One of the greatest aspects of the internet is the ability for communities to come together to build exhaustive collections of information, which would be impossible if developed by the printing press. The perfect example of this is the Historical Kits website, which is a work of passion developed by Dave Moor. His website is the number one source for historical football kits so you can go back in time and see what shirts your team wore throughout the centuries since its existence.
Despite creating a one-of-a-kind website, not much is known about the creator of the Historical Kits website, Dave Moor. So, I decided to sit down with Dave and ask him some riveting questions. Enjoy the interview.
EPL Talk: What are your earliest memories of becoming a soccer fan?
Dave: Easy – June 1966. I was 13 and more interested in collecting stamps and model aeroplanes but the World Cup caught my imagination and for a while I became fanatical.
EPL Talk: What’s your earliest and most vivid memory of a football kit?
Dave: Earliest memory would be of the gold and blue stripes of my primary school team. They were enormous, Fifties style outfits and we 9 year olds were completely swamped in them. I had no idea what I was doing and was never picked for the school again.
Most vivid memory would be the sky blue and white shirts worn by the Argentine team in the infamous ’66 world Cup quarter-final with England. The abiding image of that game is of Rattin, towering over the tiny ref and refusing to be sent off – the stripes seemed to make him even taller. On the back of the official programme were rather poor colour graphics of the participants’ kits and I remember my dad commenting that the drawing for Argentina looked nothing like the real thing. I thought perhaps I could do better.
EPL Talk: How did you come up with the idea of doing Historical Kits?
Dave: I suppose it goes back to that summer in 1966. The following August we took a family holiday in Cornwall and of course it rained most of the time. My brother, Pete and I spent wet afternoons pouring over the Sport Encyclopedia we’d been given as a present and which included the colours of the Football League teams. With a set of new fangled coloured felt tip pens we set about creating crude posters which went up on the bedroom wall when we got home. The book didn’t include stocking details so I relied entirely on Pete’s suggestions.
I collected kit details over the next 15 years or so but lost interest in the 1980s when work, family and other commitments took precedence. Kits were becoming increasingly complicated and well beyond my ability to draw them. In fact I threw out all my records one afternoon when we were moving house.
The idea of using PC technology to revive my hobby took form after I bought a copy of Bob Bickerton’s “Club Colours” (Hamlyn 2008 0 600 59542 0). I was both inspired and deeply envious. I knew that there were many omissions in Bob’s book due to publishing limitations as well as some errors and it occurred to me that by using a PC to create and store graphics, I could get round these issues and create an archive that could be constantly updated. It would also mean that someone like me, with no artistic ability, could create acceptable graphics.
At this stage the idea of publishing on the web didn’t occur to me. My son, Matt, suggested I use web technology as it offered the best solutions for both creating and archiving graphic files with text. Matt saw the potential interest of the wider web community in the project but for me, this was entirely a private obsession at the time.
EPL Talk: When did the site launch and how much time did it initially take to research and design all of the shirts?
Dave: I started researching and creating the graphics in 2002 and spent most of my free time on the project over the next four years. Not being trained in web or graphics design, the first efforts were pretty crude and as I learned more about the technology (and being something of a perfectionist) I would come up with an improvement that required me to start again from scratch.
Matt persuaded me that it would be worth publishing on the web and in February 2006 I finished the last graphic for Wycombe. I then went through the entire archive sharpening the graphics up – in fact this is a process that is still going on as we are currently gradually upgrading the graphics from the original flat 2D images to what I hope is a more professional 3D effect.
The site went live in May 2006 by which time we had defined the principles that would guide its development:
* we would aim to create the most comprehensive and detailed archive available,
* to this end we would invite contributions from visitors to fill in gaps and correct errors,
* all contributions would be acknowledged and sources attributed,
* we would seek to constantly improve both the content and presentation of the site.
EPL Talk: What were your sources when researching the football kits and was there one particular English club that was hardest to uncover their history of football shirts?
