Imagine a world where Everton played in Red and Liverpool entered the field of play, wearing blue and white. Hard to imagine that could ever happen, isn’t it? It’s unthinkable actually? Well it actually did and here’s why.
In 1892, Everton had walked out of Anfield and decided to set up a new club at Goodison Park. Liverpool‘s new owner, John Houlding, quickly set about building a new team. He recruited most of his players from Scotland, leading to the creation of a so called ‘team of Macs’. There was just one problem, there was no money left over to buy a kit.
Everton‘s new board had decided to change their shirt to ‘ruby red’, so Houlding decided to go rummaging in the Anfield store room and found Everton‘s old blue and white shirts and that became the new team’s official kit. So for four full seasons, until 1896, Everton played in red and Liverpool in blue.
Liverpool were referred to during this period as ‘The Anfielders’. However, at the end of the 1895-96 season Liverpool manager John McKenna moved upstairs to the boardroom. Liverpool swiftly appointed Tom Watson as their new boss.
The last game under McKenna, against West Bromwich Albion at Stoney Park, would turn out to be the last time Liverpool played in blue. They lost 2-0.
Watson ushered in an exciting new era at Anfield and a new kit. Everton had decided to ditch the red shirts and opted for royal blue. Houlding quickly saw his opportunity and immediately purchased 20 red shirts from Jack Sugg’s clothing store in the city centre.
It turned out to be a masterstroke, because red and white were the municipal colours of the city. This meant his club now bore both the city’s name and its colours.
There is some confusion over the colour of the shorts, or knickers as they were called at the time, as they were initially intended to be black. However, as the team kicked off the new season away to ‘The Wednesday’ on the 1st September, 1896, the Liverpool Daily Post reported that they were wearing red shirts and white shorts for the first time.
Liverpool F.C. were now officially The Reds. They would win their first game, wearing the new shirt, 2-1 and the first player to score for Liverpool, wearing a red shirt, white shorts and red socks, was George Allen. He netted twice.
Sadly the first game in red at Anfield was a 2-0 reverse against Bolton Wanderers. The Reds faced similar disappointment at Goodison, when they faced The Blues for the first time, in their new kits. The game ended 2-1 to Everton, with Jimmy Ross scoring for Liverpool.
The shirt was a simple one, with a ‘dark red or black stand collar and buttons down the front’. There was no badge though. Liverpool players did not wear a Liverbird upon their chest until the 1950 FA Cup final, against Arsenal.
It would disappear after that game, which the Reds lost 2-0, and wouldn’t be seen again until 1955. Eventually, though Bill Shankly would oversee the change to the all red shirt in a game against Anderlecht in the European Cup, during the 1964-65 season.
Shanks initially only wanted red shirt and red shorts, because he thought it would make the team look more powerful. However, according to Ian St John’s autobiography ‘The Saint’ suggested they “go the whole hog” and change the socks to red too.
This is how the kit we all love today was born. It would usher in a period of unparalleled success for the club and its supporters.