- This is a guest post by the ever-excellent Les Motherby of Hull City Kits, with whom Denis also collaborates on The Football Kit Podcast
Umbro’s 2014-15 Hull City kits ticked all the boxes for me, with tradition taken care of with a striped home shirt, an away kit that offered interchangeable elements for congruent mashups if needed, and third kit that merged long established and nascent change kit traditions.
The use of a tone that sits between yellow and orange on the colour spectrum is by no means unique to Hull City, but amber and black stripes is a look that the Tigers effectively own, and one that inspired the big cat nickname back in 1904.
Yet it fell out of use post-World War Two and was absent when Hull City won admirers as well as the Third Division title in 1965-66, spearheaded in attack by the prolific partnership of Ken Wagstaff and Chris Chilton. The 2014-15 home kit had a throwback quality, make that a ‘fauxback’ quality, as if to answer the unasked question of ‘what would a modern interpretation of a mid-to-late-1960s striped Hull City shirt that never existed look like?’
This kit screamed ‘HULL CITY’ even if the name of the club was absent on it. The shirt had a simple round collar, lots of stripes that aren’t too thin, and solid amber sleeves to brighten a shirt that could look quite dark if the sleeves were either striped or black. Though classic looking, there were some subtle technical features evident, such as the small white disc topped laser cut ventilation holes on the back. There were two versions of this kit made, one for domestic use and another for use in the Europa League, with an apertured back to satisfy UEFA’s strict rules on name and number legibility, as well as reduced Umbro branding. This beautiful kit deserved better than to be part of a dispiritingly short European adventure and a Premier League relegation, but thems the breaks.
Hull City arrived at the all-black away kit party unfashionably late, with the first coming in 2003-04. That Patrick-branded kit proved a game changer though: when captain Ian Ashbee scored the goal that sealed the Tigers first promotion in 19 years, hauling them out of the basement division, images of him exultant in triumph clad in all-black became the iconic image of a successful season. The popularity of that away kit made going back to black an inevitability, and in subsequent years that style has become part of a loose away kit rotation with traditional all-white and Hull’s civic colour of blue.
The 2014-15 away kit was simple but imposing looking. The shirt featured a notch neck that highlighted the ribbed amber panel underneath, and was paired, somewhat economically, with the same black shorts used for the home kit. Black socks with amber trim were a reversal of the primary kit hose, offering interchangeability should it be needed though it was not. This smart yet unspectacular kit was used at QPR, Aston Villa, Arsenal, Manchester City, Stoke, Southampton and Crystal Palace.
UEFA’s policy of one light and one dark for use in their competitions meant the black away kit wouldn’t cut it, so the domestic third kit was designated the change kit for Hull City’s first foray into European competition.
It fused together classic tradition (white change shirts, part of Hull City’s look since their founding in 1904) and nascent tradition (using blue, part of the civic colours of ultramarine and gold and the choice of away kit in our centenary season) in a harmonious way.
The kit consisted of white shirts, blue shorts and white socks, each with just a touch of contrast trim, an attractive combination that wasn’t spoiled by part of the sponsor wordmark being rendered in red.
The first use of this kit came in Belgium, in a Europa League third qualifying round clash with Lokeren in which the home side wore their away kit to allow Hull City to debut the new release. It was later used in the Premier League at Newcastle (where Nikica Jelavic and Mo Diame each submitted an entry for goal of the season consideration) and Liverpool.
Betting sponsors are rightly being reconsidered, and the 12Bet wordmark, in both English and jiǎntǐzì simplified Chinese, is certainly busy, but applied in white it wasn’t obtrusive (your mileage may vary, naturally), in fact the only fly in the ointment was the club crest, something beyond Umbro’s control. It might look like a lesson in restraint to the casual observer: the tigerhead first introduced in 1974 over the club’s founding year of 1904, within a tasteful if uninspiring escutcheon, yet this crest, new for the 2014-15 season, was a source of irritation for Hull City fans. Not for what appeared on it, but for what was omitted.
Owner Assem Allam’s ham-fisted efforts to change the name of the club to Hull Tigers over fan objection proved abortive, so the removal of ‘Hull City AFC’ from the new crest iteration felt like a spiteful act. The AFC suffix, a useful distinction when the rugby team that shares our KCOM Stadium is Hull FC, has been lost, but Hull City is back on the crest now after a 2019 update, which had the effect of rendering the version being replaced less offensive in hindsight.
That means we can look back on the 2014-15 kitset and judge it only on aesthetics. I’d argue that individual kits released since have been better, the 2018-19 home and 2017-18 away for example, but as a trio of kits the first of Umbro’s second spell as (conspicuous) supplier is the one that hits all of the marks.