue and anticipation.  Incidentally, all three of this year’s kits were spoiled as far back as December.  Still, the hype was massive, the wait excruciating, the struggle real.


For the first two years of the club’s existence, Chelsea played in the racing colors of the Earl Cadogan, which happened to be a fairly light shade of blue called Eton Blue.  It’s not quite clear why we switched, but since 1907 (Royal) Blue has been the colour.

From 1907 to 1960, Chelsea played in a plain blue shirt with a white collar and white trim, white shorts, and black socks.  Big change constituted subtly altering the stripes on the socks and the specifics of the collar; this happened every few years and supporters probably were up in arms about them. Nobody likes change, after all.  Nowadays, the kit changes every year and we’ve become accustomed to it.  The home shirts are still blue, but hardly ever just plain.  Collars, colors, patterns, and details change radically and frequently.  Shorts are blue, as they have been since the ‘70s, and socks are white, as they have been (with a few exceptions) since the ‘60s.

Photo: adidas

This year’s home shirt takes inspiration from the kits of the early- to mid-’80s, which explains the snap button collarless henley design as well as the white-red trims on the sleeves, the shorts, and the socks as well.  Except for the use of modern materials, these would not look out of place on the backs of Clive Walker, Pat Nevin, and Kerry Dixon.


We often think of yellow as our true away color, but until the 1960s, Chelsea mostly wore white or red as the change strip.  So this year’s return to a simple white design after last season’s classy yellow may seem uninspired, but it is quite well rooted in history.  The shirts are matched with white shorts and blue socks.

Photo: adidas

A simple crew neck design is accented by a bit more red on the sleeves, though blue is the predominant secondary color.  Just like the home shirts, the away shirt features a "fingerprint" on the hem that adidas seem quite proud of, though its purpose seems frivolous at best. "The fingerprint is a symbol of each individual’s identity and by placing this on the shirt is a move by adidas to closer connect the fans to the club." How adidas are able to represent "each individual’s identity" using the exact same fingerprint on each and every shirt remains unclear.


While these shirts have not been released officially yet by adidas, based on the leaks which proved correct for the home and away shirts, the thirds are likely to be black again, for the third year running.  This is still a fairly new color in the Chelsea repertoire, with the first predominantly black shirt arriving as the away kit in 2002-03.

Adding interest to the monochrome design are subtle horizontal stripes on the front and a wider white trim at the ends of the sleeves.  For better or worse, the sponsor’s bright red logo stands out quite a bit.  The shirt is matched with black shorts that seem to fade into white towards the bottom — an interesting design choice that, at first glance, looks terrible — and white socks.


There are hardly any rules when it comes to goalkeeper kits other than to be different from any other kit associated with the club in a particular season.  And so, for season 2015-16, the default kit will be a mock v-neck mint green number with navy blue accents.  It’s quite a sight.

We usually have a second goalkeeper kit to call upon when needed as well, and this year’s appears to be a bright yellow one with black accents.  Just like our third kit, this one has not yet been officially announced by adidas, but it saw action at least once already this preseason, in the under-21 squad’s friendly against MK Dons.

Photo: Pete Norton/Getty Images


We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.