The Evolution of England’s Goalkeeper Clothing

Like everything else, the world of sports equipment adapts to current styles and trends. Nowadays, even those who aren’t soccer fans can identify goalkeepers because they wear different coloured jerseys. In the past, however, goalkeeper clothing wasn’t different to that of the outfield players.

Let’s see how goalies’ outfits in England have changed throughout the years.


19th Century

As you probably know, football was born in England in 1863. At the time, football teams used their caps, socks, or armbands to distinguish themselves. At the first FA Cup Final in 1872, clubs started using distinctive colours and patterns, many of which have remained to this day.

Goalkeepers used to wear the same colours as the rest of the team. In 1891, however, they decided to start wearing different-coloured shirts. Since the photos dating from that era are black and white, it’s hard to tell which colours they wore, but it’s assumed it was grey or yellow.

Around the turn of the century, goalkeeper clothing was defined by strict rules in terms of colours and patterns. Goalkeepers were limited to wearing scarlet, green, blue, or white shirts.

The First Half of 20th Century

In 1921, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) decided that goalkeepers should wear yellow shirts at international matches. An exception was made in Sweden in 1923, most likely because the Swedish team wore yellow shirts. During that game, the goalkeeper wore a hooped shirt instead.

Goalkeeper clothing from this period came in two forms. The first reminds of a tight undershirt or a long-sleeved vest that the legendary William “Fatty” Foulke used to wear. The second was much more traditional: it was a woolly roll-neck shirt. These shirts were perfect for colder weather and became a standard for England’s goalkeepers after World War II.

The Second Half of the 20th Century

Around 1950, goalkeepers started to acquire a more modern look. They wore crew necks, unlike the outfield players who wore V-necks.

In 1966, Umbro, an English football equipment brand, started supplying jerseys for goalkeepers and kits for outfield players. About five years later, Umbro added their distinctive diamond logo to Gordon Banks’ jersey. Umbro was the first to introduce numbers to the back of goalkeepers’ shirts for every match. Until then, goalkeepers had numbers only on certain occasions: in four consecutive World Cups starting from 1954, the European Championship finals in 1968, and a few other matches.

At the time, England’s goalkeepers mostly wore yellow shirts, with blue as an alternative. In 1970, two exceptions were made when Banks wore a red shirt.

In 1973, green goalkeepers’ shirts were reintroduced, and outfield players wore yellow Aertex shirts. In February of the same year, Peter Shilton became the first goalie to wear tracksuit trousers for an international.

In 1974, Admiral became the official supplier for England’s football team. The company introduced a revolutionary innovation: it provided complete kits for goalkeepers. These included yellow shirts, black shorts, and socks, with a blue shirt as an alternative.

Umbro returned as official kit supplier in 1984, and the company started experimenting with goalkeeper clothing. First, they introduced grey jerseys that were used during the South African tour of the same year. Then in 1986, Umbro introduced all-grey kits for goalkeepers, and yellow became an alternative. Just two years later, goalkeepers started wearing green jerseys with green stripes, followed by a blue equivalent in 1989.

In 1990, yellow was reintroduced as the colour of choice for goalkeepers’ jerseys. In the ‘90s, they became a canvas for colour explosions. The best-known was the red kit from 1996 that was mentioned in David Moore’s “The Worst Football Kits of All Time.” This predominantly-red kit also featured purple, green, and yellow shapes, which many found too much.

At the turn of the century, more colours were introduced, but there were no significant changes to the jerseys themselves. In 2014, England’s goalkeepers started wearing short-sleeved shirts with a long-sleeved base shirt of the same colour, which became a trend at the time.

Nowadays, English goalkeepers mostly wear green or yellow long-sleeved jerseys with number one on the back.

Notice the Changes

As technology advances, new materials and designs appear on the market. Naturally, these innovations impact the sports sphere. Goalkeeper clothing has had its fair share of changes throughout the years. Nowadays, you can purchase high-quality jerseys in different colours and designs.

Choose goalkeeping accessories stores with a great selection of goalkeeper jerseys from the most popular brands to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.