- The Old Watford site made research for this a lot easier, while our thanks also go to Graham at Oxford Kits and Les Motherby of Hull City Kits
Ahead of the 1985-86 season, the challenge for Umbro was to improve on something that was close to perfection for Watford.
From 1982-83 to 1984-85, the Hornets had been decked out in a set of kits (with shorts and socks altered slightly in that period) that carried on perfectly from the classic style of the late 1970s and allowed for excellent interchangeability to keep the club identity strong. A prime example was the socks mix-up at Old Trafford on the opening day of 1984-85.
For 1985-86, Solvite replaced Iveco as sponsors and the major difference in design was the addition of what would become an iconic dual-coloured chest band, split diagonally. The white change shirt remained the same for 1985-86, bar the change in sponsor, but for 1986-87 it was similarly upgraded.
With the shorts and socks able to be mixed and matched, there were a number of alternative combinations: black socks with the home kit against Arsenal and Nottingham Forest; black shorts and socks against Liverpool and black shorts with the default red socks (which would become the primary home look in 1988) against Walsall in the FA Cup.
The change shirt was worn with the red shorts and socks against Oxford United. The club finished in ninth place in Division 1 that season.
For 1987-88, Watford had a new manager in Dave Bassett and he made his presence felt on the kit front with the addition of white shorts and socks options for the away. The second game of that season saw Watford travel to face Nottingham Forest for a midweek game and they appeared in the white socks.
The change was explained in the programme for the next home game, against Chelsea:
Why white socks?
Watford wore white socks in their recent match at Nottingham Forest, as the photograph on page 7 of this programme reveals. Why? Manager Dave Bassett explains:
“We had to change kit to play Forest, and the present away kit has socks that are mostly black. That’s okay during daytime, but I feel that white socks give that extra bit of visibility at nighttime. It doesn’t mean we are changing our away kit, but you can expect to see us play in brighter coloured socks in our home evening games as well.”
The ‘new’ socks are purely for team use, and do not form part of the official club kit, so they are not available through the Hornet Shop.
As things transpired, light-coloured socks wouldn’t be worn with the home shirt but white shorts, in the same style as the black set, made for another new look against Watford and also away to Hull City in the FA Cup.
Watford got through that tie after two replays but unfortunately they ended up relegated from the top flight. While there was a new first-choice kit for 1988-89, in which the Hornets reached the play-offs, the second strip was retained for a third season and there was one final mashup in the league game away to Hull – white shirts, white shorts and black socks.