My personal interest in the topic of football kits began in 1966 when, aged 13, I watched England win the World Cup on TV with my dad, mum and brother. The seminal moment was the quarter-final when my dad compared Argentina's elegant sky-blue and white striped shirts to the crude version on the back page of the official programme. I thought to myself, "Well I could do better then that." That summer, on holiday in Cornwall, my brother and I were presented with a fat encyclopedia of sport and a set of felt tip pens, the latest thing at the time. As it rained non-stop, we set about drawing the kits of all the Football League clubs. When there was no record of a club's stockings I would ask Peter who would confidently make something up.
Over the next 15 years I recorded kits but as my family and professional responsibilities grew, my hobby took a lower profile and in 1986 I threw my records away.
In 1998 Bob Bickerton published "Club Colours," a work that reminded me of my dad's remark and made me seriously jealous. Over the next four years I toyed occasionally with crude Paint programmes available for PCs but it was not until 2002 that I decided to resume my interest seriously. Advances in graphics technology and the development of the internet as a source of research material had transformed the situation.
In 2002 the HFK project was conceived and over the next four years I researched the basic material and created the first set of crude graphics. It was the idea of my son, Matt, to publish this material on a website, an idea that I thought at the time to be over-ambitious nonsense. Under Matt's guidance HFK has grown from 2,000 to 50,000 unique visitors per month since June 2006 and in 2009 we recorded 908,000 visits. This is why I take care of the content and Matt does all the techno-magic.
As soon as the site was launched I began to receive contributions from individuals who rootled through precious collections and sent me valuable information. Contributors are acknowledged throughout the site but I should like to particularly thank Ralph Pomeroy, Bjørn-Terje Nilssen, Kuen-Wah Cheung, Greger Lindberg all of whom have made outstanding contributions. Pete Wyatt has contributed a great deal of material on Stoke and Port Vale as well as details from annual reports published by the Association of Football Statisticians that have added to the archive between 1890 and 1920.
I must make special mention of David King, whose name you will find on practically every Football League club gallery. Since he first contacted me in October 2006, David had sent in almost 450 contributions, correcting details and filling in gaps from his extensive personal collection of magazine cuttings and sketch notes going back over 30 years. David took the time to scan images from his collection and send them to me in support of his observations. It is a privilege to be able to share the fruits of David's research with the growing web community with an interest in this topic. David has also provided a comprehensive archive of kit manufaturer's. Thank you David, very much indeed.
When I began work on Scottish League clubs I took a different approach. I decided to launch this section as a "work in progress," inviting contributions as I went along. The response was remarkable and I was thrilled to be able to publish so much material that is not available elsewhere. One of the biggest challenges with the Scottish project was to track down details of the many obscure clubs who appeared and then disappeared in the years leading up to the Second World War. I am grateful to those who participate in the historical forum at scottishleague.net who offered me much valuable advice. Through them I discovered the five volumes of "The Scottish Football League - Past Members" (Norman Nichol 1995) (available from Stewart Davidson), which provided the basic information that I needed to start filling in the gaps. I also discovered the excellent historical web site run by Brian McColl where I found masses of historical data that allowed me to track the careers of these clubs in more detail. Brian has been kind enough to share his records of early club kits and a great deal of historical factual information.
Alick Milne got in touch in March 2006 with an offer to share more than a decade's research into Scottish club kits. His meticulously referenced records of SFA, SFL, newspaper and other publications are sheer gold dust and are now available, through the medium of this site, to a global audience for the first time. Once again, it is my privilege to be involved.
Since 2006 numerous visitors have caught the HFK bug and we have awarded the accolade of HFK Research Associate to individuals, including historians both official and unofficial, who have shared their detailed knowledge of individual clubs with us. Mention must also be given to Simon Monks, Donald Gellatly, Christopher Worrall and Keith Ellis whose studious research has filled many gaps in our records.
The HFK project has developed from a personal interest into a serious historical project that records an important aspect of our footballing heritage for posterity. Information that was previously locked away in personal collections or museum archives is now available to a global audience. As new primary sources come to light, the HFK archive is constantly being updated: as with any historical project, this is a process that can never be finished, only refined.
Books and Other Print Media
"Club Colours" (Bob Bickerton - Hamlyn 1998) is the book that rekindled my own interest in the subject after a gap of many years. The graphics are disappointing, many kits are missing due to the format and the book is riddled with errors. Now out of print, this is nevertheless a seminal work and an entertaining read. Anyone interested in the topic of club kits should have a copy in their library..
"Images of Sport" (Tempus Publishing). A series of slim volumes packed with archive photographs, memorabilia and historical nuggets from treasured collections. Many English and Scottish clubs are covered in individual volumes - a delight.
"True Colours" by John Devlin (AC Black Publishing 2005) is the most recent print addition to the subject. This attractive volume presents the kits of the 2005-06 English Premiership Clubs since 1980 in considerable detail, including second and third kits with informative commentaries. Volume Two was published in 2006 featuring League One and the five national associations of the British Isles. The graphics are truly state of the art and I strongly urge you to seek these books out. There is a companion web site at www.truecoloursfootball.com.
www.kitclassics.co.uk Andy Barton's site was the first of its kind. A devoted Crystal Palace fan, Andy's Crystal Palace section is excellent and I have drawn on his advice extensively for my own gallery. Graphics are simplified and, because it draws heavily on Bob Bickerton’s work, it reproduces some of the errors and inaccuracies of that work. The site is however regularly updated and has been invaluable to my own research.
www.colours-of-football.com is a Russian based site run by Mikhail Sipovich that features recent club and national team kits from all over the world. The graphics are truly outstanding but the site suffers from being poorly organised, making it extremely difficult to locate individual clubs. Nevertheless, this is an excellent place to compare and contrast trends in different countries, particularly in the use of advertising on player's kits.
Empics is a commercial company that has a comprehensive photographic archive of most Football League clubs with coverage going back in most cases over the last ten years which I have found invaluable. Links to individual archives can be found on the official sites of most League clubs (Match > Picture Archive).
SNSPix offers a similar service in Scotland and has a huge, searchable catalogue.
Pete's Picture Palace is run by Peter Hurn who offers for sale original press photographs, with a catalogue going back to the early 1900s. I have found a lot of rare material in his archive and urge you to visit, especially if you have an interest in collecting original prints.
The London Hearts site is truly outstanding. Run by exiled Heart of Midlothian fans, it includes a vast archive of photographs. A huge site with masses to explore.
Football Focus is a hobby site featuring photographs of League teams through history. Some interesting rarities can be found here but sadly, the site seems to no longer be available.
www.footballsite.co.uk is the definitive source of statistical information on Football League tables from 1888 to the present along with valuable material about re-election voting not available elsewhere. I have drawn heavily on this terrific site for the histories that accompany each club archive.
Scottish Football History is run by Brian McColl and is the definitive source of statistical information on Scottish League tables, re-election results and much else besides. This is a truly epic site.
The Association of Football Statisticians was formed in the late 1970s and now has the most comprehensive archive of statistics available anywhere. Full access requires a subscription but there is plenty to browse on the site that is free, including an authoritative and entertaining account of how association football evolved in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Sites for Collectors and Hobbyists
www.footballshirtculture.com has articles, links, news, trivia, advice on collecting and links to sites selling vintage and modern shirts from around the world. Highly recommended.
The rather splendid oldfootballshirts.com invites contributors to post photographs of their favourite replica shirts. This is a site that is bound to grow.