In 1986, Nottingham Forest returned to wearing Umbro kits after nine years with adidas and a season in U-Win before that.
While Umbro had pushed the boat out in terms of geometric shapes in the early-to-mid-80s, they were restraining themselves again, with fabric patterns and collar- and cuff-trim the only real concessions to design on the Forest kits.
The shirts followed the same design with the colours reversed, though while the home had a checkered effect, the away had a herringbone pattern like that of the Tottenham Hummel kit of the time. For some reason, the Umbro diamonds were in different places on the socks too. The club were between sponsors at the time, with Skol having departed, and so began 1986-87 with plain shirts.
However, the marketed change kit of white-red-white would never be worn by the first team in a competitive game (apparently the youth team did wear it). While the sponsorless period was only five games, there were three mashups seen before Home Ales came on board – all-red at Everton, red socks with the away kit at West Ham United and white-white-red at Southampton.
The arrival of Home Ales coincided with two six-goal hauls as Aston Villa and Chelsea were beaten, while there was another new combination in the League Cup, with red shorts and white socks worn with the home shirts at Brighton & Hove Albion – even though the home side had blue socks.
Later in the competition, they would wear all-white at Bradford while the sponsored version of the all-red was seen at Tottenham Hotspur in November. Then, at Aston Villa on January 3, white-red-red was again worn.
Later in January, however, when Forest went to Arsenal, instead of the default away – which would have caused overall-clash concerns – they instead revealed black shorts in the same style as the white and red sets. This was apparently down to the preference of manager Brian Clough.
In February, there was the potential for another combination – red shirts, white shorts, white socks – at Watford. However, Forest, who had had to borrow black socks from the Hornets for a game at Vicarage Road earlier in the decade, instead played in all-white.
Forest finished the season in eighth place and their kits would stay the same for 1987-88 but instead of Home Ales, another Nottingham brewer was the sponsor, as the Shipstones name graced the front of the shirt for the first time.
One tiny change to the black shorts was the changing of the colour of the logos – the crest was now red with the Umbro diamonds in black. The red shorts didn’t appear with the white shirts at all in 1987-88 and so, at Charlton Athletic and West Ham United, Forest appeared in a new combination of white-black-red.
The red-red-white look was used at Portsmouth, while late in the season a set of red-topped socks replaced the white-topped ones.
Across the two seasons, Forest – who finished third in 1987-88 – could conceivably had 12 different kit combinations with these kits (leaving aside sponsor changes and the minimal change to the home socks). Taking into account the fact that the black shorts were never likely to feature with the home shirt, the number is reduced to ten. Impressively, they wore eight of them across the two seasons – the only ones missing were the default white-red-white away and the red-white-white home variation.
For 1988-89, there was a new home strip – featuring the same plain red socks as had appeared late in 1987-88 – while the away was kept on for a third season and now featured the updated Shipstones logo. Again, Forest mixed and matched and didn’t have a need for a third strip.
With no new set of red alternative shorts, the previous set were used with the new home shirt when required, and the home shorts also appeared with the away.
The 1986 change kit was finally retired in the summer of 1989, to be replaced by a strip that looked very similar to the home strip Umbro had given Derby County. That release coincided with the addition of red shorts in the same style as the away strip being made available to be worn with the home shirt when required.