J.H. Hill’s ultramarine army!

The screengrab above is taken from a delightful October 1935 British Pathé newsreel that was part of the Famous Football Teams In Training series. It showed manager (and former England captain) J.G. Hill taking training at the Anlaby Road Ground ahead of the 1935-36 Division Two campaign. From a City kit point of view, the clip is fascinating as it shows the Tigers wearing the new ultramarine blue and white kit worn for just one season before the familiar amber and black striped shirts worn in each of our 26 league seasons to date returned.

Despite the clip’s narrator talking up City’s chances for the new season, The Tigers finished rock bottom of Division Two, amassing just 20 points in 42 games with a record of 5 wins, 10 draws and 27 defeats. As a result, City were relegated to Division Three (North).

The reason for the kit switch is a mystery, but if the club was going to radically change it’s colour scheme, it made sense that ultramarine blue be the hue chosen. Why? Well, for a start blue is main civic colour of Hull, the city’s coat of arms consists of three pale or (gold) coronets on an azure (blue) field. Azure blue is also known as ultramarine (literally ‘beyond the sea’) and Hull firm Reckitts were the leading manufacturer of ultramarine pigments in the world, so blue dye was easy to obtain.

The blue jerseys had a white foldover collar attached to a blue placket, they also featured the first chest insignias used on City shirts. The emaciated tiger head that adorned the shirts worn by Raich Carter through to Stuart Pearson wasn’t used though, that didn’t appear on a City kit until 1947, instead the city of Hull’s stacked coronets within a shield device was used. There were no short sleeved versions, players simply rolled up the sleeves if they so desired, hiding the white cuffs at sleeves’ end.

The baggy white shorts were quite long, but were worn so high on the waist that they still didn’t cover the knees. Completing the kit were hooped ‘stockings’ with a plain foldover band which looked superb.

Horizontal stripes had featured on City socks before this, but only as trim on the foldover band, this was the first time the body of the sock was hooped on a home kit.

 A 1936 Carrera Cigarettes trading card, part of the Famous Footballers series, shows Maxey Martin Holmes in a blue shirt. The images on the cards were not from colour photos though, rather black and white photographs that had been colourised.

That means the shade of blue used on the card may not be entirely accurate, the shirt design depicted certainly isn’t, the card shows a totally white collar, placket and all, whereas the shirt City wore had only the lapel in white.

It is possible that the image was based on a photograph taken when Holmes was at Grimsby, he joined City from the Mariners in May 1935, and that the blue ink covered a black and white striped shirt. Then again, whoever colourised the photograph might simply have made an error, rendering the full collar white instead of just the lapels.

The Tigers returned to tigerish black and amber for the 1936-37 Division Three (North) season, wearing the striped shirts used before the switch to blue but with black shorts rather than white (as were used in 1934-35). In the team photograph for 1936-37, several players appear to be wearing the blue and white hooped socks with black and amber shirts and shorts (seen below).

After a return to our regular colours, they were used in league competition until 1939 when the Football League shut down because of World War 2. It is likely that City remained in black and amber for games played during wartime, but when league operations resumed in 1946, blue was used once more by City.

New owner Harold Needler planned to rebrand the club Kingston upon Hull AFC and wanted them to wear orange, white and royal blue, but his plans were thwarted by post-war austerity measures and thankfully the name change did not occur. Still, The Tigers began life at Boothferry Park dressed not in black and amber, but blue and white (the programmes used during 1946/47 though, depicted a player wearing Needler’s preferred scheme of orange, white and blue).

Were the 1935-36 shirts reused ten years later? It doesn’t look like it, the civic crest was not present, and looking at a screengrab of City players emerging from the Boothferry Park tunnel, the placket layer with the buttons on is white and the post war jersey appears to be a lighter blue than was used in 1935 (though that could be because of lighting or camera equipment differences). The socks used were definitely different, instead of blue and white hoops, stockings of a dark, solid tone (navy blue? black?) were worn for the 0-0 draw with Lincoln.

Both instances of blue shirt use lasted just one season, and we haven’t used that hue as a first choice kit since, though City did wear blue at home as an emergency measure during our 2004-05 centenary year when Bradford turned up for a televised game with only their black shirts with white shorts and socks away kit.

We could have loaned Bradford our away kit, though it was rumoured that Peter Taylor didn’t want to see Dean Windass, a Bradford player at the time, wearing a City shirt so elected to have both sides wear away kits instead. Regardless of that explanations veracity, the Tigers turned out in pale blue shirts and socks with black shorts for a 1-0 defeat.