St Kilda in scarlet, yellow and black – (sort of) setting the record straight

Right, so whether or not you got up at 5am on Monday morning to watch Germany squeak home in the World Cup final, if you’re a St Kilda fan you probably would have seen this pop up on your Facebook feed during the day:

I got really excited about this one because it was extremely rare public exposure for possibly my favourite St Kilda jumper of all time – the 2005 Heritage Round jumper, which, alongside the Kangaroos’ own version for that Round made for a very nice colour contrast on the field.

There’s a couple of ironies (maybe not ironies, but you know) out of this one. Firstly, St Kilda never actually wore that jumper. They certainly wore red, yellow and black, but – here’s the second one – it was a reaction to World War 1, when the enemy in Germany had a red, white and black flag. The accepted story is that the club changed their colours to red, yellow and black to avoid any link with the Germans, and to bolster the Empire pride a little with the new colours the same as those on allies Belgium’s flag – indeed, news reports confirming this can be found on Trove here, here and here. I made a tweet about the slightly misaligned sentiment in the club’s Facebook post but the club account replied and thought I was having a crack – my point was that it’s kind of ironic that the club made this post when the original point of having red, yellow and black jumpers was to get the hell away from Germany.

Further to this, the arrangement might have been one of added convenience as the St Kilda Cricket Club’s colours were (and remain) red, yellow and black, and it was a chance to align the two more so aesthetically.

I must say, what does make the above jumper seem “old-style” are the continuations of the imperfect panels around the jumper, but unpatterned with red on both sides, echoing the lack of PR-influenced design perfection and assembly-line precision designer and manufacturers had at that time. This can be seen in photos of the club’s candy stripe variation worn from 1897, like this shot of the 1909 team.

So this is where some nitpicking comes in. St Kilda wore two red, yellow and black designs – or, as this Punch article from 1915 described St Kilda, “resplendent in their new colours (scarlet, yellow and black)” – the first from 1915-1918 and the second from 1919-1922. Because the club, like many others, dropped out of the VFL briefly in wartime it only wore the first design for two seasons, 1915 and 1918. This was the design that the club tried to emulate in 2005, but it erred in printing the jumpers before club historian Russell Holmesby and Rob Meredith – creator of the brilliant football resource – provided them with the correct information of what the jumper looked like. There are no photos that I’ve come across – neither colourised nor black and white – that depict this clearly, so like so many of all clubs’ older jumper designs, is our best guide.

In this case, the jumper actually was closer to a red, yellow and black version of the very popular candy stripe clash jumper worn from 2004-2006, after being worn in Heritage Round in 2003 and based on the 1886 jumper (with a shout-out to the 1893-1909 design, with thicker stripes, worn in the 1996 Centenary Round).

I’ve waffled on about this before, but Rob Meredith (“Mero” as he’s known to many) also submitted a design to the club to replace the candy stripe jumper, which had been given the flick by the AFL for being too close to Collingwood’s. This one was essentially the the candy stripe with red, yellow and black – or, the 1915-1918 jumper – steering itself away from the Magpies and design, and at the same time still being a St Kilda jumper and creating an effective contrast between the darker sides, such as Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Melbourne, etc. (Mero also was the creator of the losing design in the possibly rigged clash jumper poll that saw us end up with the much-derided “apron” design. Two years later and we might have had to wear that in a Grand Final.)

The 1919-1922 jumper is particularly unique in St Kilda history. There are only three designs the Saints have worn as home jumpers that haven’t been vertical stripes – which even then you can divide all of those jumpers into just two groups, the candy cane variations and the tri-panel variations. And those three designs have only been the club’s designated jumper for 26 of the club’s 141 years to date.

The exceptions are the first-ever jumper with the thin red and black hoops and white handkerchief, which we wore last year for the 140 Year Anniversary and is a very close contender with the above 2005 Heritage Round jumper for my favourite all-time Saints jumper. This morphed into another jumper, effectively the same except with a rounded white yolk coming down from the shoulders. It would be 34 years until St Kilda introduced the V design, and then another 75 once that was turfed before the “hot cross bun” design.

There is only one colourised photo of a red, yellow and black St Kilda jumper I’m aware of. It’s of Barney Carr in 1921 from Carter’s Price Guide to Antiques, and there’s something particularly interesting about it:


Namely, there’s a huge yellow band running across it. This hasn’t really been documented widely before, but that said, none of these jumpers have. Even the club itself CBF waiting for the right information to come through before they decided to print off a technically incorrect design to actually play a (quite important, as it turned out) game in.

