A Brief History of Glorious Hibernian Shirts

If you know your history, then you will know the importance of Hibernian to football kit culture.

In green and white/white and green the Hibees can claim an influence on the way teams are styled far beyond inspiring the colours of Scotland’s other famous team to wear the green.

Hibs have been among the most modern and forward thinking clubs in Britain and their status as football kit pioneers deserves more recognition.

Here’s a look at some of our favourite shirts from the history of Hibernian FC.

Beginnings

Hibernian Football Club was founded in Edinburgh in 1875 in the Cowgate area of the city.

Edinburgh had a sizeable population of Irish living within the city and with many of them living in poverty, the club’s early mission was to raise funds to support the community.

There is some debate as to whether their first shirts were an all-white affair, or as photographs taken of early sides show, a bottle-green and white hooped jersey with “HFC” written in calligraphy across the chest.

Following their example, other “Hibernians” began in Scottish cities, with Brother Walfrid one such man who was suitably inspired to form Glasgow Celtic.

Hibernian, football, club, shirt, Green, original, 1875, Ireland, Edinburgh
Based on photographs from the time, this is an impression of what we believe to be Hibernian’s first shirt

Famous Five and European Cup

Hibs’ golden era coincided with the legendary forward line known as the Famous Five.

Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond helped them win three Scottish league titles between 1948 and 1952. They were runners-up to Rangers twice, on one occasion losing on goal average and the other by a single point.

Hibernian, Hibs, Football, Shirt, 1950s, Famous Five
Glory, Glory

Hibernian were the first British club to play in the European Cup, making their way through to the semi-finals where they ultimately lost to Stade Reims in the 1955/56 season.

Hibs were past their Famous Five best and Bobby Johnstone had headed to Manchester City by the time of that first European adventure, but France’s L’Equipe selected the club based on their prestige and their will to innovate.

Hibs, Hibernian, 1950s, European Cup, shirt
Hibs were early adopters of continental style “warm weather” shirts in lighter fabrics

The Hi-bees had already brought floodlights to Easter Road, and experimented with different style boots, whilst their more continental style shirts in lighter materials were quietly ground-breaking and soon to be adopted across the British Isles.

The Classic Green Jersey

A simple round neck cotton jersey with green body and white sleeves.

Classic.

Worn in the era of Turnbull’s Tornadoes and by bona-fide Hibs Heroes like Pat Stanton and John Brownlie, there are two highlights that spring to mind for Hibs fans of this vintage.

Hibernian, Hibs, Football shirt, 1970s
The simple sophistication of Hibs’ 70s shirts

Firstly, there’s the 1972 League Cup Final where goals from Stanton and Jimmy O’Rourke shocked Jock Stein’s Celtic in a 2-1 victory at Hampden.

The Bhoys featured Kenny Dalglish (scorer), Jinky Johnstone, Billy McNeill and Lou Macari in a match where both sides wore their dashing home strips.

As glorious as that Hibs triumph was, the result pales into significance when compared to the 7-0 drubbing handed to Edinburgh rivals Hearts in January 1973.

Bukta & Bestie

The Hi-bees created a stir in 1977 when they launched the first shirts in the United Kingdom’s professional leagues to carry a sponsor’s logo.

At this stage club badges were still a rare sight on football shirts, so the presence of Mancunian shirt manufacturers Bukta’s name across the chests, as well as their logo in the detail of the sleeves’ taping, was a radical move.

Hibs, Hibernian, Bukta
Bukta’s Hibernian home shirt as worn by George Best

These shirts coincided with George Best’s short spell at Easter Road and were another ground-breaking moment in Hibs’ kit history.

adidas Originals

Everyone looks better in adidas and Hibs were no different in the late 80s/early 90s.

In shirts that seemed to take their cue from designs at Arsenal (or was that the other way around?!) the Easter egg/Saturn’s rings badge was present on our favourite edition of Hibs’ white and green away shirts.

Hibernian, adidas, away, shirt, 1991-92, Jersey, Hibs, football
The perfect example of a white/green Hibs away shirt

Resplendent without a sponsor’s logo, the shirts followed the “Hands off Hibs” battle with Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer, which may have seen a merger between the sworn Edinburgh rivals.

The green version was worn by Keith Wright and Co in the 1991 Skol Cup Final victory as the “Club That Wouldn’t Die” celebrated the saving of their souls.

Hibs, Hibernian, 1991, Skol Cup, classic, football, shirt
Everyone looks better in adidas

Two of the very best shirts from Hibs’ history that still mean an awful lot to the Easter Road faithful.

Glorious.

Green and Purple stripes

When Mitre took on design duties in 1994 they recognised a need for something a little different.

Abandoning the white and green inflection of the home kit that had increasingly led to kit clashes with Celtic, they re-introduced the colour purple to the Hi-bees’ palette.

Sponsored by everybody’s favourite bottle-gas suppliers Calor, Hibs’ badge was tucked away almost as far as the arm pits.

Worn by the likes of Darren Jackson and Michael O’Neill, as well as local boys Mickey Weir and Kevin Harper, the memorable away strip divided opinion but was worn during 2 relatively successful mid-90s seasons.

Hibernian have since worn yellow, black and grey away shirts but we rank this cult classic up there with Hibs’ very best.

Hibernian, Hibs, Mitre, Calor, Away, Shirt, 1994-96
Mitre brought purple back to Hibs’ palette

Scottish Cup Final Shirts by Nike

When Hibernian finally ended their Scottish Cup hoo-doo at Hampden in 2016, they wore a darker green top which will always be a Club Classic for association with “that day in May.”

When David Gray towered over Rangers’ defence to head home the winner, he ended Hibs’ 114 year wait between Scottish Cup crowns and sparked tears of joy, jubilation and relief as one of Football’s greatest anthems, Sunshine on Leith, rang out in Glasgow.

The bottle green shade has been worn at various stages of Hibs’ history and whilst we always visualise emerald jerseys with white sleeves when thinking of the boys from Easter Road; this is a shirt that will always be held in high affection.

We include this for the memories and for the love of those who didn’t see the Hibees win at Hampden.

Hibernian, Hibs, 2016, Scottish Cup, Winners, football shirt, Nike
The Hibees’ Scottish Cup winning shirt

Here and Now

What better way to round things off than to leave you with a shirt that takes us back to the founders’ vision for the club in 1875, and how it would exist to support the community.

In recent seasons, Hibs have used the space on the front of their shirts to highlight good causes.

This season’s “Thank you NHS” message captured the mood of a grateful nation and has seen a donation to local health charities for each shirt sold.

Simple, refined and with a message we can really get behind, here’s to many, many more years of Hibernian football shirts to come.

Hibernian, NHS, football shirt, Macron, 2020-21
Hibs’ 2020-21 home shirt by Macron

What shirts would you like us to feature in future Sartorial.Soccer stories?

Please let us know in the comments section below!

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