West Ham Kit History: Why do West Ham Wear Claret and Blue?

West Ham United are a club famed for their claret and blue strip, passionate fans and for producing some world class players from their renowned ‘academy of football’.
The story of West Ham’s kits begins in 1895, when the club was founded, as Thames Ironworks FC, a works team for Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co, based in the East End of London.

Thames Ironworks’ first walked out in an all navy kit, before a Union jack badge was introduced to the kit the following year. The first distinct change came in 1897, when the East London club opted for a classic shade of blue, accompanied by white shorts and red socks.

In 1900 Thames Ironworks FC disbanded and relaunched as West Ham United, sporting a light blue shirt with white shorts and a claret strip along the sides.

Why do the Hammers Wear Claret and Blue?

Some report that West Ham’s adoption of the claret and blue colours was brought about by Charlie Dove, an employee of Thames Ironworks, who played for them as a right half. Dove had apparently bought the kits from William Belton, a professional sprinter and also one of the coaches at Thames Ironworks. In the summer of 1899 Belton was challenged to a race against four of Aston Villa’s players whilst at a fair in Birmingham, not too far away from Villa Park (Aston Villa’s home stadium). One of the Villa players had bet money on beating Belton. When the Villa players were defeated, they were unable to pay. As a substitute for money, they were forced to hand over a complete set of kits. Those kits were then used by West Ham United.

A few years later in 1903 the club made claret the primary shirt colour with blue sleeves and blue touches on the collar. From then up until 1950 the claret and blue kit was very consistent, with only changes being made to the socks. (Claret, Claret and blue stripes and black)

In 1950 West Ham designed a brand new club badge with the crossed hammers being present on the kit, a touch to show off their ironworks history and also the derivation of their nickname – ‘The Hammers’.

Ten years later, the 1960’s would turn out to be the most successful decade in the club’s history, with one of West Ham’s most famous kits coming from that era.

West Ham won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in successive seasons (1964 and 1965) with a special badge featuring on the shirt, for both finals. The badge included an image of the ‘Boleyn Castle’, a building that sat next to the club’s historical Boleyn ground. Although these shirts were very popular, the 1966 shirt turned out to be the most recognised.

The 1966 West Ham shirt featured a crew neck claret and blue collar, claret body with a traditional crossed hammers badge, blue long sleeves and claret and blue cuffed wrists. This shirt was ironically more famous for its wearers’ achievements with the England national team than the success of the club itself. Club captain Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup as England captain and West Ham heroes Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters scored goals for England in the final. It would be said that ‘West Ham won the World Cup’.

Moving on a few years, the 1975-1976 shirt was key in the West Ham’s history. The club introduced a design featuring the Boleyn Castle behind the classic crossed hammers and it was also the first year the kit manufacturer, Bukta, was seen on the shirt.
In the 1980s West Ham had some great kits with a huge fans favourite shirt in 1984-85. A classy shirt with a crossed hammers badge and a light blue band across the front of the shirt with the sponsors ”AVCO” inside it.

West Ham’s 1999-2003 home shirt is iconic to West Ham fans. The Dr Martens sponsor on the shirt will always be remembered fondly, as fans recall one of the best Premier League goals ever scored by a West Ham player, a scissor-kick volley by Paolo Di Canio. The shirt is also known notable for its use during a golden age of youth development at the club. It was worn by the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole.

From 2003 onwards there has been one kit that stands out, the home shirt worn during the 2015-16 season. The shirt was so significant as it marked West Ham’s final season at the Boleyn ground, more commonly known as Upton Park. Small features such as text were printed on the club badge, as well as on the neck of the shirt to commemorate the historical stadium.

The following year saw many changes, with the move to the Olympic Stadium and the rebranding of the badge, a controversial decision amongst loyal fans.

West Ham have recently released their kit for the 2020-21 Premier League season. The new offering celebrates the club’s 125th anniversary with a style reminiscent to that of the kit used for the 2015/2016 campaign, with text added to the badge.

What is your favourite all time West Ham kit?

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