- See here for other entries in this series
- See here for Jay’s blog, where there is extensive analysis of Rangers’ kit history
There’s a common meme at the moment that observes an energy crisis, tension with Russia and 1960s pop stars headlining Glastonbury and asks if we’re reliving history.
This season’s slew of new release football kits would probably do little to disabuse the notion that we’re caught in a time loop, in the main being unimagainative copies of popular designs from the 1970s through to the 90s.
Rangers’ new away kit is no different, being based on the ‘Monaco’ strip from the late 1980s. Like most of Castore’s designs for the club, it’s perfunctory at best, and a bit dull at worst. In keeping with the other entries in this series, here is a selection of five better, or more interesting, Rangers change kits.
The first Rangers away kit of the replica era, this was a strip that I never really had a lot of time for until recently.
I think I’d always found the design too of its time, with the big 1970s flappy collar and the fact it was identical to the home kit. However, more recently I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity and versatility of its design.
Rangers had been wearing away kits consisting of red shirts, white shorts, and red socks for much of the previous decade – essentially the home strip with a different coloured shirt. When it came to playing Dundee though, blue socks were substituted as red would have clashed
with the Dens Park side’s, and that’s where this kit comes into its own.
From the first away kit worn in the 1980s, we jump to the first away kit worn at the start of the 1990s, although we’re only skipping two intervening strips.
The new away kit for 1988 is popularly thought to have been introduced a year earlier, probably due to sharing a similar
grandad collar to the 1987-90 home shirt.
Not so, and there are tell-tale signs that belie its vintage, namely the solid-line collar trim, the diagonal shadow stripe, and the dart-shaped short flashes. It seems it was debuted in Davie Cooper’s testimonial against Bordeaux in
August of 1988 – fitting, as the design recalls another French league team, namely Monaco.
It’s not quite the same as the Monegasques’ version, essentially being inverted, but there’s no denying the influence. Towards the end of the 80s and early 90s, simple geometric shapes and bold colours were popular design trends, and this kit fitted the bill perfectly. That was doubly so when you compared it with the shirt it had replaced, which had started to look very of its time.
Oddly, this shirt, its predecessor, and its successor, had collars that were out of fashion even by the time they were launched. I remember having a deep admiration for this strip as a ten-year-old, but it’s one I never owned. Then and now, even with the oddly anachronistic collar, it remains one of Rangers’ most contemporary looking kits.
Another half-decade on, and this time we’re eliding five change strips as the kit-change cycle
In the intervening period, the Gers had had alternate shirts in the colours of white, orange and navy stripes, red with black pinstripes, and lilac. Going into the 1995-96 season, however, something more traditional was adopted as an away kit.
Adidas’s football kit design identity had been all over the place in the first half of the 1990s; the classic trefoil and three stripes look had been superseded by the dramatic ‘Equipment’ look in 1991, but, just three years later, the manufacturer’s stable of kits at the 1994 World Cup suggested they weren’t sure what to do with the three-stripes brand.
The Equipment logo had been dropped (from the football department at least,) and their teams at the finals in the US wore a mish-mash of stripes, Equipment bars, columns of diamonds, no stripes at all, and in the case of Norway, bars and stripes.
Thankfully, some sense of cohesion settled on the company, and in the following summer they produced some of their finest work. Adidas’s British clientele at the time consisted of just three clubs: Rangers, Liverpool, and the newly-signed Newcastle United. The English pair each got new home and away kits, while Rangers just an away, but there was an identity that linked all five kits through a set of shared elements.
These consisted of an oversized v-neck collar (Liverpool home and Rangers away), a grandad collar (Newcastle home and away, Liverpool away), quartered shirts (Liverpool away, Rangers away), and alternate mesh and solid fabric stripes (Newcastle home, Liverpool home.) Essentially, the Rangers away
was the Liverpool away with the Liverpool home collar, or the Liverpool away was the Rangers away with the Newcastle home collar, depending on your outlook.
Red and white shirts has become a recurring theme for Rangers over the last four decades; this was only the second modern iteration of the concept, but it worked perfectly, a classic design in the club’s secondary colour palette. While the Newcastle pair from that season are (rightly) considered design classics, their fellows don’t seem to be as highly regarded – I even get the impression the Liverpool away is fairly unpopular. But all five are cut from the same cloth, with simple, elegant designs and classy detailing. Incidentally, this would be the only outfield strip Rangers would wear in their tenure with adidas that had the traditional vertical sleeve stripes.
1996-97 emergency third
At the risk of sounding like a pastiche of a Facebook post pastiche of a Peter Kay routine, remember emergency third kits? What were all that about, eh?
Younger readers may find the concept of a team only having two shirts, then being drawn in a cup competition against a team whose strip clashes with both of them, and having to order an ersatz stand-in
somewhat quaint. But in my day, it happened all the time!
A rather curious example of this provided my fourth choice of Rangers alternate kit. It says something about adidas’s directional insanity in the 1990s that the aforementioned 95-96 away shirt was the only one of all the kits they produced for the club that looked like a traditional adidas design. And, regrettably, after a promising two years of producing some great kits for Liverpool, Newcastle, and the Gers, by 1996 they were back to churning out horrible, baggy, cheap-looking crap and not knowing what to do with their stripes.
I was never a massive fan of the 1996-97 home and away kits, but fate would provide a decent third shirt that season. Rangers had qualified for the Champions League group stages, where they were drawn against Grasshopper, who played in blue and white halves. Someone seemed to realise this would result in a clash with both home and away shirts, so an ad hoc third jersey was ordered from Adidas. And it was a cracker.
Yes, it was picked straight from a catalogue, and it had the three stripes in an odd batwing configuration, but it was arguably adidas’s best mid-90s generic template, and it looked fantastic combined with
teamwear black shorts and the home socks. It is a slight mystery though why the previous season’s away kit wasn’t worn; perhaps there was too much white on it. Nevertheless, and despite the crushing defeat that night in Zurich, we got a great one-off out of it.
It’s perhaps telling that only one of the five alternative strips I’ve selected here comes from the three-kits-a-season era, despite there being around 35 to choose from.
With so many kits to produce across the globe, manufacturer’s offerings have, by force of pressure, become a lot more hit-and-miss. It’s also fair to say that some of Rangers’ away kits during this period
have been among their worst; the 2005-06 and the 2017-18 offerings were all terrible, for instance.
The single-season cycle also makes it difficult for a kit to imprint itself on supporters – a change kit may never be worn in a competitive game, although this in itself is becoming less common. And a kit might not get the chance to go down in folklore by being worn in a really important win.
Of course, being worn by a successful team doesn’t necessarily make a kit a good design in itself, but it does help its chances of becoming memorable. So it goes for the 2007-08 away kit.
Fashioned with Umbro’s ‘complicated detailing’ (copyright Historical Football Kits) of that season (who among us didn’t know football shirts needed Morse code debossed on the cuffs?), it was also something of a dying breed, not being a slavish copy of a previous kit. Indeed, its predecessor had been a homage to the 88-90 shirt.
What made this otherwise all-white shirt stand out was the inclusion of an angry purple as an accent colour. A previous ‘European shirt’ had been lilac, but not quite this dark. The kit was introduced with purple shorts, but they were never worn competitively. And, at the end of a long and somewhat disappointing season, the kit was memorably worn in the UEFA Cup semi-final penalty shootout win versus Fiorentina, and against Queen of the South as the club lifted the Scottish Cup.