- Thanks to Marcus Johns for his assistance
When Bukta launched their second and final set of West Ham United kits in the summer of 1991, the reaction was not universally positive.
While the previous set, worn as the club achieved promotion back to Division 1 and reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1991, had a smart grandad collar and blue sleeves, this was a deviation away from traditions. Though the late 1970s and 80s had also seen variations on the norm, this new shirt provoked a backlash best illustrated by a cover from the fanzine Fortune’s Always Hiding.
The aesthetics may not have been praised – and the relegation back down to the second tier compounded matters – but from an interchangeability point of view, it was a vintage campaign.
Though the traditional blue sleeves were absent, the white home shorts and socks remained, while the change shirt was an Argentina-style sky-blue and white stripes with claret shorts. While blue socks were available, it appears the white set were default for that, too.
The mixing and matching was in evidence in the pre-season Makita Tournament at Highbury, also featuring hosts Arsenal, Panathinaikos and Sampdoria. Against the Italian side, West Ham wore the home shirt with the claret shorts and blue socks, while the game against the Greek opponents had the away shirt with home shorts and socks. The latter was the combination for the first league away game, against Sheffield United, and also at Crystal Palace while the claret-claret-blue was seen against Queens Park Rangers. The away strip appeared in default format away to Nottingham Forest and then the clash against the all-blue-clad Oldham Athletic saw a third shirt appear.
While the previous year’s World Cup semi-final between Italy and Argentina had had both teams in primary shirts with no problems, this new departure was seemingly born out of fears of the away shirt clashing. The white third bore similarities with the Internazionale change kit worn in 1990-91.
For the win against Arsenal at Highbury, the second kit was back but then for the trip to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United, the white shirt appeared with the claret shorts, with that strip also seen against Everton and Aston Villa.
While Notts County had black home socks, West Ham wore the blue set with the home shirts and shorts there and also away to Luton Town. The other kit combination seen that season was away to Manchester City in April – claret shirts and shorts with navy socks.
Unfortunately for the Hammers, their return to the top flight was not a long one as they finished bottom of the first division. While the same kits were retained for 1992-93, BAC Windows were replaced as sponsors by Dagenham Motors.
The third shirt wasn’t carried over and the change shirt was able to used away to royal blue teams. The stripes-claret-blue combination hadn’t been used in 1991-92 but did see action against Bristol City, who had white socks. The only mix of the home and away shirts not seen across 1991-92 and 1992-93 was stripes with white shorts and blue socks.
A second-placed finish behind Newcastle United saw West Ham promoted to the Premiership, coinciding with Bukta being replaced by Pony, whose first change kit reintroduced the classic style of sky-blue shirts with two claret hoops.