Anniversaries are for reflection, and 2018/19 represents the tenth anniversary of City’s inaugural season in the top flight of English Football, and with it an iconic kit worn in wins at Arsenal and Tottenham that shocked the world, as did a side tipped to be the worst in Premier League history avoiding relegation. Reflection can lead to discovery, and it was while looking back on a campaign that will forever live in Tiger’s folklore that we discovered something previously missed: between early promotional photography and its first use in match action, the primary kit changed slightly.
Less than three months after Dean Windass volleyed the Tigers into the top division at Wembley in May 2008, City were playing their first fixture in the Barclays Premier League, at home to Fulham.
Preparations for life in the Premier League became a maelstrom of activity: new press facilities had to be installed to accommodate international media, the dug-outs were upgraded, league branded material was delivered, including the signage the players shake hands in front of, and of course the sleeve patches, numbers and name-set appliqués that would be added to the kits.
In between all of this, the annual ritual of a home kit launch took place on the 4th of July. The club were again outfitted by Umbro, who’d signed a three season deal with City that begun in the summer of 2007, and after a promotion winning season in solid amber shirts that shared a template with the England national side, the brand with the double diamond logo supplied the Tigers with a kit more befitting of their big cat nickname, one with a shirt that had traditional amber and black striped shirts. Completing the kit were black shorts and black socks, both with amber trim.
Whereas preparations to play in a new division could only begin in earnest when promotion was secured and the champagne hangovers had subsided, plans for a new kit can happen much sooner. Typically the next season’s kits are signed off at the start of each year, production begins on the replicas soon after and promotional work for a summer launch is started in the March.
That was the case with the 2008/09 home kit, and on the 20th March 2008, a Thursday, a photo shoot was done to capture imagery for kit launches. At this point the home kit unveiling was over three months away, but the reveal for the ‘flint grey’ change kit was only weeks away, that kit was promoted in the April and went on sale on May 2nd.
Involved in the photo shoot were club captain Ian Ashbee, defensive rock Michael Turner, record signing Caleb Folan and surprising in hindsight, Danish midfielder Henrik Pedersen. Why surprising? Well, because Pedersen would never wear any of the 2008/09 kits in match action, he left the club early in July 2008 citing family commitments that took him back to Silkeborg in Denmark.
The pictures contain another surprise however. Instead of the black socks with amber trim we are familiar with, the players are wearing socks that are a chromatic reversal: mostly amber with black foldover bands, a thin black hoop containing connected solid diamonds at mid-shin level, and the Umbro double diamond above the hoops.
These socks were never worn in match action, and were not seen on the reveal imagery either, having been Photoshopped to look like the socks used when the season started (here’s the original image of an amber socked Ashbee holding a white board that later had the date of released added digitally)
Yet amber socks were used on three occasions with the primary shirts and shorts, but those were of a simpler design than the hose worn in the photo shoot. Those amber alternate socks were self coloured aside from black double diamonds at mid-shin level, and were worn in the 1-0 win at Tottenham, in the thrilling 4-3 reverse against Manchester United at Old Trafford and in a 2-2 draw at Portsmouth.
The reason for the switch from amber to black socks for 2008/09 eludes us, as does use of a distinct sock set as alternates. Perhaps we’ll know when it’s the 20th anniversary of Hull City’s first Premier League campaign.
We’re always looking at and for photographs that assist our quest to document the club’s kit history, paying specific attention to instances of kit mash-ups: the mixing of different kit sets to avoid clashes, away from home. Although we’d marveled at this photograph of Abdi Faye deforming a ball with a Hulk-smash header before, what we had missed was the shorts he’s wearing.
The black away shirts of 2012/13 were usually paired with black shorts with amber trim that conformed to the Regista 12 template, this was the case when all-black was sported at Charlton, Leeds and Nottingham Forest…
At Barnsley though, for the last game in which the away shirts were worn, the Parma II template shorts usually worn with the home shirts were used. Why the change? Perhaps it was deemed quicker to use shorts with existing sponsor appliques than to add them to another set: from Boxing Day 2012, when City hosted Leicester City, Burflex Scaffolding became back of shorts sponsors, with square patches heat bonded on the lower left corner.
It occurred to us that the Barnsley game was not the first time we’d worn the black away shirts since the Burflex sponsor patches were added to the Parma II shorts, that was away to Blackpool on New Years Day 2013. We could find only one photo from that game, but it did indeed show the Parma II shorts being used at Bloomfield Road for he 0-0 draw. So City ditched the Regista 12 shorts meant match the Regista 12 shirt template after just three uses.
The Tigers wore amber alternate shorts for the play-off semi-final at Derby on Saturday 14th May. Nothing odd about that, City went amber shorted twice in the league in 2015/16 (at Sheffield Wednesday in October and Brentford in November) and once in the FA Cup (at Bury in late January).
Indeed the most notable shorts story came at Derby in the league in April, when an off colour City lost 4-0 to the Rams, looking sartorially off colour by matching the away kit’s white shorts and socks with the amber with black primary shirts.
A closer look at the shorts worn at Derby in the play-offs, however, offers an explanation for the earlier white shorted look at the iPro Stadium. The amber shorts worn earlier in the campaign were the 2014/15 alternate shorts recycled for this season (the thin black side stripes are a giveaway, they correspond to thin black bands on the cuffs of the otherwise amber 2014/15 home socks), but when the stock ran out, the Tigers opted to mix and match elements of the home and away kits.
To prevent a re-occurrence in the play-offs, supplier Umbro advanced the delivery of next season’s alternate shorts, and those were used in the 3-0 first leg drubbing of derby. It is curious that City have worn two distinctive shorts in the 2015/16 year, but neither set was purposefully designed to go with this year’s primary shirt. Still, we love amber shorts used away from home, so are pleased there’ll be some in 2016/17.
In other news, a photo on the club’s Twitter account revealed the play-off final shirts will have different sleeve patches to those used in the regular season. The patches feature the exultant player trailing a cloud of confetti graphic that appears on match tickets, and were first used in the 2014 edition of the play-offs.
City’s performance was ugly at Derby, as the Tigers’ automatic promotion hopes took a potentially fatal blow in a 4-0 defeat. Their sartorial showing was below par too, as City elected to pair the away kit’s white shorts and socks with the home shirt.
The mash-up seems an odd choice, inconsistent with how we’ve worn the home shirt with non-standard shorts so far this season. At Sheffield Wednesday in October, City used the amber alternate shorts (designed for use with the 2014/15 home kit) since the primary kit shorts of the home side are black. That look was replicated at Brentford in November, again to avoid a black shorts v black shorts clash and again at Bury in late January in the FA Cup 4th round.
City have also worn amber alternate shorts at Derby before, in 2011/12 in a 2-0 win and in 2012/11, another win, this time 2-1. The amber on white/white mash-up is the seventh look the Tigers have sported this season: in addition to the regular home kit (1), full away kit (2) and all-amber when away (3) ensembles, they’ve worn black home shorts with the white away shirts and socks (4, at Charlton), the white away shirts with home shorts and socks (5, at Forest) and the blueprint/scuba blue third kit (6) twice, at Bristol City and Rotherham.
The Derby away game also saw a first airing of the deep blue ‘keeper kit since late December when it was at Preston. You can view our updated season kit tracker here.