At the start of the sixties, several major sides – including Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and West Ham – abandoned their traditional sock colours in favour of white ones, which were new to the market. Some clubs – most notably Leeds United – changed their entire kits to plain white. For some of these sides, these were temporary changes, but for others they became permanent facets of their identity.
The dominant style of jerseys from the late fifties had persisted into the start of the next decade, but in 1963 long sleeves and crew necks made a comeback. Almost every team in the country adopted the new jerseys Umbro marketed under the ‘Real’ banner, modelled on those worn by Real Madrid in the 1960 and 1962 European Cup finals (although ironically, Real switched back to v-necks for the ’63 final).
Bukta continued to make and supply kit to many clubs and international teams, during the decade. At the time, clubs did not have exclusivity deals with sports brands, and would simply buy from the most competitive reseller. This meant the England national team, for example, could wear both Umbro and Bukta kit in the same season.
Manufacturers and clubs alike continued to experiment with the possibilities afforded them by kits, which still represented a fairly blank canvas. More teams started to adorn their shirts with club crests or town or city insignias. In 1964, Chelsea players turned out with numbers on their shorts as well as their shirts, possibly inspired by Celtic, who had begun this practice in 1960.
Umbro were marketing a ‘soccerset’ to younger fans, consisting of a boxed set of shirt, shorts and socks featuring images and endorsements from stars of the day such as Denis Law. This was a tentative first step into the world of replica kits, that would really accelerate in the 1970s.
Nylon shirts began to be worn during games in warmer weather during the mid sixties and shorts and socks became shorter and lighter as nylon versions of those were also introduced.
England hosted the World Cup in 1966, and Umbro managed to secure deals to supply the bulk of the competing teams with kit. For the first time, the final was played with both teams wearing English-made Umbro branded strip. At this time, Umbro also partnered up with adidas, to distribute the German brand’s football boots in the UK. By the 1980s, the two brands would become fierce rivals.
Umbro rebranded their Real line of shirts as ‘Aztec’ during the mid to late sixties, with an eye on the upcoming World Cup in Mexico. They also began to experiment with aertex fabrics to increase air flow and keep players cool in warmer weather,
The FA temporarily banned navy blue shirts in 1969, fearing the dark colours caused confusion as they could clash with the referee’s traditional black kits. They also required for the first time that away teams wore change shorts and socks in case of a clash, even if shirts did not clash.
Read part 5 – the 1970s here.