Whilst Tottenham have played in white shirts with navy blue shorts (or knickers as they were called till the late 1950’s) since 1898, the kit has evolved significantly over time with changes in fashion, practicality, technology and ultimately commercialism all having an impact on the design of the lilywhite shirt, evolving from the flannel/cotton button up shirts of Victorian times to today’s high tech, quick drying, moisture resistant, lightweight materials. Previously I have covered the periods from 1918 to 1977, with this article I will go back to the very start in 1882 and then into the start of the lilywhite era from 1898.
There are no records of what the team wore in their first season but as they played just two matches, it is likely the boys wore whatever they could get hold of. The goalposts though, are recorded as being blue and white, which may or may not be a clue.
At the club's first AGM in August 1883, under the guidance of John Ripshaw, agreement was reached on the colours the team would wear henceforth. The 1908 “White Hart Spurs entry to the English League”, records these as “Dark Blue Jersey, White Breeches, Dark Blue Stockings and cap, whilst the 1921 history “the Romance of Football” records this as navy jerseys with the addition of the letter "H" on a red shield.
This later book also records that the blue and white halved shirts introduced in 1885 had replaced “the old blue jerseys with HFC stitched across the front”. There is no photographic evidence of these first shirts that were likely to have been made of flannel or cotton as was typical of the time.
Left - Home strip, 1885 -- 86
Top - Change colours 1901
In 1885 the club cancelled a fixture to watch the professionals of Blackburn Rovers win the second of their three consecutive English Cup finals. So impressed were they that the club adopted Rovers' blue and white halved shirts.
The first two known photographs of the team taken before the game against St Albans FC, in the London Association Cup in 1885, indicates that these to be a cotton/flannel shirt, with a collar and buttoned front and a Maltese Cross on the left breast, however the 1921 history also records that a letter "H" was worn on the shoulder.
right - Home 1890 - 1895
Primarily, white knickers appear to be worn with this shirt, though the photos show some players in dark (navy or black?) knickers and, some players are also shown wearing blue and white caps. One of the photos also shows two players wearing a woollen hooped top, with crew neck, hooped stockings and white or dark knickers. Is this an alternate or cold weather kit? I do not know.
There are no records of what colours were worn between 1886 and 1889, but the 1921 history records the colours for the 1889/90 season as “Navy Blue and White”, though no further description is available as to how these colours were worn.
left - Change kit - 1898 -99
Below - Change kit - 1899 - 1902
For the 1890/91 season, Tottenham introduced new colours of red shirts and navy knickers and were known as the “Tottenham Reds”. These colours were worn till 1895, and whilst this seems incredulous now, but as Arsenal did not relocate from Woolwich till September 1913, I would assume at this point, there would have not been any antipathy towards this colour. The earliest known photograph of this kit shows it to be a plain cotton/flannel shirt, with a collar and buttoned front, plain navy knickers and stockings. Also from 1892 Jack Jull’s shirts has the emblem of the Middlesex FA, to show that he had represented them at county level.
Initially, for the 1895/96 season, the previous red and navy strip was worn, but a new chocolate and old gold vertically striped shirt was worn for the first time in October 1895 against the Royal Artillery. It has been confirmed from a period club hand book that navy knickers were worn with this new shirt. The earliest known photograph of this kit shows it to be a cotton shirt, with a collar and buttoned front, plain navy knickers and stockings
There is no confirmed written record as to when Tottenham adopted their now famous white shirts and navy blue knickers, a homage to the mighty Preston North End “Invincibles” of the 1890’s.
Various Tottenham history books conjecture on this, with both 1900 or September 1899 being stated, however, the club's late historian, Andy Porter uncovered an article published in The Golden Penny dated September 1898 which carries a photograph of the Spurs team wearing white shirts and navy knickers.
At this time, no other team in the Southern League wore similar colours and as such is now assumed to be the first use of the colour.
Left - Home kit 1898 - 1914
These first shirts were again either flannel or cotton, typical of the period, and had a collar and a button up placket halfway down the front, however team photos also show that a full front buttoned shirt was worn in 1902/03 and that a crew neck jersey was worn around the turn of the century.
It is likely that the latter was a woollen jersey worn by goalkeepers (a different colour was not required till 1909) and by outfield players in cold conditions.
Right - The Change kit - 1908 - 11
These were worn apparently unchanged till 1912, and the 1910/11 club hand book states, that between 1907 and 1911, the shirts at least were manufactured by HR Brookes of 778, Seven Sisters Road.
Between 1912 and 1914, alternate plain white shirts with either a lace up or button up “grand-dad” style collar, seem to have been the preferred choice, though the previous collared shirts were still occasionally worn. The collared shirts were then retained and used throughout and immediately after the First World War.
The first photographic evidence of a change shirt appears to show the previous brown and old gold vertical striped shirt being worn against Newton Heath in the FA Cup in 1899.
Between 1900 and 1904, photographs and match reports show that blue and white striped shirts were worn, though there appears to be at least two different batches with the colour of the stripes varying around the centre line of the shirt.
Left - Home 1912 -14
Uniquely, for a friendly match against a Berlin IX on a very snowy pitch at White Hart Lane in January 1901, light and dark broad hooped, crew necked woollen jerseys were worn. Despite finding a number of match reports for this game, including one with numerous illustrations, I cannot find any record of what the colours being worn by Spurs are.
Between 1908 and 1911, again navy blue and white vertical stripes were worn as a change strip, though in December 1908, reports state that red and white stripes were against Fulham. Then from 1912 till the start of the First World War, a plain red shirt with a button up “grand-dad” collar, similar to the home shirt, was worn as a change.
These final paragraphs are the limit of my knowledge on our change shirts before the First World War. If anybody has any further knowledge on these or any of the previous two articles, I would greatly appreciate to hear from you.
Author - Tony Sealey
Editor’s note – Tony is a lifelong Spurs supporter and has a wealth of knowledge regarding the club and we are delighted he has managed to find the time to share with us this series on his specialist subject, the kits worn by the team, as well as some of his many images. Please also remember he has offered to answer any questions you may have, you can add them in the comments below or on Facebook. Thank you.
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