It is how Hull City earned its nickname. But what is the story behind the Tigers’ stripes – and sometimes plain – strips?
Fan Les Motherby will be revealing some of the fascinating stories he has uncovered in his research into the history of Hull City’s kits as part of the UK City of Culture 2017 events.
Mr Motherby, one of 60 people to win a Creative Communities Grant, will be putting the best of his collection on display at the Streetlife Museum next year.
“Culture isn’t just art and theatre, it’s what people do and what many people do, is support sport and the way they do it is wearing the team’s colours,” said Mr Motherby, a fan of the club since the age of six, whose father moved the family near Hull City’s former Boothferry Park home to be close to their sporting heroes.
“Hull City is part of the fabric of Hull and I wanted to tell the story of the team and how it has changed over the years.”
While the Tigers got their name through their black and amber stripes, the kits over the years have been surprisingly diverse – and players often wear plain shirts. There was even a time after the Second World War when rationing meant they wore plain blue shirts made with local Reckitt’s dye.
“For the first 30 to 40 years they exclusively wore striped shirts, but in the late 1940s and 1950s owners who had bought the team out of dormancy preferred them to wear plain shirts. In recent years, they have alternated between the two to keep everybody happy,” Mr Motherby said.
Fans would be lucky to get a shirt now from the 1950s - once used by the first team they got passed to the reserves, then juniors, until falling to pieces and ending up as rags to clean boots.
Some kits are popular simply because of the design, others “are ineluctably associated” with events, according to Mr Motherby. “If a team is successful, or win a trophy, people’s viewpoints change,” he said.
In the 1980s under the flamboyant ownership of Don Robinson, a wrestling promoter who ran Scarborough’s Royal Opera House and became Scarborough Football Club’s chairman and later Hull City, red was introduced into the kit.
“He said it was to signify the blood the players would be shedding in the cause of Hull City. It could be seen as a tiger when it’s shot – but you look back and it was a relatively successful period. We were promoted twice.”
The club has got things wrong – the 1986-88 home shirt’s amber was a glistening yellow and the club was being sponsored by Twydale Turkeys, a combination which did not work out well. But the most notorious was the eye-popping animal print kit of 1992. Painful to look at – it often tops ‘Worst Kit Ever’ polls – but it got the team world-wide coverage.
Strips can be controversial - in October the club bought out a kit described as “cactus purple”.
“There was an argument over whether it was pink or purple – some people thought it a girly colour. The first time they wore it they lost 6-1, so it was instantly doomed,” said Mr Motherby. “Football is a visually rich sport and when it comes to visual identification, teams are a primary visual identifier,” he added.
On a trip to Chicago Mr Motherby was wearing a 2008 home shirt. “A local guy shouted: ‘Hull City suck’. I didn’t like the sentiment but what it told me was he saw the colours and knew instantly where I was from, thousands of miles from home.”
*The Yorkshire Post’s Saturday Magazine will be a Hull UK City of Culture 2017 special edition this weekend.