When a team has just two main colours on its home kit, changing shorts is easy – for instance, Everton’s all-blue alternative strip is quite common.
Some teams have more noticeable third and fourth colours though, and if they generally prefer not to change shorts, a new look can appear very unusual. Rangers kind of fit into both categories. Their blue shirts and white shorts are most often paired with black and red socks, but over the last two decades, the use of blue shorts and socks has become more common – though it never happens in the Old Firm derby, for instance.
Back in the mid-90s, blue shorts with the home kit was something never really seen. The summer of 1996 saw Rangers launched what would be their last set of adidas kits, featuring a white and red away and a white goalkeeper shirt, while the home shirt was practically identical to that worn by France at Euro 96.
Neither the home or the away was deemed suitable for the first Champions League outing, away to Grasshopper Zurich, and so a one-off red shirt was worn. After that, Rangers hosts Auxerre and the French side played in their all-white primary kit, with little issue caused by both sides wearing white shorts.
Defeats in both of those games left Rangers under pressure as they went to Amsterdam to face Ajax – winners in 1994-95 and runners-up the year after that – on October 16. It would prove to be odd from an outfitting point of view as Rangers goalkeeper Theo Snelders wore a yellow Umbro top – presumably borrowed from Ajax, devoid of the double-diamond or a crest but featuring the McEwan’s Lager logo – while his team-mates were in an unfamiliar combination, too.
Whether under orders from Uefa or taking initiative, Rangers wore blue shorts – but, perhaps wary of the black socks looking strange, they had blue socks too (these socks would be seen away to Dunfermline Athletic later that season, too).
Rangers lost 4-1 to Ajax, with Paul Gascoigne sent off in the first half. Whether or not the blue shorts were blamed for that, we don’t know, but they weren’t seen again that season. Away to Auxerre in the final group game, Rangers were in the usual white shorts and black/red socks, though the shirts were a variation from the norm.
With alcohol advertising banned in France, the logo of Center Parcs holiday villages, which were owned by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries at the time, featured on the shirts, though, strangely, these used the fabric from the 1994-96 home.
In the 1997-98 Uefa Cup, another trip to France would necessitate the use of the Center Parcs logo and, this time, while blue shorts would be called on too and, this time, they were paired with the black socks.
Having been eliminated by IFK Gothenburg in the Champions League qualifying round – wearing a one-off red third shirt in the home leg – Rangers had a consolation in they dropped into the Uefa Cup, where they faced Strasbourg.
The French club had light blue and white hooped shirts, meaning that Rangers’ new Nike home tops were dark enough to be worn against them, but blue shorts were chosen to increase the differentiation – given that the home and away kits were modular, the black away shorts might have been even better. Whether it was down to the lack of availability of blue socks or not, the home set was used.
It would be the only time that that shirt appeared with blue shorts but almost every Rangers home jersey since then has had blue shorts and socks as an option.