Anyway, there’s a whole lot of originally black and white (or sepia tone, or whatever) images of footballers that have been colourised by an artist at the time or later on with inaccuracies on jumpers and so on – see Richmond wearing blue and black hooped socks earlier last century in 100 Years of Australian Rules Football). So I thought that was the case with this image. The only real documentation of it was done by Mero several years ago, and aficionados will notice that above the V is red, whereas Mero would have black:

This is the kind of thing that without specific written description we can’t entirely discern, and some resources such as images like this and the wealth of amazing information now on Trove are only newly available. They’re important because the difference between black and red in uncoloured photos is negligible. Yellow, however, really stands out. And that’s why these photos are interesting:


Those are pictures of Barney Carr, Ray Harper, Aubrey McKenzie and Bill Tymms, on Boyle’s Football Photos taken for the “1923 Magpie Portraits of Leading Footballers” series, and to varying degrees (see Tymms’ is lower than the others) all show the band that appears in the colourised Barney Carr photo is actually a part of the jumper, rather than an artist’s guesswork. It also means there was a lot of yellow in the red, yellow and black, and the overall design, once taking into account the allocation of colours to different sections, could be a lot more intricate and unique than thought. As an aside, these shots would have been taken in 1922 and used for the 1923 series as the available shots of the players – as the linked page shows, some players in the same set are wearing the 1923 jumper, which is the first variation of the tri-panel and had very busy sleeves (also worth checking out the markedly different South Melbourne and North Melbourne jumpers).

Perhaps the patriotic streak wore off, or there was just enough contentment after winning a World War because even though Germany changed their flag to red, yellow and black in 1919, the Saints stuck with the colour scheme in the new V design until, as mentioned, they changed back to red, white and black in 1923. There’s no clear-cut reason for this reversion in the way that there was for the initial change, unless it was a delayed reaction to Germany as they looked to rise again after their humiliating defeat. Depending on this, it may also dismiss the Cricket Club link angle. Hitler was only in the very early stages of his rise in 1923, but when the Nazis officially took over things at the beginning of 1933 and introduced two official red, white and black flags – one the tricolour, the other the swastika – the Saints didn’t bother changing again.

The yellow did return as a very effective clash jumper, but was in place of red and co-existed with the white on the hot cross bun design for just two years. Interestingly, it was worn in 2003 after the original had been phased out, but before the candy stripe had been introduced. It didn’t look quite right on that particular design (even with the red finishes on the 2003 version) and was embedded in everyone’s mind merely as a convenient hangover of the Pura Lightstart jumper. It can be used much, much more wisely, as the club proved just two seasons later.

So all of that doesn’t really mean anything huge for us now (the colours I mean, not the World Wars). I think the St Kilda Twitter account got a bit stroppy with me and didn’t reply even the second time to my most burning question: can we please have red, yellow and black clash jumper? Sadly, I don’t think they were trying to cover for any grand plans.

St Kilda jumper talk: 2013 edition

Footy jumpers are my favourite thing. As my brother says, they’re the main reason why I like the game.

140th year heritage jumper promo image

I’ve written on here about the history of the St Kilda jumper, an update to that history, about the Butterss board rigging the clash jumper poll which gave us the infamous faded apron design, and yearly takes on the designs. I’ve also plugged the wonderful many times, including in this sentence.

So it’s big a deal for me when the Saints reveal any change to the jumper whatsoever, and it’s that time of day again where I’m keen on discussing the St Kilda jumper at length.

The club announced the 140-year heritage jumper a few weeks back, which for me could only have been topped if there wasn’t text on it, or it was revealed that a red, yellow and black design was to be used as a clash. The text on this heritage jumper features the names of every St Kilda player to have played, which is a nice touch but aesthetically it puts it in the bracket of the sugar-daddy jumpers so many clubs (including the Saints) have worn in recent years. As a jumper alone, I think it looks sensational; hopefully the text doesn’t fade the colours out too much because in theory the design is incredibly bold.

2013 clash jumper

Then in the past week or so GoodScore leaked the 2013 designs. The ideas behind the jumpers are effectively the same as the past season, with the clash being improved exponentially by the fact that the horizontal stripe of the cross is now the same width as the vertical; inexplicably that wasn’t the case in 2012. This change makes the cross image and design overall much bolder and much more consistent with the traditional tri-panel design, effectively completing the evolution of the idea that began in 2011 with the “vague-cross” design. It also utilises the brilliant cross symbol to great effect, something which the club hasn’t done enough of considering how strong and unique it is.

Interestingly, ISC has altered its template, which I and many others (i.e. some others on the Footy Jumpers Graphic Design Board at BigFooty) thought was the best in the competition due to its simplicity and boldness (there’s a variation of that word again). Up until this past season, it was revered for it’s solid collar that was consistent all the way around the neck (as seen in the heritage jumper promo shot with Lenny), and the incredibly low impact the stitching and branding was on the designs of the jumpers.

