Newcastle United are a huge club, with a long and impressive history. Since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, they have only spent three seasons outside of the top division. They have also never fallen below the second tier, since they joined the league in 1893. All of this contributes to Newcastle’s position as one of England’s most recognisable clubs.
The black and white vertical stripes on their kit are a huge part of the Newcastle’s identity. Even their nickname ‘the Magpies’ is a reference to their home kit. Because of this, it’s hard to imagine their players walking out in any other colour. Interestingly though, this was not always the case.
Newcastle United began its existence after two clubs based in the city merged together, Newcastle East End FC and Newcastle West End FC. West End fell into financial trouble and folded after the 1890/1891 season, offering their players and stadium lease to their bitter rivals. East End wanted to appeal to fans across the entire city so they changed their name to reflect both clubs. The result was Newcastle United FC, a name chosen to represent their unification. Newcastle United inherited St. James’ Park, the stadium of West End, and the superior finances and players of East End.
Surprisingly, neither of the initial clubs had a kit similar to the modern kit of Newcastle United. The main colours of Newcastle West End were red and black, with the layout of these colours changing from year to year. They turned out in horizontal stripes most years, sometimes using a quartered design. The season before their dissolution, they wore claret and blue stripes. Newcastle East End FC never settled on a standard kit, using dark blue, red, brown and light blue, dark blue and orange, red and white, light blue, and red colour schemes over the course of their history.
Despite the lack of a consistent colour scheme between the two clubs, Newcastle United’s first recognised kit was red and white – the same combination worn by Sunderland today. They had an all red shirt, with white shorts and red socks. It wasn’t until two years after their foundation, in 1894, that the club would first be seen in their famous black and white stripes. Their first black and white kit had black shorts and black socks and was fairly short-lived, lasting only two years. Upon their next redesign, they shifted from black to navy shorts. With their black and white shirt, navy shorts and black socks, they maintained an almost identical kit for the following two decades. The change from red and white to black and white is still the most inexplicable in their history, given the lack of similar offerings earlier in the history of either of their founding clubs.
In 1920, Newcastle readopted their black shorts. From this point on, the kit was pretty much unchanged for the century, spanning to modern day. The kit obviously changed with the time period, opting for a more modern neckline in 1958, in place of the collars and buttons used earlier. This 1958 offering also saw a shift to the shorter shorts we see today. In 1969, Newcastle first integrated a badge into their kit design. It was originally placed on the left breast of the kit, before moving to the centre in 1972 and back to the left in the 80’s. The 80’s also signalled a change in kit manufacturer, from Bukta to Umbro, and the addition of their first shirt sponsor.
As the turn of the century approached, for the first time since 1894, Newcastle United deviated from their traditional black and white striped offering. For the 1997/1998 season, they added gold detailing to the sides of their shirt and shorts. The following kit, from 1999, veered even further from tradition. The gold was replaced with a bold blue, lining the top and bottom of the shirt, as well as the bottom of the shorts. The blue detailing has also resurfaced more recently, notably in the 2015/2016 season, a year in which the club was relegated.
Ultimately, Newcastle have barely changed their kit, since their inception in the late 1800’s. Most alterations were made to modernise the existing design, like the addition of the badge and increasing levels of detail. The collar has changed and sponsors have been added but it’s clear that the black and white stripes are now untouchable, ingrained into the identity of Newcastle United.