The good, bad, and the ugly: Chelsea shirts over the past 50 years

Guest post by Rachel Jensen on behalf of Campo Retro

Throughout the years Chelsea FC’s football kit has changed quite dramatically. It’s normal for a team to change their shirt season by season, offering both home and away additions. For fans it’s an opportunity to wear their favourite teams colours and crest proudly, and for Chelsea there’s an extensive history to appreciate.

Over the years the Blues have seen plenty of change when it comes to their shirt. So first, let’s take a look at the clubs early years before football became the influential sport it is today.

1900-10, The Early Years

The Early Years | Source:

The Early Years | Source:

First formed in 1905, Chelsea instantly became known for signing some of the biggest name players and attracting large audiences. Regardless, they spent the first thirty of their forty seasons tough going, spending this time in the first division focusing on avoiding relegation and staying safe mid table. History has shown that they spent their early years as a yo-yo club, moving between the first and second division multiple times.

Originally, Chelsea chose to play in racing colours that were associated with the Earl of Cadogan. He was the club’s president, so this was done out of respect. Although locating the remaining kits from this period of time is tough, thanks to historians they have confirmed that the colours were Eton blue and white.

At Chelsea’s formation in 1905 their shirt was close fitting and made from tough, heavy weight fabrics such as cotton or wool. Up to mid season 1953, the shirt remained long sleeved.

pensioners-badgeAt the start of the 1907-08 season a more conventional royal blue was used. Quickly the club earned the nickname, “The Pensioners”. This was because of their official crest, which featured war pensioners famous in their uniform who were known as the Chelsea Pensioners.

1910-60, Time For Growth

time-for-growthFor many years the kit didn’t receive much change. The 1911-12 season saw a collar added to the kit, although next season and for the next sixteen, it remained mostly the same. The only difference worth mentioning was the change in sock colour, going from black to blue and back again a number of times.

After Chelsea’s first season they finished third in their division, allowing them to be promoted to Division One in 1907. Unfortunately, this league was too much for them at the time, and they sadly returned back to Division Two and spent most of the 1920s there. As ever the team worked together and worked hard to progress as a club.

Thanks to the location of Chelsea in regards to the West End of London, a number of supporters were well known celebrities. Star players graced the team but regardless, they jokingly became known as a ‘nearly team.’

west-end-boys1929 saw the introduction of a collar. Buttons were removed and the shirts became similar to the formal style businessmen would wear. Although this may not seem like much of a change, especially since the exact same colours were used, it showed how the club was adapting where necessary.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the kits up to this point was that the primary material was cotton. The design was simple and cheap to create, but it made this shirt heavy to wear, especially during the winter months. At the time people believed these materials were having a negative impact on performance, prompting an important change.

1960-90, Highs And Lows

ls-orange-shirtAs of 1960, black socks were dropped completely from the kit, instead opting for white with the occasional red trim, although yellow was used for a short period of time. Leading up to this point, Chelsea’s kit saw a number of different blues ranging from plain and simple to criss crossed lines. One incarnation even saw an experimental diamond lozenges design.

Mid fifties saw a controversial change of shirt crest. Although they had been known as “The Pensioners” since they started playing football, manager Ted Drake felt it was an embarrassing nickname. The crest was changed to an aggressive and determined looking lion. From then on Chelsea were known as “The Blues”, mostly down to their kit colour scheme.

boys-in-blue-and-whiteThe late sixties and seventies saw one of the best home kits in the club’s history. A classical style consisting of a blue shirt and shorts, with the unique addition of player numbers also being on the bottom half of the strip. Long sleeves also made a comeback, something that can be essential to battle British weather on the pitch.

1990- Present, Time For Success

current-kitThe 1990s were an important decade for Chelsea. It was at this time that football teams started to embrace more extravagant designs. Due to the club being the first to market kits under their very own brand, they stood out as being a forward thinker within sports fashion.

Switching over to away shirts, was an experimental time for the club. Although the home kits showcased class and style, the away shirts weren’t as impressive. A brave choice of bright colours were chosen, but as they entered the millennium these kits were completely changed.

From this point on Chelsea, have used the same jersey kits that we’re used to seeing in modern games, although they went through a number of designs from plain blue, to stripes and even criss cross patterns.

team-photoThanks to the investment of Roman Abramovich and the partnerships the club has created, Chelsea have been able to utilise the latest shirt designs and technology that help them to be successful. By also using the best players, they have competed with some of the toughest teams football has to offer.

What do you think? Which is your favorite or worst kit over the years? Let us know in the comment section below.

This post was written by Rachel Jensen on behalf of Campo Retro, your first stop for retro football football apparel.



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