Prior to World War I,
goalkeepers mostly wore the same colours as their team mates, and they were distinguished
by donning a cap. England's goalkeepers, however, chose to wear a
different coloured jersey as early as 1891, and perhaps, even earlier. It is
difficult to tell what colour was chosen, but the light appearance in the
monochrome photographs suggests that it was grey, or maybe, yellow. We can
probably surmise that goalkeepers were asked to bring their own club jerseys
to wear in the internationals. Unlike the outfield players, the goalkeepers'
jerseys were not emblazoned with the Three Lions emblem.
In the early years of the twentieth
century, the jerseys were noticeably darker, and they could have been red, blue,
green or grey. We simply cannot tell from photographs. In 1921, the
International Football Association Board (IFAB) decreed that international
goalkeepers would wear yellow, but on one notable occasion,
in Sweden, in 1923, possibly becasue Sweden were wearing yellow, England's custodian took to the field in a hooped shirt, as
here. We can only speculate on what the colours were, but we imagine that it
was supplied locally, not the last time that an England goalkeeper would find
himself wearing the colours of another team (Ray Clemence wore an adidas
Romanian top in 1980 and Peter Shilton, incredibly, wore a Scotland top with the
Scottish FA emblem at Hampden in 1989!).
After the Second World War, England's goalkeepers
were finally issued with yellow roll-neck jerseys, complete with Three Lions
emblem, for each match. Then, in 1954, when England finally discarded the dress
shirts that they had been wearing since 1880, so too did the goalkeepers acquire
a more modern look. Their jerseys had a crew neck, as opposed to the v-necks
worn by the outfield players. We do not know yet if these jerseys were supplied
separately to the outfield shirts, so we cannot ascertain who made them.
From 1966 onwards, however, we know that Umbro
were supplying England goalkeepers' jerseys, as well as the outfield kits. As
the sixties gave way to the seventies, Umbro began supplying aertex shirts to
England for games in warmer climes and the goalkeepers were not excluded. Umbro
also added their distinctive diamond logo onto Gordon Banks' jersey in 1971,
over three years before the whole team began wearing Admiral logos.
Umbro introduced numbers to the reverse of the
goalkeepers' shirts for every match from the beginning of the 1969-70 season.
Previously, England's 'keepers had only worn digits when squad numbers were
required, in the four World Cup tournaments from 1954 onwards, plus the European
Championship finals of 1968, and on selected other occasions.
Up to this point, England's 'keepers had worn
yellow as first-choice and blue as an alternative. On two occasions in 1970,
Banks found himself wearing red shirts. One is believed to be England's away
shirt, when both the yellow and blue tops clashed with Colombia's yellow and
blue shirt, and the other, inexplicably occurred when Banks wore the yellow
Aertex shirt against the yellow-shirted Romanians in the opening half of
England's first defence of the World Cup. For the second half, he appeared in a
red short-sleeved shirt.
Green shirts were briefly introduced (or
re-introduced) to the England goalkeeper's locker in 1973, when the outfield
players wore yellow Aertex shirts for a European tour. This was also the year
when Peter Shilton became the first England goalkeeper to wear tracksuit
trousers for an international. The occasion was the Scottish FA's Centenary
match on a rock-hard Hampden Park pitch in February, so, perhaps,
understandable. He repeated this on two other occasions. Ray Clemence and David
Seaman have both felt compelled to follow suit on occasion, though these were
due to a rock-hard pitch, rather than the cold.
1974 saw Admiral secure the first official
contract to supply England exclusively with their kit. This included the first
ever complete 'keeper's outfit, where black shorts and socks were supplied with
the yellow shirt. The change blue shirt, however, had to make do with the same
black shorts and socks, or, alternatively, revert back to the old days when the
'keepers' lower garments matched the outfield players'.
When Umbro returned, in 1984, to take on
the role, once more, of England's kit supplier, they saw the goalkeeper's
uniform as a chance to experiment a little with the traditional colours, allied,
presumably, to an expert marketing onslaught. A grey shirt appeared on the South
American tour that year, and this was followed up, two years later, by an
all-grey kit, guaranteed not to clash with any other nation's outfield kit, so
the yellow equivalent (now only second choice) became redundant.
This was followed by an era when football kit
designs got more and more bizarre, especially the goalkeepers'. In 1988, England
switched to green shirts with different shades of green forming stripes. A blue
equivalent was used throughout the following year. There was a brief respite
when a more sober yellow shirt appeared in 1990, not unlike the 1974 Admiral
offering, with black shorts and socks, but the early nineties saw a staggering
array of 'paint explosions' across the England goalkeeper's shirt, culminating
in the predominantly red change kit used in 1996. This was included in Dave
Moor's, 'The Worst Football Kits Of All Time' (The History Press, 2011) and
described thus: "It had everything - random blocks of clashing colours, 'GLAND'
written vertically up the front ('ENG' being uncomfortably tucked away where
only Mrs. Seaman might find it) and part of the England crest disappearing into
the armpit." Click here
to see it (if you dare!).
Although the garish designs were reined
in, in the years that followed, Umbro managed to launch a staggering 14 designs
in the decade of the nineties, seemingly not restricted to the 'one per year'
approach of the outfield kit. Indeed, in 1997, they managed to introduce three
new goalkeeping kits, two of which were blue! There were some 'interesting' new
colours, as well, such as orange, olive green and teal, but yellow, blue and
black (separately) managed to re-establish themselves in the new millennium.
Ever more competition rules have meant that kit
men have had to be on their guard, such as when David James had to change into a
black training shirt, because the predominantly red sleeves of the first-choice
shirt clashed with the red-and-white chequered sleeves of Croatia in the Euro
2004 tournament. Goalkeepers' kits cannot clash anymore with their opposite
number in tournaments, due to the propensity for 'keepers to venture into the
other team's penalty area when chasing a result in the closing stages of a game.
More variations of colours have been introduced
more recently, such as aubergine, racing green, Bermuda green and spearmint
green, hyper verde(!) and bold berry, but these have been interspersed with more
traditional colours. In 2013, to mark the FA's 150th anniversary, an all-gold
kit was introduced.
2014 saw a new trend, when England's goalkeepers
began wearing the short-sleeved versions of the shirts, with a long-sleeved base
layer top of the same colour underneath.
England continue to catch us out with new designs
(currently three a year) and it is fascinating to see how the designers can make
them look different to previous efforts, but we continue to document them as
they appear, whilst filling in the gaps from the earlier years as new evidence
surfaces. Please get in touch if there is anything that you can add to this
story (Contact Us).