1976 – 1980 Admiral ‘Candy Stripes’ (home)
After the initial years of turmoil in which the Saints played in a kit featuring a sash, squares and halves from 1896 onwards the kit entered a settled period where evolution, not revolution was the order of the day. This state of affairs lasted right up until the mid-1970s. For clubs everywhere the this time was a watershed in which new commercial and aesthetic forces saw something of a re-visiting of the artefacts of club identity.
Saints themselves adopted a new crest, designed by a supporter, in the 1974-75 season and in 1976 the kit received its first major overhaul for years. In keeping with the spirit of the age Admiral delivered an effort which is both bold and distinctive, yet at the same time manages to respect traditions. The fact that years later the kit is available for sale in the club superstore is testament to the design.
1980 – 1985 Patrick ‘Inverted Ajax’ (home)
The ‘inverted Ajax’ is a kit which is synonymous with a bobble-permed Kevin Keegan, the clubs surprise star-signing. One story is that the design was chosen so as to give the sponsors logo maximum exposure – at the time when shirt sponsorship was first taking off – and would go on to be adorned by three separate sponsors in its lifetime: Rank Xerox from 1980-83 Air Florida 1983-84 and Draper Tools 1984-1985.Draper Tools themselves were a local company, with their HQ in nearby Chandlers Ford (a place in which more than a few Saints of the era chose to live) and the company would go on to have a fairly long association with the club.
Despite apparently being shaped by the wrong reasons the kit is an aesthetically pleasing effort. Had such a design appeared today in all likelihood internet message boards would be aflame with protest, but thankfully for this kit they didn’t exist back then and any controversy which may have arisen in the Daily Echo’s letters page now lies buried on micro-fiche in the basement of Southampton Central Library
1989 – 1991 Hummel (home)
In the main the recent history of Saints recent kits is one of simplicity. Few kits have either offended, or set the world ablaze. This kit from Hummel is, for me, the best of this quietly-competent no-frills bunch, if only because as a kid I also thought the chevrons on the arms were pretty cool. It also saw the emergence of Mat Le Tissier as a real talent.
1993-1995 Pony (home)
It’s funny how time can change perceptions. In its day I hated this kit. As a fashion conscious teenager the fact that the highly uncool kit sponsor Pony’s chevron logo (a boxy Lada to Nike’s sleek tick) was the kits prime feature was bad enough, but the fact that it was a mere template kit – shared with West Ham – only added further insult.
No one was more glad than me to see the back of it, but looking back from today’s standpoint that chevron didn’t look quite so bad after all and actually seems like quite an interesting twist in amongst a rather identikit parade of fairly conservative strips which would follow in the decade after. Perhaps it’s time for a reappraisal? The truly awful away version can however, never be redeemed.
2002-2004 Saints (third)
For most of the noughties Saints produced their own kits in-house. In the main there was little on offer in terms of design flair, but the one which stands out is the 2002-2004 yellow third kit. Aesthetically it is pleasing and I like the collar design. Most importantly for a fair few yellow will always be the Saints traditional away colours and when I first followed Saints away one of the fans main chants was “Yellows, Yellows”, a fact raised by someone at a SISA meeting when it was revealed that the away kit would be changing colour. It is also of course the colour worn in 1976 when we won the FA Cup so it was more than fitting that being drawn as the away team for the 2003 final the Saints would be wearing this yellow kit. One of my friends still wears his to 5-a-side and I cast the occasional envious glance.
2010-2011 Umbro 125th Anniversary Shirt (home)
To celebrate the clubs 125th anniversary in 2010 the club commissioned a kit to resemble the clubs first ever strip from 1885 – a white shirt with a red sash. Kit supplier Umbro rose to the occasion producing a tasteful, unfussy shirt which was in every way superior to Pony’s 1995-97 attempt to recreate a kit of yesteryear.
Notably the shirt didn’t feature any sponsors logo. This was a conscious decision on the part of the clubs new management. Not only did it enhance the sense of reverence for the clubs history, but it spoke of a financial solidity. The fact that the club could do without the income from shirt sponsorship was a marked difference to the dark-period of financial turmoil the club had just emerged from. As for the stripes, well it’s just for a year isn’t it……
2012 – 2013 Umbro (away)
A bit of a confession to be made is that I actually quite like the 2012-13 home kit; I’m quite a fan of the 1980s retro touch that the pinstripes bring – even if they do remind you more of Nottingham Forest than Saints.
I realise that it’s not to everyone’s taste as it is but the merest of nods to the traditional stripes so my compromise is to include that seasons away kit in my top 10 list. It still has that 1980s feel, but avoids stepping on the toes of tradition.
2014 – 2015 In house (away)
In 2014-15 kit design went in-house again. To the relief of many fans the stripes made a much heralded return for the home kit, having being absent for 3 of the last 4 years. It’s the dark blue away kit which caught my eye though. Combined with dark blue shorts and dark blue socks the whole strip had a sleekness about it which looked quite cool.
2016 – 2017 Under Armour (home)
With kits now changing every single season kit designers face a conundrum. They must satisfy both the need for novelty and the need to respect tradition. The current seasons kit strikes a perfect balance between these two forces. The traditional stripes are present, but the white panel offers something new. And if we win the League Cup in this kit then
2015 Lotto – ‘ the kit that never was’ (home)
As a teenager one of my favourite pastimes was to design new saints kits. This was all done using pencil and paper, but these days the internet and decent graphic design software support a whole subculture of amateur kit designers. Some of their output is actually quite good and even rivals the professionals. One such design is this kit which very neatly references the ‘candy stripes’ of the 1970s. Though it’s unlikely ever to be made, could it one day influence a future official design?