Text by Harry Collins
Next season will see the return of an iconic partnership, a collaboration deeply rooted in the history of one of England’s most famous football clubs.
The announcement that hummel were returning as the kit manufacturer of Middlesbrough FC for the 18/19 season was met with resounding joy across the majority of the fan base. The Danish brand is synonymous with the club and firmly engrained in the heritage of Boro, through the Spirit of ’86.
hummel produced the club’s kits between 1984 and 1987, a time of emergence, depression and rebirth in North Yorkshire. These designs will always rank as arguably the most popular kits in Middlesbrough’s history with the hummel designs providing iconic memories for the Boro faithful.
It is this sentiment and passion that both the club and the brand are determined to rediscover, with the turbulent yet revered era a key focus going forward.
The Danish brand provided the kits for three seasons, beginning in 1984 and continued with a similar theme throughout the period.
The designs consisted of hummel’s traditional and iconic chevrons adoring the sleeves of the top, forcing their team forward, head-on against adversity and towards immortality.
The brand also reintroduced the popular white banding that embellished the chest in the 70s as Boro romped to the Second Division title in their heyday under World Cup winner Jack Charlton. This popular embellishment was reportedly introduced in the ‘70s in order to aid the players in identifying teammates on the pitch.
The banding was previously home to the team crest although hummel moved this, leaving the void available for the team’s sponsors, to stunning effect.
The white logo and club crest matched the white banding and the white chevrons; all providing a striking contrast to the traditional red backdrop.
The expanse of red that was faultlessly interrupted by the chest banding was edged dynamically by more white. The white cuffs ended an entirely red sleeve with a distinct halt as the V-neck neckline rounded off an immaculate symmetry.
During the three years Middlesbrough were supported by three different businesses. Cameron’s ale and Hansa lager donned the front of the shirt from 84-86 with the latter largely featuring on the away kits. Cameron’s ale was replaced though in ‘86 by Dickens, a local DIY and storage company run by two brothers who also sponsored the club in the successful promotion campaign of 94/95, giving the business and the tops a cult status on Teesside. It is the Dickens sponsorship that is naturally associated with the Spirit of ’86 with the bold letters highlighted within that popular white banding that enjoys a certain affinity with the supporters.
In German, the name hummel means Bumblebee, hence the brand’s popular logo being that of the social insect. This emblem proudly decorated the kits of the 80s, but in recent years hummel have moved towards their typeface logo for sporting partnerships. The traditional bumblebee design is now used for fashion projects across the brand. This though, this is different. This collaboration steeped in tradition, shrouded in heritage and folklore demands recognition. The brand will use the bumblebee logo for the first Boro shirt in tribute to their shared history and a nod to the past.
Teesside, 1986 and Middlesbrough FC were in the middle of a crisis. There were dark clouds circling above the locked gates of Ayresome Park and the future of the club looked bleak at best.
Following relegation from the Second Division, the financial problems that had plagued the club since the early 1980s had finally caught up with Boro. The players were washing their own kit and training as a group on any area of grass that they could find. The squad were not getting paid during the liquidation proceedings, a period that almost saw the end of Middlesbrough FC, in fact at one point, it seemed inevitable.
This experience and the struggles faced by the squad and staff galvanised a group of individuals and formed a unique bond between them. The group of young, local lads playing for their club also roused the fans as the dark clouds were swept away by waves of emotion and passion. The club began their season with a home game against Port Vale, being played at Hartlepool, a low point that ultimately signified a change in fortunes, as matters off the pitch were resolved.
Lifelong Boro fan Steve Gibson led a consortium that saved the club from liquidation, and the gates of Ayresome Park were re-opened. Confidence and relief transformed the side and propelled the team towards greatness with the Danish brand becoming an icon for a generation. This generation will have the opportunity to once again enjoy the history, never forgotten on Teesside but within a modern setting.
The players that captivated and enthralled thousands thirty years ago have naturally moved on. Captain Tony Mowbray, an old head on young shoulders, was one of the local lads who captured the imagination of the adoring fans. Known affectionately as ‘Mogga’, the then 22-year-old was joined by players such as Gary Pallister, Colin Cooper and Stuart Ripley who now all enjoy legendary status on Teesside.
The turbulent nostalgic past will once again be retold this summer with the brand signing a five-year-deal with the North Yorskhire club. Gibson somewhat reluctantly became chairman of the club in 1994 and astonishingly remains in his post at the top table of his beloved club. Gibson, revered by many, not just Boro fans, led his team and supporters from the historic Ayresome Park into the modern Riverside Stadium in 1995.
Whereas once its predecessor enjoyed the dynamic chevrons, the baton will be passed to the current ground to continue the bond and the tradition.
A promotion push once again unites hummel and Middlesbrough with Tony Pulis’ side fully focussed on a return to the top flight in the upcoming season. The returning partnership that is already exciting the fan base could once again provide a spark for promotion and a return to the Premier League, where the club belongs.
The club has changed drastically since the last alliance evolution of the pair has not impacted the relationship. The values and heritage remain the same and these are shared and will be recognised in the modern kit, a history to be proud of and a partnership built on the spirit of ‘86.
THE PLAYERS WERE WASHING THEIR OWN KIT AND TRAINING AS A GROUP ON ANY AREA OF GRASS THAT THEY COULD FIND...