Black and Old: 96-98 Home shirt

Black and Gold; two colours that together have long been used as a nickname for Berwick Rangers, owing to their storied use for home shirts throughout the ages. Although initially turning out in white shirts with white knickerbockers and white socks upon the club’s founding, it took but one year for BRFC to switch to black and orange, with yellow superseding the latter in 1908. Today, a hundred and ten years on from its debut, the Dream Team is still playing in this Edwardian styling.

However, where the current Mitre shirts (readily available in the club store here) are reasonably traditional in their appearance, Berwick Rangers have played in many different shades of gold and an even greater number of designs over the years, with home, away, and sometimes even third kits worn across Scotland. With no design enjoying a lifespan of more than two seasons since the early 80’s, Shielfield Park is now home to a kit hamper bursting at the seams with antiquated tops that veteran punters may recognize from times long past.

This brings us to Black & Old; a brand-new series, proudly presented by Berwick Rangers Football Club in conjunction with the kit aficionados at Club 25 Football, in which we will be taking a look at some of the most (in)famous shirts in the club’s history, as modelled by current members of the first team squad. Aidan McIlduff kindly volunteered to be the first player to don a kit for Black & Old, although his eagerness has been met by a stroke of bad luck in being paired up with the home shirt of the ‘96/’97 and ‘97/’98 seasons. Although neither of those campaigns yielded any on-field heroics to be remembered, a tenth placed finish in the old Division 2 in ‘96/’97 setting the Dream Team up for a sixth place at the end of the following season in Division 3, the shirt worn back then remains one of the most iconic to have been worn at Shielfield.

This is mostly down to the outlandish take on Rangers’ traditional stripes that technical partner Avec supplied the club with; gold diamond shapes dominated the front and back, cut off by black parallelograms which in turn were broken up by sponsors L.C.L. Pils. Avec plastered their logo (reminiscent of the Eiffel tower) at the sleeve cuffs, as well as all across the body as a shadow print that can easily be made out from a distance. Still not content to end matters there, the logo also appeared right beneath the collar, ensuring that it would show up in the players’ headshots.

Of course, Avec hardly needed the extra publicity this afforded; after all, the exact same design they bestowed upon Berwick Rangers had been previously used for Sheffield United’s 1995/1996 home shirt in red and white, which is widely considered to be the worst Blades’ kit ever. That being said, this design has a special place in Berwick’s history as being perhaps the most prominent example of the fashion excesses that were so common place in the 90’s and is now a sought-after collectable that could easily double as a slightly out-of-touch/vintage fashion statement.

Undeterred by criticism back then, Avec continued to partner BRFC for two more seasons after this shirt was rotated before all but disappearing from football in the early 2000’s. The brand has seen a resurgence in recent years, however, with English League teams like Barnsley, Bradford City, Doncaster, and Scunthorpe wearing their products in recent years, with Scotland’s own Hibernian using their training wear range.

Of course, it is Avec’s work for our club that will remain their most relevant feat. If you are lucky enough to own your very own copy of this shirt, be sure to turn it inside out some time; if years of washing it haven’t affected it too badly, you will find a tag reading ‘Made in the UK’ in the stitching on the side of the body.

Check back in a few weeks for our second entry in the Black & Old series, for which we will be taking a look at a slightly more recent shirt!