For Liverpool shirt collectors, it’s likely that the late 1980s white emergency third shirt is near the top of their most-wanted list.
Indeed, some may have seen our One-offs series and wondered why that white top, worn against Aston Villa in September 1988, hasn’t featured, given its iconic status. The simple answer for that is that it wasn’t a one-off, but there was an unusual discrepancy in the set of shirts used.
Let’s start with how the Reds came to wear white, first of all. Villa were back in the top flight after winning promotion and they were clad in their half-and-half Hummel kit, which we looked at recently, raising the potential for confusion with Liverpool’s grey change kit.
In 1987-88, Liverpool had been draw away to Villa in the FA Cup and had used their white 1985-87 change shirt with their home shorts and socks, but the change of sponsor from Crown Paints to Candy meant that this wasn’t an option.
Instead, a new white shirt was produced, in the style of the 1987 home and away, worn with the red shorts and socks. This picture of Steve Nicol shows that shirt to have the same adidas striping as the grey away top, three red stripes outlined in white, with grey in the gaps.
The following season, Villa had returned to a more traditional look but Liverpool either weren’t aware or were just being extra careful in opting to wear white at Villa Park in the second game of the season. The shorts and socks from the new home strip were used.
On the Liverpool Kit History site, a matchworn white number 12 shirt has different striping – still three red stripes but outlined in grey and with a white backing – and so we assumed that this was a different set from that used in 1988-89, altered so as to match the striping on the shorts and socks.
However, Jay from Design Football then unearthed this picture of Liverpool’s Glenn Hysén – the Swedish defender was signed in the summer of 1989 and his shorts have the large white panel, so it can only be from the 1989-90 game.
The likeliest explanation would seem to be that the short-sleeved shirts had the white-trimmed stripes with the grey background while the long sleeves had the grey-trim and white background. Kitman error or a decision with long-forgotten logic applied? We shall never know.
Edit: Richard’s response below certainly has an air of plausibility.