A telegram sent by Manchester City to their kit suppliers after their triumphant 1934 FA Cup Final and unearthed by chance in an archive has been the inspiration behind the shirts the club’s player will wear against Stoke City on Saturday.
The telegram of May 5, 1934 which, in a nod to the days of such communication, includes the club’s telegraphic address ‘Football Manchester’, was sent from Maine Road by club secretary Wilf Wild, thanking Humphreys Bros – whose names spawned the Umbro company name – for the “ Jerseys , Knickers, Hose, Slips and Anklets” used in the Wembley final seven days earlier. “The fit, quality and smartness of the entire outfit was undoubtedly perfection,” Wild wrote.
It was while researching the project of creating Saturday’s shirts that David Blanch, a senior designer at Umbro, discovered the telegram and has created a modern version of the same type font for the player numbers and names, which have been bonded onto the shirts. “Many fonts in football look retro and rigid but this one has a real authenticity about it,” Mr Bland said yesterday.
The shirts and the ‘Mercer jackets’ which the players will wear onto the pitch feature a number of intricate links to the historical detail of the kits City players have worn at Wembley. Discreetly featured within the numbers on the players’ backs is the historic Manchester coat of arms, which City players initially used to wear when they had no crest of their own. Technically a privilege bestowed upon the club by Manchester ’s city council, it has generally been a tradition over the past 60 years that City carry the coat of arms in some way when they play at Wembley.
The shirt numbers have also been individually made and bonded to the City shirts, with small holes enabling the numbers to ‘breath – in a nod to the tailoring tradition of football jersey numbers being handsewn from fabric and stitched onto the jerseys. “The shirts are inspired by the past, rather than mimicking it,” said Mr Blanch, who unearthed the telegram in a booked archived in the the Umbro vault decades ago. “We wanted to celebrate City’s achievement and to respect the past but also to celebrate where the club is heading. Manchester has deep roots in City and the club is continuing to build on that history.”
Umbro, who presented their ideas for the final shirt in Abu Dhabi before progressing with them, have also developed the shade of ‘vista’ blue which City have settled on for their shirts since 2009. Before the introduction of the club badge, only ten years ago, City had to rely purely on the colour of their shirts for recognition and have benefited from the fact that light blue is the least used colour in football. Lazio’s shade comes close, though is slightly lighter.
The Manchester coat of arms is also embroidered onto the breast of the jackets City will walk out in, inspired by the overcoat of choice for the late Joe Mercer, and of which only 16 have been made. Mercer took a City side wearing the Manchester coat of arms to its last FA Cup final victory in 1969. The goalkeeping heroics of a young Frank Swift, replete in Jersey, Slip and Anklets, inspired the 2-1 win over Portsmouth 35 years earlier.