Dave: On each gallery we list our sources and every graphic is cross referenced with one or more of these. We want to be completely transparent about where our material comes from and also be able to trace it back to source when, as sometimes happens, we are challenged over an individual kit’s authenticity. I tried to cover the subject in A Note on Sources on HFK.
I found Andy Barton’s Classic Kits site very helpful and was inspired by the graphics on Mikhail Sipovich’s Colours of Football site. More recently John Devlin’s True Colours series (Vol 1 2005 A&C Black 0 7136 7389 3: Vol 2 2006 A&C Black 10 071367928X) have been invaluable records of the details of recent kits and a further inspiration to create excellent graphics.
The main source of material, however, is the growing band of contributors who submit stuff all the time. David King, for example, scanned over 450 items from his personal collection of cuttings from the 80s and 90s while Alick Milne collated and submitted his entire archive of records gleaned from newspapers and books covering Scottish clubs between 1870 and 1960 – hundreds of items each scrupulously recorded with its source and now published for the first time.
The growth of HFK is therefore the result of input from our contributors rather than my own research and we have been able to publish information that has never previously been available. I estimate that the content of the English section alone has doubled in the past two years due to input from our visitors. Makes me feel kinda humble.
EPL Talk: What’s your opinion about the designs of the 2008/2009 Premier League shirts you’ve seen thus far?
Dave: I’m pretty encouraged – the designs I’ve seen are a good balance between innovation and tradition. I’m not sure that Arsenal’s new home kit is going to go down too well with the Gooners who expect their team to wear white sleeves while Middlesbrough’s reinstatement of their white band is a welcome assertion of their identity. I applaud Villa’s decision to forgo the millions they could have earned by putting a local hospice on their shirts – it’s refreshing that non-commercial issues can motivate a club at this level. Sunderland and Newcastle are instantly recognisable in traditional stripes with discrete modern touches. I see that Hull will go back to stripes for their debut in the Premiership, a decision they may regret. Folk in ‘Ull will tell you the club’s successes have always come when they wear plain amber shirts.
I’ve noticed that shorts will reach the knees next season, which is quite amusing. The last time they reached this extreme was around 1901 when the regulations that required players to keep their knees covered were relaxed.
EPL Talk: Your site has an incredibly exhaustive display of team shirts for clubs around the world, but do you have a sense for how many shirts may be missing from your lists, especially from the English clubs?
Dave: Only last week I received details of four Cardiff City kits that were missing – the gaps in the record are constantly getting filled. If you look at a gallery you will see gaps in the dates where I’ve not been able to confirm kits but what I’m now finding is that what is missing is fine detail. For example, I recently updated the Leeds United gallery with additional kits between 1920 and 1960, all of which were variations on the previously published material – typically slight differences in the stockings or collar design.
The biggest problem lies with the clubs that come up from the Conference for whom it can be very difficult to trace early records.
EPL Talk: After having researched so many football shirts, what has been your biggest revelation?
Dave: I love the fact that so many of our big Premier League clubs had humble beginnings and, but for a stroke of luck, might have gone the way of Merthyr Town, Aberdare Athletic and Bradford Park Avenue. Manchester United, for example came into existence after brewer, John Henry Davies, rescued a St Bernard dog belonging to the captain of Newton Heath, who faced bankruptcy. Liverpool started out wearing cast-off blue and white shirts left behind at Anfield by the former tenants, Everton. Derby County started out as an attempt to revive the ailing Derbyshire County Cricket Club and originally wore the chocolate, amber and light blue colours of their parent club.
EPL Talk: If you could pick one kit manufacturer that consistently produces the most attractive kits, who would that be and why?
Dave: I like Nike’s approach to kit design which embodies the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid – but unless you’re a top earning premiership club, you’re going to have to choose from their standard templates. It’s good to see Umbro producing some good designs this season after last season’s fussy templates that were out of kilter with the general trend. Carlotti and Vandanel have been producing original designs in the lower divisions.
