Midweek Mashup – Liverpool and West Ham United, 1981

If you were to take a general poll as to what the ‘classic’ Liverpool away kit was, the chances are that quite a few replies would cite white shirts, black shorts and red socks as the answer.

While it’s not an example of the Mandela effect to think such a thing, it’s more an example of misinterpretation, based on a high-profile outing – which was in fact the last time it was seen.

Even Historical Football Kits cites white-black-red as the Liverpool change kit for 1964-68 and 1972-73, but in reality it was an alternative combination, with white socks favoured. According to Pavel Shalaev’s comprehensive Liverpool kit history site, the home socks first appeared with the away shorts and socks in 1966-67, against Aston Villa in October of that season.

The Football League wouldn’t legislate for socks-clashes until 1969-70 and shorts-clashes in 1975-76, but the Reds were ahead of the curve. Now, you might say it could have been the case that red socks were the default st away from home and Liverpool only switched against home sides in red socks, but against the black-socked Manchester United at Old Trafford, white was always Liverpool’s choice.

Into the 1970s, the red socks remained as a back-up against the likes of Villa, Burnley and West Ham United.

It’s a quirk of Liverpool’s huge success during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that they wore all-red in almost all of their cup final victories, with one exception – and even then only because of a replay.

In 1980-81, Bob Paisley’s side reached the League Cup final, where their opponents were West Ham United. On March 14 at Wembley, Liverpool were in all-red with the Hammers in all-white, the same as in the Charity Shield at the beginning of that season. While blue shorts and socks were the official choice for the West Ham away, all-white had brought them luck the previous season.

After a scoreless 90 minutes, Alan Kennedy looked to have given Liverpool victory when he scored two minutes from time but Ray Stewart equalised for West Ham at the death.

That meant a replay on April 1 at Villa Park, with West Ham in their home strip this time (incidentally, they had commemorative text under their crest for both games, while Liverpool didn’t). Due to their white socks, Liverpool had to call on the red alternatives. By this stage, the Liverbird now appeared on the shorts, too.

While Paul Goddard’s goal gave West Ham a dream start, Kenny Dalglish equalised for Liverpool before Alan Hansen scored what proved to be the winner in the 28th minute.

We don’t know for certain, but it’s likely that the prominence of that game, and the coverage it would have received, helped to influence memories in terms of thinking that the red socks were part of the ‘proper’ Liverpool away kit. And there’s another potential reason:

As it happened, the League Cup final replay was the last appearance for that kit configuration in a competitive game. Liverpool had a new yellow Umbro change strip for 1981-82 and though adidas reinstated white as second choice, when Liverpool played away to West Ham and Villa they did so in white shorts, red shorts and red socks.

The 1993-95 away kit did kind of revive the older tradition, albeit with green joining white and black. Since then, though, any white Liverpool away or third kit with black or navy shorts has tended to have socks (first- or second-choice) in that colour. Red socks have sometimes been worn with away shirts since then, just not white ones.

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