When we asked Dundee United fan and shirt collector Richard Price (follow @derailedexpress on Twitter) to tell us about his favourite kit, we expected something vibrant and orange.
We got something unexpected, and we’re delighted to bring you the story of a “love it or hate it” Club Classic kit worn for just one very eventful season.
The 1993-94 season was the start of a new era at Tannadice.
After 22 years in charge, legendary manager Jim McLean stepped down and moved upstairs.
A new beginning with a new manager, Ivan Golac, a new club badge (after the Lord Lyon had threatened legal action over the previous version’s heraldic elements – no, seriously), and a new kit supplier in Loki.
The King is dead. Long live the King.
Kit wise, Dundee United weren’t renowned for innovation. Back in 1989 after over a decade with Adidas, United along with Coventry and Norwich had been the first clubs in the UK to team up with ASICS. A bold kit with triangular shoulder flashes had been popular during its 2 year life span, but we then sank back into mediocrity with our next kit supplier, Bukta. Dull as dishwater, and aside from a nice shadow pattern incorporating the club badge, Bukta didn’t inspire. It wasn’t a surprise they went bankrupt.
Bukta went under halfway through the 92-93 season, and Loki took over with a decent reproduction of the Bukta shirt that was never sold to fans. It was meant to get the team to the end of the season, and it did its job. Loki were given the gig for the next, fateful, 93-94 season.
Loki. You remember them? No? Supplied Swindon Town in their single season trip to the Premier League? Shared templates with Nutmeg? Weird shoulder panels?
Nope. We’d never heard of them either.
Unlike now, kit launches went largely unannounced back then, and the new home kit went on sale, unseen by the public, on 19th July 1993 for the princely sum of £27. I bought the very first one sold from the shop on my 18th birthday. Still have it. Still think it’s the second worst home shirt we’ve ever had. Sewn on shoulder panels, weird shadow pattern, oversized flappy black collar with a button (not even a press stud!), and tangerine shorts instead of black ones. Not good. More mediocrity in the kit department then. Hopefully the away will be better . . .
When the away kit first appeared, many thought it was a joke. To be honest, a few still do.
Opinion at Tannadice was firmly split, with many comparisons to kitchen worktops and marble fireplaces, but it sold in the thousands, helped by the fact that we did outrageously well in it. That more than anything tells you how popular it was.
The swirling random pattern of black on white was eye-catching and unique – many compared it to Norwich’s infamous “splodge” effort from Ribero, but this was just – classier.
Black and white, minimal tangerine piping at the shoulder seams, cuffs incorporating the design along with small black panels that incorporated the shadow pattern from the home kit. Flappy collar but with tangerine and white piping, and a nice black panel for the buttons. No sponsors that season which just somehow seemed RIGHT. You don’t sully art like this with a corporate logo plastered across the middle.
It’s not easy to do something abstract with just black and white, but Loki managed it.
How with a home kit so bland and instantly forgettable, did this work of insanity/utter genius come from the same firm?
Worn by Dundee United legends like Maurice Malpas, Jim McInally, Dave Bowman, as well as other big names who would become well known in England – Alex Cleland, Christian Dailly, and Billy McKinlay.
This kit is synonymous with our first Scottish Cup win in 1994.
Three of our games in the cup-winning run saw “the worktop” on the players’ shoulders. Iconic wins at Motherwell and in the semi-final replay at Hampden against Aberdeen are still talked about in hushed reverential tones 25 years later. Dave Narey, the club’s greatest ever player, wore this in one of his last games for the club.
Any Arab who sees this shirt immediately thinks of the cup run in ’94.
We may have been wearing tangerine when we beat the all-conquering Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final, but THIS is the shirt we Arabs know as “the one from the year we won the Cup”. It means a lot to us.
At the end of the season it was announced we would have Pony as our next suppliers, and there was a massive surplus of away shirts left over. The Club Shop was selling them at two for a fiver just to get rid of them. Five a side teams around Tayside and beyond were wearing these kits for years. Now, they’re a quarter of a century old and rarer than hen’s teeth.
I personally had a long sleeve player-issue shirt, complete with embroidered badge and Loki logo with “BREWSTER 10” on the back. Would be worth an absolute fortune these days. If I still owned it. I gave it to a friend a few years later, and he gave it to a charity shop. Regrets, I’ve had a few . . .
As a fan of football kits, I love this shirt. As a fan of Dundee United, I love this shirt. We’ve not had one as popular as this one until this very season, when Macron came out with a tribute to the UEFA Cup kit of 1987 that had supporters queuing round the block on release day.
Put simply, we’ve had nothing like it before or since, and there’s been nothing like it for any of Scotland’s other major teams.
We only had this kit for one season, and it was the best season we’d had since we reached the UEFA Cup Final in ’87.
Even those who didn’t like it have good memories of it – someone once wrote in a fanzine that “we did frighteningly well in that outrageous smock”, and that sums it up quite well!
Polarising, maybe. Popular, definitely. Iconic? Unquestionably.
When will we see your likes again.