Italian manufacturer Errea, however, stand head and shoulders above the rest. Rather than producing variations on standard templates, Errea design bespoke kits for clubs individually and they involve the clubs in the design process. Being Italian, they have an instinct for good design. The results are sometimes bizarre (Scarborough 1997-98, Yeovil Town 1997-98), often classic (Middlesbrough 2008-09, Brighton 2004) but always memorable.
EPL Talk: Is there a particular period in the history of football kits that you find most fascinating? If so, why?
Dave: I am particularly fond of the Victorian era, especially that period when the old public school sides were losing their domination to the new breed of clubs with their roots in the working class communities of the north and midlands. Some of the most spectacular combinations and colours appeared in this period before economics and the need for spectators to be able to distinguish between the teams drove the movement towards simple designs on primary colours. I find team pictures from the Victorian period enormously evocative and feature these on HFK whenever I can find an excuse to – one of my favourites is of Earlestown taken in 1884 and rescued from a skip.
Like most people with an interest in the topic, my idea of the perfect kit is conditioned by my early experiences of the game. For me this means the period 1965-1975 when tightly fitting shirts had crew necks or, latterly the radically new collars with a v inset. Shorts were extremely short and kits came in one size so players like Jack Charlton could barely cram their frames into them while diminutive chaps like Jimmy “Wee Jinky” Johnstone ran rings round English defenders in what looked like a strip handed down from his big older brother.
EPL Talk: Do you collect football kits? If so, what’s your most prized collectible?
Dave: I don’t collect but I do get a lot of correspondence from collectors and from sites that support collectors. Typically this is a two way process – collectors use HFK to verify items before they buy and webmasters are kind enough to let me know when they have an item in stock that is missing from HFK.
EPL Talk: If you could send a message to modern day football clubs about their football kit designs, what would it be?
Dave: Follow the example of those clubs that regularly involve fans in designing new kits and resist the temptation to see your supporters simply as a source of revenue. A football club is much more than a business – it is a part of the community with a shared heritage that should be respected.
Above all, put pressure on your suppliers to stop the practice of price fixing. It is unnacceptable that the price of replica kits has remained high despite the findings of the Office of Fair Trading (August 2003) which condemned and outlawed the practice.
EPL Talk: Have football clubs ever contacted you to correct information or ask for help?
Dave: I have had some very helpful contributions from the official historians of several clubs and have been able to provide information to clubs and supporters associations, particularly when planning commemorative kits. In 2006, QPR posted a link to HFK when canvassing supporters for ideas on their new kit – the number of visits that resulted caused our server to melt and the site was temporarily suspended. We’ve since moved to a new server with far greater capacity.
Last January Middlesbrough FC featured HFK graphics in a feature on the club’s fomer kits in their programme for the match with Liverpool.
We introduced the new style Season Galleries, with home, away and third kits in response to requests from visitors, including the kit managers of several top clubs who consult HFK before packing the team kit for away games.
EPL Talk: What future plans do you have for the Historical Kits website?
Dave: The task of adding missing kits and correcting errors continues while our main priority is to record all 2008-09 kits for English and Scottish clubs.
We are looking at ways to develop the News & Updates section to allow contributors to publish their own comments and increase interaction. We are also seeking ways to involve contributors in the process of upgrading our graphics.
Following the success of our Euro 2008 gallery we will publish international competition galleries for future World Cups and European Championships.
At some stage, when time allows, I would like to post galleries of the four home international nations and the Republic of Ireland.
EPL Talk: What’s the most surprising fact about you that your visitors would be shocked to hear?
Dave: Perhaps it’s because I’ve made my home in South Wales or perhaps it’s because I am getting old and disillusioned, but I would rather watch rugby union than football these days. A far more sophisticated and exciting game but the kits are terrible.