The St Kilda Jumper (again)

By Tom Briglia

Early last year, as the Saints were strutting around in their new NAB Cup jumpers and about to take the field in the regular season in traditional white cuffs, I thought it pertinent to write up a history (somewhat) of the St Kilda jumper. Indeed, that history experience a twist last year as the Saints became the first team to wear a clash jumper in a Grand Final (and Grand Final Replay, for that matter).

(Interestingly, the Saints would have become the first team to at least wear an away jumper in a Grand Final in 1997 had they decided to wear that season’s away jumper – which was until that year, and is now currently the home jumper.)

After another pre-season of new jumper designs (yes, not just one, but two), the football world got its first glimpse of the new home jumper on Friday night, featuring the black cuffs. It was an absolute winner for mine (unlike the team playing in them, sadly), and I hope this design sticks around for a long time.

Of course, there’s still the clash jumper to be unveiled – considering recent stances of both boards, the Saints will wear it in their home game against Essendon in Round 3 – although Lenny Hayes was sporting a pre-major sponsor signing version in the 2011 membership commercial.

So I thought I would repost the piece I put up last year as we bear witness, once again, to another change to the red, white and black (and once red, yellow and black, and once red, yellow, white and black, and once with blue knickerbockers) jumper.

Basic designs of all St Kilda jumper designs (as well as all other VFL/AFL clubs’) can be viewed at the brilliant Footy Jumpers.

The St Kilda Jumper
Originally posted on February 24th, 2010

As the footballing public (who pays at least some attention to the NAB Cup) would have seen, our Saints wore (another) new jersey on Friday night.

St Kilda has been quite busy in the alternate-jumper department since the “cross” design was introduced for the 1996 Ansett Australia Cup.

And a look into the club’s history will also show a particularly busy period for its fashion designers from the club’s entry to the VFL until the 1950s.

The cross jumper was the first time in 74 years St Kilda hadn’t worn stripes of some sort. It was immediately synonymous with success, with co-captains Nathan Burke and Stewart Loewe leading the side to the 1996 pre-season premiership.

So popular was it that it became the home jumper for 1997, with the traditional “slab” design, worn (in various forms) since 1924, used for away matches. Also adopted were the all-black socks with red and white trim at the top, not seen since the 1940’s.

But with the decline of the Saints over the next several years, so too, it seemed, did the “cross” design’s stocks. In 2002, it became the away jumper, and the traditional home design was restored.

The cross jumper was bundled out altogether at the end of the season, and the normal hooped socks returned in 2003; the club had reverted back to the same home uniform it had worn until the end of 1996.

But the “cross” design did give rise to the Pura Lightstart jumper, or the “yellow peril”. This was first worn in round 20, 2001, against Carlton, with the red on the jumper replaced by yellow to promote the then-sponsor Pura’s new milk line.

This was worn as an away/clash jumper, with red trim, in 2002 and 2003, before being demoted to a training jumper for a short time afterwards.

After the wearing the hugely popular “candy stripe” jumper in the 2003 heritage round (against an equally-stripey Richmond), the club decided to use the jumper as its away jumper from 2004 (with slightly thicker stripes).

It was based on the jumper worn prior to entering the VFL competition through to the late 1910s, and was also worn in Round 7, 1996, when the AFL celebrated the competition’s centenary, with thinly-striped red and black socks (although the blue knickerbockers worn upon admittance to the VFL were eschewed).

Despite its huge popularity amongst St Kilda fans, the AFL would no longer allow the Saints to wear it, as it was deemed too similar to the Collingwood jumper, and the much derided “apron” jumper was introduced for 2007-08.

Ironically, the jumper was chosen from a vote of two (admittedly very similar) jumpers; both mostly white with the club crest in the middle of the bodice (for the first time since its introduction).

The alternative had a solid crest on the front, with short diagonal red, white and black stripes on the side (reminiscent of Fitzroy’s 1995 Ansett Cup jumper).

The club noted supporters’ distaste for the “apron” jumper, and the design was discontinued as soon as the two-year contract with the designer ended.

Filling the breach was the current away design, based around the jumpers worn from 1923-1952.

Of course, there were the several years (1915-1922) in which the club changed its colours from red, white and black, to red, yellow and black, so as to avoid sharing the patriot colours of then-enemy Germany.

The first jersey design with the new colours simply saw the old candy-stripe jumper’s white replaced with yellow; the Saints wore an homage design closer to the current slab jumper for the 2005 heritage round.

But from 1919-1922, the club wore what would be the least recognisable St Kilda jersey. Mostly red, it featured a black “V” yoke, with a solid yellow outline, with black sleeves cuffed by red and yellow.

Very few pictures of players in action in these colours exist (particularly online), although there are pictures in Heroes With Haloes: St Kilda’s One Hundred Greatest by Russell Holmesby of the 1918 First Semi-Final against Collingwood (although in black and white), and one colour photo – of speedster Barney Carr posing in the “V” design.