Les Motherby

Co-creator, Hull City Kits

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Hull City kit

Objective; To create a Hull City kit that is both innovative and respectful of club traditions and recognisable visual identity. 

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Club kit history;

Though Hull City played their first few games in 1904 wearing white shirts with black shorts and socks, the plan had always been to play in amber and black; one of the club's founding fathers had told the Hull Daily Mail that the new side would wear striped jerseys and that man was previously involved in Hull Town, a precursor club who also wore amber and black.

When the club made the switch to striped jerseys, a Hull Daily Mail journalist noted the colours made the players resemble tigers, and the nickname stuck. Amber and black striped jerseys (occasionally paired with white shorts)  were used from 1904 until 1935 when the club experimented with ultramarine blue, a colour that was manufactured locally (the Reckitts company were the largest producer of the azzurro ultramarino pigment in the world at that time).

The Tigers returned to amber and black until the league was halted by World War 2. When the league resumed in 1946, Hull City were under new ownership, and local construction magnate Harold Needler planned a total rebrand; He planned to rename the club Kingston Upon Hull AFC, have them play in orange shirts, white shorts and blue socks and play in a new stadium. Only the new stadium build went to  plan, the unweildy name was dropped, the board of trade wouldn't sell orange dye citing cost after wartime rationing.

Instead City went back to blue, wearing pale blue shirts with white shorts for one season, but fans hankered for amber and black to come back and Needler relented, but the Tigers had lost their stripes, playing in plain amber shirts from 1947 until 1960. 

The free scoring side of the mid sixties wore plain amber shirts and for fans of a certain generation, that style kit is what Hull City should wear, though many feel stripes is the true visual identity of the club, it's the basis of the beloved nickname, and is readily associated with Hull City whereas many teams play in plain shirts that are either yellow, orange or in between, a case in point was when Yorkshire TV included several clips of Wolves games when editing a montage of Hull City highlights.  .

In the Seventies and early Eighties, the club fluctuated between plain shirts and amber and black stripes...

In 1982, club chairman Don Robinson added red to the club's palette, stating it represented the blood players were willing to shed for the cause, though the addition was not popular at the time, a spell of prolonged, relative success after years of decline leads many people to regard City kits with red in thome with some nostalgic affection.

Red was removed in 1990 as stripes returned, but in 1992 the club adopted a whole new look that has lived in kit infamy since then...

The tiger striped shirts often top Worst Ever Kit polls, but for Tiger Nationals, the unique kits proved to be a rare uplifting happening in a time of financial and sporting misery for Hull City.

More sober kits were used from 1996 and since then the club has rotated through plain shirts and amber and black stripes, never settling on a confirmed visual style, though sequences of kits with striped shirts have edged runs of plain shirts.

The Tigers wore plain shirts when they made their first appearance at Wembley Stadium, beating Bristol City in the Championship play off final...

The win elevated Hull City to the Premier League, the first time The Tigers had graced the top division in 104 years of distinction. For 2008/09 City wore striped shirts, and that kit became lodged in the public's consciousness when City pulled off improbable wins at Arsenal and Tottenham, drew even with Chelsea and Liverpool, and gave Manchester United a run for their money in a pulsating 4-3 game at Old Trafford, as the heavily tipped for relegation Tigers survived their first top flight season.

City couldn't repeat the feat in 2009/10 though, and found themselves back in the Football League.

This season however, a return to the Premier League is firmly in The Tigers grasp, as Steve Bruce's City lie in 2nd place with just 3 games remaining, making another promotion in plain amber shirts a near certainty.

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 Mood board;

I'm drawn to seeing how distinct periods where the club went against the just black and amber norm can be married to a conventional and instantly recognisable look. In the 1920s and 1930s we went with white shorts a few times, a look we tried again in the mid 1970s. The shirt is the traditional piece, as it is amber and black stripes, a shirt style that in England  is almost exclusively associated with The Tigers. Wolves had striped shirts in 1911 when they won the FA Cup, and Barnet and Boston have both tried stripes occasionally, but neither club is known for wearing stripes, and Hull City are a more widely known club than either of those two.

When red accents were added in the 1980s, City never used striped shirts, and some kits from that era were positively Watfordesque, so, can red accents be used on a strip that is still undeniably recognisable as a Hull City kit?

Throwback choice

The choice of which era(s) to go with boils down to the answer to one question...Which one tells a story?

The white shorted look was used intermittently in the 1920s and 1930s, and then recycled in the mid 1970s when striped shirts made a return after a decade of plain amber shirts, but there isn't any overarching tale to the switch. White has always been the de facto third colour for Hull City, it's the traditional away shirt tone and used as contrast trim to make text and numbers visible on an amber and black background. There's nothing new, fresh or notable about its use, so we'll go with red as third colour instead. 

