This summer marks the 25th anniversary of Puma’s first entry into the English kit market as they took over the Sheffield Wednesday contract from Umbro.
The July 10, 1993 issue of Shoot! featured a piece on the launch, including a competition to win the new shirts and also double up a picture of Chris Woods in the gaudy goalkeeper kit as a poster.
Often, a new maker will play it safe in the first season, not wanting to upset the supporters too much, but Puma didn’t tread lightly.
The blue stripes on the sleeves of the new home shirt were broken with white pinstripes and, while blue shorts and white socks had been used in the 1970s, black shorts had become established in the 1980s and were worn in the 1991 Rumbelows Cup final win over Manchester United.
On the body of the shirt, the blue stripes carried sublimated Puma markings, while there were repeating owls in the fabric of the shorts.
Like Manchester United, Puma and Wednesday took advantage of the impending change of match officials’ shirts from black to green by employing a black change kit with yellow pinstripes, effectively a reverse of their last Umbro away strip.
The shadow pattern on the shirts and shorts promoted the Puma King brand.
However, while a largely yellow away shirt had negated the need for a third option, early in the new season Wednesday found themselves needing to come up with another alternative.
For their trip to St James’ Park to face newly promoted Newcastle United on September 13, the home stripes couldn’t be used and the black was a no-no too. Somebody in Puma reckoned that the best idea was to come up with a white third shirt with black pinstripes in the same design as the away.
While yellow shorts were provided, the kit was unsurprisingly deemed unsuitable against Newcastle’s black and white by referee Roger Dilkes, who ordered that the Toon wear their blue away kit.
Eight days later, and just five weeks after the start of the season, Wednesday found themselves wearing a fourth different shirt – but it wasn’t one of their own.
While the referees in the Premier League were wearing green, black retained primacy in the domestic cups and teams couldn’t wear the colour. Drawn with Bolton Wanderers in the second round of the Coca-Cola Cup, Wednesday couldn’t use the stripes, the black or the white, so they took to the field in yellow Bolton shirts.
This was when the Trotters were sponsored by Reebok, who had just taken over the manufacture of their kit, but Wednesday were given the previous 1990-93 third shirt, made by Matchwinner.
When Wednesday had visited West Ham United in August, they wore the black kit in order to avoid a socks-clash, though of course the shirts were less distinctive than the home tops.
By the time of the Sheffield derby at Bramall Lane on October 23, they had been provided with blue change socks – unusually with yellow tops, considering its minimal role on the shirts and shorts. For the return game at Hillsborough in January 1994, both sides played in white socks.
Wednesday also wore the blue socks away to Leeds rather than changing kit.
Having progressed past Bolton and then Middlesbrough in the Coca-Cola Cup, Wednesday were drawn with Queens Park Rangers in the fourth round on December 1. While they would wear black away kit at Loftus Road in the league on New Year’s Day, that option was unavailable and so they were in yellow again, this time one of their own, provided by Puma.
It was the same design as the second and third shirts, though the pinstripes were tonal. [Note: Sometimes we see the yellow shirt referred to as the third and the white as the fourth. While the yellow was worn more, our logic is that the white appeared first, meaning the yellow was an emergency measure; in addition, when the option of wearing either of them existed, the white was chosen. If the yellow had been the third, there would have been no need for the white.]
A 2-1 win in that game set up a fifth-round meeting with Wimbledon on January 11, just four days before their league trip to face the Dons.
Having worn red at Hillsborough in the league, Wimbledon – who couldn’t wear their navy home kit in the cups due to the referees wearing black – opted for white shirts and black shorts. As related in this piece, the yellow shirt, with yellow shorts and clashing black socks, was worn in the first game.
However, for the league tie they were back in all-navy and Wednesday used the white shirts, this time with the black shorts, meaning that both elements below the waist clashed with the opposition.
Incidentally, while the yellow shorts were worn with the third and fourth shirts, the black away kit wasn’t altered for games such as Tottenham Hotspur away, despite the fact that they had worn change shorts there in 1992-93.
The goalkeeper shirts, as mentioned above, were following the trend of excess which was beginning to emerge, with the SWFC monogram combined with Puma King logos. The white and black shirt was the first choice and the one which retailed, but due to the large amounts of white it wasn’t used with the home shirt.
It saw action when the black kit was worn away to teams in blue.
Instead, a black, blue and yellow shirt in the same design was the most common custodian’s top, worn with either the home shorts and home change socks or the away shorts and socks.
Obviously, that was troublesome with the away kit, so when they wore that against teams with large amounts of white, another option was needed. This was a time when a team wearing three goalkeeper shirts in a season was still something of a novelty and the existing styles were pretty much out there anyway, but Puma managed to push the boat even further.