Dark days for Kilmarnock?

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These are the Kilmarnock kits for 2019-20:

Those with even a passing interest in Scottish football will notice that the striped third kit looks closest to the traditional Killie colours and they’d be right – it was the club’s home kit in 2018-19. Here’s Kilmarnock fan, kit designer and all-round good guy Martin Le Roy to tell us more:

One of the benefits of supporting a smaller football team is that sometimes the opportunity arises to get involved with club and influence the decisions it makes. In the earlier parts of this decade I was plucked from posting fantasy designs on fan’s forums and thrown in to designing a handful of kits for Kilmarnock under their own 1869 brand and I have again been involved this season with the club’s 150th anniversary outfit.

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After 1869 got binned, we moved for one season to Erreà. Their shirt commemorating the 50th anniversary of our only league win was a bit of a flop by all accounts. The simple design intended for use in that season had been put together poorly in the last year of the 1869 deal a season too early. Erreà provided us with something much busier; a design that included detailing in the sponsors trademark rail-safety orange and a slightly tacky, oversized star above the badge.

The next season, we made a switch to Nike that for years many fans had been hoping for. For a club the size of Kilmarnock, moving to a brand like Nike is usually a move straight to stuff right out the teamwear catalogue. For the first season under JustSport, who manage Nike’s smaller UK contracts, it was. There was a more impressive ‘bespoke’ kit for the second season, a template shared only with Malaga as far as I can tell, but it was back to regular teamwear the season after. At this point, JustSport’s contract was up with Kilmarnock but it was decided to extend the deal for a further year to cover this season’s 150th anniversary kit.

The 1879 kit is the first kit for which there is photographic evidence. Our early years were spent in Oxford blue rather than our more familiar mid-blue and white, while it seemed to be a case of bring your own bloomers and socks (belt optional).

That shirt bears a badge which is a ball, on top of which sits the hand of the benediction from crest of the local Clan Boyd. The badge appeared again on a change shirt in the 1950’s but when badges returned full time to the shirts in the 1980’s, it was the full town crest which eventually fell afoul of Scottish heraldic laws. The ball and hand made a return as part of the 150th anniversary logo introduced at the end of 2018.

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After these early Victorian years, the team mostly jumped between blue and white stripes and hoops with the all blue shirt being worn as a change kit on the odd occasion, perhaps most notably in the 2-2 home draw against Ferenc Puskás’s Real Madrid in the 1965-66 European Cup.

The decision to stick with Nike for the 150th shirt was dependent on receiving something bespoke along the lines of this early kit. A plain Oxford blue kit would have been very easy to fulfil with the current teamwear selection. It became obvious early on that any bespoke element was probably going to be a design sublimated on to an existing template. The final design had a chequered band across the shirt that faded smaller and smaller as you moved towards the bottom of the shirt.

Chequered patterns appear in our old 1980s badges, our coat of arms and it has also been a detail in a few kits over the years including our 1997 cup-winning kit. The design has been sublimated on to the Park VI template which first made an appearance in the teamwear catalogue in 2016, so not a very recent template, but one whose simplicity suited the style of the occasion it represents.

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As it turns out, the shirt has had the design sublimated after being sewn together. The chequered design crosses over seams. The club badge has been applied as a heat transfer which has been less than popular with supporters. There have been issues with the sponsors peeling away because they were not pressed for long and some children’s sizes are still not in stock nearly a month after launch. The away shirt has a very interesting looking Nike swoosh which underneath hides the original stitched black swoosh from the template.

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For years Kilmarnock fans had sought kits made by one of the big brands but the reality of these deals when you are not a big team isn’t all that special. Fans are now seeing the excellent bespoke work being put in to provincial clubs by smaller brands and fans who want to remain with Nike are thin on the ground. Nevertheless, the shirts have been the fastest selling shirts of the JustSport deal. Fans have been, for the most part, very accepting of the change to Oxford blue but next year should see us go back to stripes hopefully under a smaller, more adventurous manufacturer.

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