Red trim, now there is a story about that, as it was introduced by Don Robinson when he arrived in 1982 and disappeared as soon as his association with the club ended. The end of the 1970s and the start of the 1980s was a bleak time for Hull City, the club dropped two divisions, crowds dwindled, and the financial situation was so dire that with no money to rebuild a crumbling stand in the stadium, a section of parking space was sold off and a supermarket built on it, leaving only some unwelcoming steps behind it for away supporters to shiver on.

In early 1982 the club became the first club in Britain to enter receivership, the club was broke and struggling to continue as a going concern. The entire playing squad was transfer listed and doubts that the club could not fulfil its fixtures for the remainder of the season surfaced. Enter Don Robinson, self made millionaire and consumnate showman, to daub a splash of vivid colour across a previously bleak and joyless landscape. The former rugby player and wrestler (who grappled under the moniker Dr. Death) had made his money in theme parks and zoos, and now set his sights on reviving a club that had previously challenged for top flight football and established an impressive fanbase in the 1960s.

Robinson was a colourful figure, when the Tampa Bay Rowdies came to Boothferry Park, he rode around the pitch on a white horse dressed as a cowboy, he invited Soviet giants Dynamo Kiev to play in Hull and had a dancing bear totter around the stadium. He introduced Tiger Cola, and profit from the soft drink sold locally benefitted the team.

The introduction of red to the playing kit was said by Robinson to symbolise the blood the players were willing to shed in the club's cause, and it gave The Tigers a fresh start visually. The club's fortunes were transformed, they were promoted in 1982-83 and again in 1984-85 to rejoin the second tier of the professional football pyramid after a significant absence.

Don Robinson had taken a battered and beaten club and breathed new life into it, and he was loved for it. Prone to the odd slightly bonkers and grandiose statement, he once proclaimed Hull City would be the first club to play on the Moon if he had some say in it, and that statement summed up his 'reach for the stars while climbing from the gutter' sentiment.

What is the new kit's story?

The new kit, to be used in cup competitions, will honour Don Robinson and his ressurection of the club. It will feature the red tone that he introduced at the start of his tenure but seek to present it in a way that allows the kit to still be readily identifiable as a Hull City kit. 

There is a wallchart on display at the National Football Museum in Manchester, an advertisement for team sets used in the Subbuteo table football game. The chart shows all of the teams available to buy, though many sets represented multiple professional teams, for example the Juventus set, painted with black and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks, also served as Newcastle United, St. Mirren, Notts County and a slew of other teams that played in that design of kit.

The team in plain amber shirts and black shorts are listed as Hull City, but also Wolves, Barnet, Newport, Cambridge, Alloa and a host of other clubs, However when Hull City play in amber and black stripes, they share a Subbuteo identity with just one team; Berwick Rangers.

Amber and black stripes are what Hull City are known for, it is their strongest visual identity, the reason they had The Tigers bestowed upon them as a nickname. That identity should be preserved, and not changed every few years, so the kit created here will have a striped shirt. The shirts used during the period red was in the kit were never striped, so a key objective in this project is to create a kit that is honorific to Don Robinson and include the red he had put in the kits, but also make it a readily identifiable Hull City shirt, ie. striped.

Playing with the 'first team on the Moon' remark could be fun, it was a very Don Robinson thing to say, so could further flavour a kit using red in reference to a specific era visually.

Feature ideas

Throwback crest - The tiger head used on Hull City shirts from 1979 is now encased in an escutcheon, with banners displaying the club name and nickname. A retro shirt should use the same crest, the tiger head encircled by club name/nickname text, as was used in the 1980s.

Lunar imagery - A visual reference to the first team on the Moon idea. Maybe use a hem tag to explain the references.

Reference elements of 1980s shirts - Perhaps use the collar and cuff detail of the 80s shirts, like Reebok did when they referenced the late 80s adidas overlapped round collar for the 2002-04 Liverpool home kit. Use a late 80s number font.

Feature concepts 

Retro tiger head crest atop a stitched on panel featuring the Moon. Panel to contain retroreflective material so it glows under floodlights (similar to how Manchester United's did on the 1997-2000 Champions League shirts).

Hem tag that states the famed Robinson quote with dates of his chairmanship tenure.

Lunar surface design on white numbers tipped with red, which are of a font used by adidas between 1996-1990. Are retroreflective numbers permitted? If so, have them glow under floodlights like the crest.

How much red? In what style?


I've played with some adidas templates from recent years, dropping in red following the three styles tried in the 1980s; Yoke panel, sleeve patch and pinstripes...

Yoke panel

Sleeve panel

Pinstripes

The red parts of the yoke panel and sleeve panel versions stand out too much I feel, the red in the kit should complement the amber and black, not overpower it. From afar the pinstriped shirt is just amber and black stripes, recognisably Hull City, up close you see how the pinstripes fit in subtly. For that reason I feel the red pinstripes clinging to amber and black stripes works best. Furthermore the two kits that City wore when promoted under Don Robinson were pinstriped.   

Final design

I can't illustrate for shit, so I'm hoping John Devlin doesn't mind me cannibalising a few of his excellent  Devlustrations (as we call them at Hull City Kits)...

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