The most striking change is the introduction of shoulder panels, which indeed impact on the jumper designs. On the clash jumper these panels are white, and could work either way – it might make the players look broader-shouldered or as if the jumpers are a bit too small for them. Likewise the home jumper, which has only changed due to the template, which has black panels, making the overall feel even darker since the black collar and cuffs were brought in in 2011.

2013 home jumper

The collar has changed too to a more finicky design. Whilst I don’t like the collar itself (going from the images) it’s ultimately moot on the clash jumper (which remains white) and if anything it might benefit the home jumper a little. On the home jumper, the white panel now goes all the way to the top, offsetting a little the black shoulder panels and the shortening effect they might have. The players could well seem a bit taller now (or at least more in proportion), and hopefully the black cuffs make the players look broader-shouldered from both the front and back now there there is solid black across both. For those who like omens, it’s the closest design we’ve had to the jumper worn in 1966.

I’ve always thought the tri-panel design would be best with the black cuffs and a white collar, and this is the closest I get to that. I’d also love to see the white panel broadened so all three are again the same dimensions, and the huge stylised to return too (although Greg “Right” Westaway pointed out at the 2011 AGM that the AFL had imposed rules on club logos appearances on jumpers). I’m still a sucker to the idea (which no-one of importance has) that a variation of the 2009 black training jumper with black shorts and black socks (with white and red tops) would look incredibly mean as a home uniform.

As for the clash, I’d have the 2013 version almost as the best one yet if it wasn’t for the template change effecting the design, although I’m open to changing my mind when I see it on the field. Until then, the mantle is still held by the candy-stripe jumper of 2004-06, which was not only a brilliant design but effective as a clash (more so in 2004-05 with more white on the back) and had historical relevance, being based on St Kilda’s jumpers worn from 1886 t0 1914. As I wrote last off-season, there were (very) loose plans to have a red, yellow and black version of the candy-stripe jumper used as a clash from 2006 onwards, but this fell through when the club used designed an ill-advised version (i.e. they designed it before getting the appropriate advice) of the jumper worn from 1915-1918 as the 2005 Heritage Round jumper.

Did the St Kilda board rig a clash jumper poll in the 2007 pre-season?

Many of us cringe when we think of the “apron” design clash jumper worn by the club in 2007 and 2008.

Photo by Lachlan Cunningham, © The Slattery Media Group

It wasn’t simply the design that was bad – there was nothing bold about the basketball-singlet-style lines and the bemusing worn effect given to the club logo – but it was also that it had replaced the widely popular candy-stripe jumper, which had been forced out simply because it looked a bit like Collingwood’s jumper.

The design was widely panned by supporters, and the promise of change at the end of the 2008 season given by Nathan Burke at that year’s AGM was met with great enthusiasm.

Of course, the odd thing was that the apron design had won a head-to-head poll against this design:

In my opinion, this design is far superior – it’s far bolder. The black cuffs and solid logo look great, and the red, white and black stripes are at the very least echoed in the chevrons. It looks far more like a St Kilda jumper than the apron ever will.

But it seems that the poll results might have said something similar.

The designer of the the chevron jumper is “Mero”, who runs the fantastic His knowledge of the history of all VFL/AFL (and beyond) clubs’ jumper designs is incredible and reflected in his website. (St Kilda’s own progression of jumper designs is on of the busier histories, so the site is well worth a look for that alone: for all jumpers, see here, and for full home uniforms, see here. There were definitely some interesting designs through the years.)

Mero posts regularly on the forum, and in a thread titled “Jumpers that never were”, he posted something yesterday rather remarkable about the design (there’s some more information about his assisting the club with the design, the St Kilda Heritage Museum, and with the 2005 Heritage Round jumper design later in the thread). Taken directly from his post:

“The jumper I designed, with the chevrons down the sides was leading the poll with one day to go.

And when they announced the decision it was the other jumper by something like 60% to 40%.

My thoughts were they had decided on the one they wanted, and ran the other one to make it look like the fans had a say.

Not bitter, wasn’t getting anything out of it, so it doesn’t matter, and I don’t barrack for StKilda, but I was taking an interest because of the design, and they definitely pulled a swifty.”

It’s worth noting that Nathan Burke, made the promise of change as part of the new board that had just taken over from Rod Butterss’ regime, which had overseen the clash jumper design issue about a year earlier.

So perhaps the Butterss board actually did rig the poll. There’s never been anything to suggest the apron design was close to popular with fans, for reasons that simply wouldn’t apply to the alternative design. To be honest, assuming Mero’s story is true, I hope whoever gave him the information before the poll closed was wrong for whatever reason, and that the board didn’t in fact disregard the wishes of its fans after explicitly giving them the impression they’d been granted a say in the operations of the club.

To some this would be a non-issue, but to many the jumper is the representation of the club. It’s how you know the individual players and the team as a whole you are looking at represent the St Kilda Football Club.