We’re always interested in the social significance behind football shirts and this Heart of Midlothian shirt is the perfect demonstration of how a kit that captures a key moment in a club’s history can really resonate with fans.
There are a number of elements that contribute towards a football shirt being considered a classic amongst a club’s fan base.
Of course an original design and perfect alignment with club colours are important factors, as is the association with a period of success and the ability to watch football with a smile on your face, but when those elements combine with a design that references a key moment in the club’s history, that football shirt becomes more than simply a garment, and an emotional link forms in the minds of fans towards that kit.
In the case of the Heart of Midlothian kit for the 2014-15 season, all those stars aligned in a shirt that commemorated the First World War sacrifice of their players who served in McCrae’s Battalion 100 years earlier.
In the recruitment drive for the First World War, groups of friends and colleagues were encouraged, or rather morally compelled, into signing up to serve King and Country and they formed their own “pals’ battalions.”
As pressure mounted on footballers not to shirk their moral duties, the Hearts team of 1914 who were reckoned to be the finest contemporary side in Britain, volunteered alongside their supporters, as well as fans and players from rival clubs including Hibernian, to form the first so-called footballers’ battalion.
Officially the 16th Royal Scots, McCrae’s Battalion formed in Edinburgh shortly after the beginning of the war and sadly, 7 of that Hearts team who won the first 8 matches of the 1914-15 season to lead the Scottish league, did not return home, with many lost on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Those who returned from war to Tynecastle were forever changed and Heart of Midlothian have never forgotten the sacrifice of Duncan Currie, John Allan, James Boyd, Tom Gracie, Ernest Ellis, James Speedie, Harry Wattie and former player David Philip.
To mark the centenary of World War One, Hearts and Adidas produced a commemorative shirt to celebrate the memory of those young men and it means much more to Jambos fans than possibly any other shirt.
On first glance, the shirt looks like fairly standard Adidas fare but on closer inspection, the sentiment and simple styling of the shirt shines through.
Free from sponsor and carrying a special interpretation of the Hearts badge that pays direct tribute to McCrae’s Battalion, the shirt in maroon and white has a larger collar than usual in a neat, modern interpretation of the fashion of a century before.
The 2014-15 season was a hell of a season all round for the Jambos.
Following a difficult period and relegation to the Scottish Championship the previous year, it marked a new start for the club as they exited administration and entered a new era under fan ownership.
Championship life promised not to be a cake walk for Hearts with competition from Rangers, who’d just been promoted from League One, and Hibs, who had been relegated from the SPL alongside their city rivals.
Yet the season was a triumph as the Jam Tarts never looked back from August victories over Rangers and Hibs to win the league under Robbie Neilson by a 21 point margin, scoring 96 league goals in the process.
Along the way, they hammered Cowdenbeath 10-0 and the title was perhaps even more sweeter for the Gorgie club’s fans as Hibs and Rangers both missed out on promotion.
The McCrae’s Battalion commemorative shirt sold out in record time and remains an extremely popular shirt.
Adidas gave way to Puma the following season but the classic styling and absence of a giant light-blue box screaming “Wonga” amidst the maroon gives the shirt a very nearly timeless quality to it.
As fans we want our team to play for the shirt and when they kiss the badge, we want them to mean it.
So when that badge and shirt have so much significance to supporters, and they evoke so much emotion and respect for the fallen, how could modern footballers fail to run the extra yard for those who came before them?
As much for the link to the men who fell a century before the shirts were worn, this Adidas shirt takes its place on Sartorial.Soccer as a Heart of Midlothian club classic.
Special thanks go to Graham at The North Curve for suggesting the shirt as a Club Classic and for the fan’s eye on what it means to Hearts fans.
If you have a story to tell about a shirt that evokes special memories for you, then please contact us!