1885 – 1889. Put forward at the formation meeting on the 11th April 1885, the unique pink and dark blue shirt and cap, meant that Luton Town were instantly recognisable on the football field. The Club advertised in the Summer of 1885 for tenders including patterns. Club members were expected to order their shirts through the winners of the tender, Beecrofts, a general clothing store in the town. There is no evidence to tell us where the shirts were made, but it is likely that Beecrofts acquired them from one of the major shirt manufacturers.
As over 50 players turned out for Luton Town in the first season alone, it is disappointing that no known photo exists of the shirt. We know from a 1926 Luton News article that was pink and dark blue halves.
1889 – 1892. It was decided at the 1889 Annual General meeting to change the club colours. The final decision was left to the club committee who chose Cardinal Red. This was approved by the fans as the Luton Reporter said “All who are accustomed to witness the matches will be glad to know that the Club has resolved to adopt new colours”. The 18 shirts purchased cost £5 8s 0d meaning each shirt cost 6 shillings each (30 pence today).
The team were soon dubbed “the reds” but this popular colour brought its own problems. Against Edmonton, who wore Scarlet shirts in March 1892, the Luton players had to wear white bands to distinguish the players. Two weeks later there was another colour clash against Tottenham Hotspur – some Luton players wore white shirts, others the cardinal red.
1892 – 1896. The club bought the shirts and caps from the defunct Bury Park F.C. in August 1892. The meaning of the 8 pointed star badge is a mystery but you can read the options here. The Luton News picked up on the change of colour and said that although the colour is “more of a claret than a red, I suppose the team may be dubbed ‘the reds’ all the same.”
The shirt coincided with the arrival of J.W. Julian, the centre half back as player coach. He helped propel the club from a middle ranked club to the third best in the South of England. Runners-up in the Southern League in 1895 and 1896 the club also won the Luton Charity Cup in 1894 and 1896.
1896 – 1898. The club decided to go for a bold change at the Annual General meeting in the Summer of 1896. The layout of the colours were altered slightly before they were ordered. The Luton Times of the 4th September 1896 reported “Luton will play in new colours shortly, consisting of black, red and white. The black will be 8 inches deep and the other colours 2 inches each.” The shirts were made by Robinson and Cleaver of Belfast. It appears that the shirts were late arriving so the club wore white shirts for the first part of the season.
The shirt was first worn in October 1896 at home to Casuals, which the Straw Plaiters won 13 0. The Luton Times commented – “A victory by 3 or 4 points was my modest expectation, but the form of the Reds – or was it the brilliant, fantastic hues of their new shirts! – completely awed their opponents into submission.”
1898 – 1900. The club took a very late decision to change the shirts, deciding on black and white stripes only at the beginning of September 1898. The decision was so late that the first team had already been photographed for the new season in the old black, red and white kit and the Football League Yearbook also recorded the striped shirt as the club colours.
The new kit was well received as the Luton News reported – “The Luton players, it may be interesting to state, appeared in their new costume on Monday, vis,..white knickers and black and white striped shirts. The goalkeeper’s shirt, however, was red and black. The dress is a great improvement on that previously worn, and added much to the smart appearance of the team.”
This is the first mention of a Luton goalkeeper wearing a different colour shirt to the outfield players. It would not be until 1909 that the change was made compulsory by the Football League.
1899 – 1900. Little can be found about this shirt and why it was worn. The black and white striped shirt was used alongside the blue one. It may be that with games often on Saturday, Monday and Wednesdays the laundry was stretched to the limit and this blue one was introduced as a stop gap. This season is its only mention.
The Luton Times of 27th October 1899 covered the friendly with Northampton and mentions – “The crowd cheered on the “Blues” and there were several lively scrimmages in the Northampton goal.”
1900 – 1906. The first team and the reserves were photographed in the black and white striped shirt at the start of the 1900/01 season. However, the Luton News handbook says the colours would be “Pale Blue shirts and White knickers.”
The Luton Times of 21st September 1900 made the following comments in a report about a Southern League game against Bristol City who wore red shirts;
“The home club turned out in their new colours of light blue shirts and white knickers.”
Graphic images are copyright Historical Football Kits and used by kind permission.
The Luton Town F.C. minute books
The Luton Reporter
The Luton Times
The Luton News
Dave Moor at http://www.historicalkits.co.uk