There are few nicknames as synonymous with a club as that of West Bromwich Albion.
I am going to hazard a guess that almost every serious football fan will know it.
But why are West Brom called The Baggies?
Well, it certainly has been subject to a bit of debate over the years, and that is what we are going to examine today.
So without further ado, let’s dive in…
Why Are West Brom Called The Baggies?
There are two main arguments as to where West Brom’s nickname of The Baggies comes from. One is that it is after the club’s bagmen who would carry the weekly gate receipts around the perimeter of the pitch in large bags. The other is it is after the large baggy trousers the vast majority of the club’s supporters wore as a result of working in steel mills and foundries.
The Alternative Theories
There are two main, competing theories as to why West Brom are called the Baggies.
But before we go into them in detail, I wanted to quickly cover some of the alternative theories that have been put forward over the years.
It Comes From Their Baggy Shorts
Some believe the nickname originated from the baggy shorts worn by players in the club’s early years.
However, this seems unlikely to warrant such a nickname, as every club wore baggy-style shorts at that time.
It Is After Tommy Magee
Tommy Magee was a popular full-back who signed a contract with West Brom whilst he was in the trenches of the First World War, before making his debut in April 1919.
Magee would go on to make almost 400 appearances for West Brom over the next 15 years,
At just 5ft 2.5 inches tall he is the shortest player to ever play for the club and was a hugely popular figure amongst the fans.
So much so in fact that there is a theory that Baggies is derived from a corruption of Magee (pronounced Maggie).
However, this seems unlikely as it has been recorded that the nickname was already in use around the turn of the century, 20 years before Magee made his debut for the club.
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It Is Because of Amos Adams
Amos Adams was another popular defender who played over 200 times for West Brom between 1898 and 1907.
Former West Brom secretary Eph Smith actually attributes the club nickname to the stocky player in a quote printed in Throstle Club News in 1904 (The Throstles is another nickname for West Bromwich Albion).
“His thickness of hips made his baggy pants look even more huge, and one day when he was not playing well, a fan shouted ‘Baggy’. Albion and Adams recovered quickly, the name stuck” said Smith.
It Is After Reckitt’s Blue Bags
Way back in the mid-19th century, a long time before washing machines were invented, a little blue bag was added to the final rinse water and stirred around on wash day.
This blue bag essentially helped household linen stay sparkingly white.
The company that made this blue bag was called Reckitt’s, and the product was simply called “Reckitt’s Blue Bag”.
It was well-known in many countries and used in Royal households.
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Robert Spear Hudson, who was from West Bromwich, was the owner of Hudson’s Soap, which was also a very popular brand name at the time.
Hudson was good friends with the owner of Reckitt’s, Robert Reckitt. On a visit to see Hudson in the early 1880s, Reckitt recognised the growing potential of football, and helped West Bromwich out of a precarious financial situation at the time, by ‘suggesting’ they wear a new blue and white striped kit.
The kit was almost identical to the design used on the hugely popular Reckitt’s Blue Bag.
Naturally this was quickly picked up on by rival clubs who, upon noticing this, christened West Brom The Baggies.
Theory #1: It Was After the Club ‘Bagmen’
The first of the two main theories comes with the backing of the official West Brom historian Tony Matthews.
He explains that when West Brom moved from Stoney Lane to the Hawthorns in 1900, the new ground only had two entrances, one behind each goal.
When the turnstiles closed, two club officials would bag the takings up in leather bags and then walk them from the respective gate to the club’s cash office on the halfway line.
These officials became known as the bag men, and then the baggies. As Tony Matthews explains himself:
“On match days the gatekeepers would gather up the takings at each end and be escorted by policemen along the sides of the pitch to the centre line where there was a small office under the stand.
“The gate money, mostly in pennies, amounted to a considerable sum and was carried in large cloth bags.
“It wasn’t long before some wag in the crowd started shouting ‘here come the bag men!’ at their appearance in front of the main stand, and this developed into a chant of “here come the Baggies!”, giving the team its unofficial nickname.”
A slight variation on this theme is that in 1904, the club’s ‘Noah’s Ark’ wooden grandstand burned down.
After that, before each home game, two men would walk around the pitch with large bags that people would throw money into as part of a “Save the Albion” fund.
Those men became known as the bag men or the baggies.
Theory #2: It Comes From the Supporter’s Baggy Trousers
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Now that theory sounds very plausible, and of course it has the support of Tony Matthews.
However, there is a second suggestion as to where the Baggies nickname comes from and this comes with the backing of two other club historians, Joe Stringer and John Homer.
Going back to the early years of the club’s formation, West Bromwich was a very important industrial centre.
The town was abundant in forges, foundries, steel works and rolling mills, and that is where the vast majority of the club’s supporters worked.
To protect themselves from the sparks and alleviate the intense heat, they would wear big moleskin aprons and trousers, that were very loose fitting.
Apparently around 1897 when West Brom and Aston Villa clashed at Villa’s old Perry Bar Ground, a large number of West Brom’s fans walked to the ground in their industrial-sized boots and big, baggy moleskin trousers.
Upon seeing them, the Villa fans mockingly shouted ‘here come the baggy, baggy, baggy men’.
After that, the name stuck.
I think we can definitely say that West Brom got its unusual nickname either from the bagmen who collected money at the Hawthorns, or from the styling of their working-class fans at the time.
If I had to pick one I would suggest that it is probably more likely that it came from the big, baggy trousers West Brom fans wore as a result of working in steel mills and forges.
It can be assumed that many would go straight to the club’s games still wearing them after completing a Saturday morning’s work (at that time the working week was Monday to Saturday lunchtime).
This theory slightly predates that of the bagmen, and we know for a fact that West Bromwich was an important town during the industrial revolution.
Whichever reason it is, the Baggies is one of football’s most enduring and recognizable nicknames.