"I believe that Leeds took their colours from the great Real Madrid team of the 50s," writes Neil Connolly. " I also heard that Juventus took their colours from Notts County. Are there any other clubs who took their kit from different teams?"
We might as well start with Arsenal, Neil, who pinched their dark red shirts from Nottingham Forest. "In 1895 a selection of Forest players joined the squad, bringing their old kit along with them," explains the Arsenal website.
"Arsenal's economic resources were not as they are today. The club decided the most inexpensive way of acquiring a strip was to kit out the team in the same colour as the ex-Forest players."
In turn, Sparta Prague took their dark red kit from the Gunners' shirt, while Ajax's 1911 kit owed its white shorts to Arsenal's early look. When he arrived in 1925, Gunners manager Herbert Chapman came up with their more familiar look after spotted someone at the ground wearing a red sleeveless sweater over a white shirt. And that itself has been copied by current Portuguese league leaders Sporting Braga. They're even nicknamed the 'arsenalistas'.
Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham didn't come up with their own kit either, according to Wikipedia. "At first Hotspur played in navy blue shirts," it says. "The club colours then varied from light blue and white halved jerseys (as a tribute to the then-classy Blackburn Rovers), to red shirts and blue shorts, through chocolate brown and old gold and then, in the 1899-1900 season, to white shirts and navy blue shorts as a tribute to Preston, the most successful team of the time."
The history of Barcelona's shirt is far from black and white (badoom tsh!). Most people believe their famous blue and red shirts come from FC Basel's colours, since their founder, Hans Kamper (later to adopt the Catalan name Joan Gamper), was from Switzerland and had played for Basel.
However, in his history of Barça, called, er, Barça, writer Jimmy Burns contends that it was in fact one of the club's first players, Englishman Arthur Witty, who exported the colours from Merseyside - Crosby's Merchant Taylor's School, to be precise. "Arthur claimed he drew on his old school colours for the maroon and blue that were to become Barça's," says Burns. "In correspondence with Arthur's son Frederick in 1975, the school's then-headmaster Reverend H M Luft reinforced this claim. In a letter, which I have seen, Reverend Luft states: 'I think it is very likely that the present colours of FC Barcelona are ultimately derived from our original colours here.'"
Also the subject of keen debate is Athletic Bilbao's kit, which changed from blue and white stripes to red and white stripes in 1910. Some reckon the red comes from the fact that the club was set up by English miners who had sailed from Southampton and Sunderland. There's also a theory that a trip to England yielded no blue and white tops, forcing the change. But "the most credible theory," according to Wikipedia (again), "is that red and white were the cheapest stripes to make because the same combination was used to make mattresses. The leftover cloth was easily converted into football shirts. Although both Athletic Bilbao and Atlético Madrid started out with blue and white stripes, the discovery of a cheaper option probably persuaded them to change. The Madrid club did it first and they became known as Los Colchoneros (the mattress-makers)."
And Sunderland didn't even come up with their shirts themselves: they were a gift from fellow northeasterners South Bank FC. The Mackems had run into financial strife - reputedly even raffling off a canary to keep things ticking over - and called their neighbours for help. South Bank responded by sending their kit - red and white striped shirts and black shorts. Sunderland expressed their gratitude by thrashing them 7-0 in the 1887-88 season.
Let's move south now, where Crystal Palace borrowed their claret and blue strip from Aston Villa - literally; the Villans lent them some kit when they got going in the early 1900s. In the 1970s, manager Malcolm Allison changed Palace's kit to the red and blue stripes we know today in homage to Barcelona (and pinched the nickname "Eagles" from Benfica to boot).
According to Peter Stoker, Allison was also responsible for Manchester City's red and black shirts; during his stint as assistant manager he decided the colours would turn them into AC Milan. "It certainly worked for a while," Peter says. "City lifted the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup Winner's Cup in two seasons while wearing it."
Meanwhile, Celtic's famous shirts were inspired by Scotland's first Irish club, Hibs, who wore the green and white hoops (and the Irish Harp) from their inception in 1875. But Queen's Park enjoy the best bragging rights, says Richard Johnstone - their colours were adopted by the Scottish national team.
"Queen's Park instigated the first ever known international fixture when they played England in Glasgow on St Andrew's day in 1872," says the club's website. "The Scotland team comprised entirely of Queen's Park players, who wore their club jerseys - dark blue in colour, the same dark blue as worn today by the national team."
In turn, the dark blue of Scotland was adopted by Millwall Rovers when a mixture of Scottish and English workers from Morton's Jam Factory founded the team in 1885. According to James Murray's Lions of the South, they "were convinced they could form a football team to give other local clubs a tough time." Indeed.
And if you think there's something of Sweden in Boca Juniors' colours, you'd be right. "The team wore black and white stripes until challenged to a play-off by another club with a similar kit in 1906," explains Stuart Condie, "with the winner retaining the colours and the loser switching. Boca lost, and, having no alternative planned, opted to adopt the colours of the next ship to enter Buenos Aires harbour. The ship was Swedish."
Blackpool, meanwhile, owe their orange strip to the Dutch. "I seem to recall reading that the team changed strips after a club director took a trip to the Netherlands in the 1930s," says Eugene McMahon, "and was so impressed with the national side's colours that he imposed them on the Seasiders as soon as he returned." MLS outfit Real Salt Lake take their kit from that of the Spanish national side, says Michael Lazarus, while Joe Russo reminds us that Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds play in a kit almost identical to Manchester United's - and are even sponsored by Vodafone.
And what about Juventus? According to Notts County, Juve were sick of their dashing pink shirts fading in the wash, so asked English player John Savage to seek help from home. One call to a County supporter later, and Juventus has the kit they still sport today.
"Is there a rule that Premiership teams must always wear their first-choice colours when playing at home?" wondered Gareth Morgan in 2003 after stumbling across highlights of Newcastle wearing all blue against Sheffield Wednesday at St James' Park in 1993-94.
Well, you'd have thought so, Gareth, but it seems this is not the case. According to a Premier League spokesman, it's up to the two teams what kit they wear. "But if there's a clash of kits," he adds, "commonsense prevails, and the away team changes."
Apparently, the kit men from both sides usually discuss in advance whether there's going to be a clash and act accordingly. But on that fateful, epoch-making day in 1993-94, it turned out that both Sheffield Wednesday's home and away kits were too similar to Newcastle's traditional black and white stripes. "We offered to change instead," is the simple explanation offered by the Newcastle press office. Which is why they suddenly found themselves - quite within the rules - wearing all blue.
This surprisingly laisser-faire approach presumably explains why, on the final day of last season, Spurs took to the field against Blackburn at White Hart Lane wearing next season's away strip. One reader, Andy Abrahams, calls this "a staggeringly cynical, but wholly typical, marketing stunt", and Spurs duly lost 4-0 for their troubles. But, hey, they weren't breaking any rules.
By Georgina Turner and James Dart
Wednesday November 23, 2005