Why Do Manchester United Wear Black Shorts? (Revealed)

Why do United wear black shorts

You know a game is particularly dull if your mind starts to wonder and rather than concentrating on the game you are focusing on other things.

This happened to me quite a lot last season being an Everton fan!

But one game in particular left a question in my head.

Why do Manchester United wear black shorts?

So let’s try and find out.

Why Do Manchester United Wear Black Shorts?

Manchester United wear black shorts when they wear their home shirt in an away game against a team that wears light or pale shorts, for instance, Everton or Manchester City. As there is not a requirement for shorts to be changed in the event of a clash it doesn’t happen every time, but when it does happen it is under these circumstances.

Two men wearing retro football inspired t shirts with text in between them

If you are asking when did Manchester United start wearing black shorts, you are going to be disappointed.

With a couple of exceptions, black shorts have never been a permanent part of the Manchester United home kit.

But every now and then you will see them wearing them for seemingly random games.

In fact, United’s 2018-19 kit caused a fair bit of controversy, by moving away from the standard white shorts to black shorts.

At the time, Inigo Turner, design director at Adidas who were responsible for the kit said: “When designing the kit, we wanted to tell the story of the first incarnation of the United kit, 140 years ago.”

RELATED ===> Why Do Manchester United Wear Black Socks?

Even that is open to argument, because as we found out when we looked at the question, why do Manchester United wear black socks? It is debatable whether black shorts were part of the ‘kit’ back then.

Going 140 years back from 2018 takes us to 1878, when United was officially founded as Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Carriage & Wagon Works Cricket & Football Club.

The Sportsman’s Yearbook 1880, published a year prior, contained the first official reference to the colours of United (or Newton Heath as they were known then):

So it was white with a blue cord.

At this time uniform ‘kits’ were only just appearing, and usually extended just to the shirt.

Players would usually bring their own shorts, or knickerbockers as they were known then, so it would be reasonable to expect that whilst they all had the same shirt, their shorts (and socks) would be an assortment of colors.

Nonetheless, we digress, aside from that one season in 2018/19, black shorts have never been a permanent part of United’s kit.

So why do Manchester United wear black shorts sometimes?

It is All to Do With Who They Are Playing

As far as I can see there has never been official word from the club on this, and the decision is solely at their discretion as we will find out later.

However, there does seem to be a pattern to when United ditch their normal white shorts and wear black shorts.

It tends to happen when they wear their home kit, in an away game against a team that wears white, or very light shorts.

The most notable examples being Everton, Leicester or Manchester City.

===> RELATED: View a Selection of Retro Manchester United Shirts

When they come up against teams with black or non-pale shorts, such as Spurs, Chelsea, Brighton or Newcastle, they tend to wear white shorts.

On other occasions, they will wear their away or third kit.

Now this isn’t an exact science, and you will find occasions where United have worn their white shorts when their opponents wear white shorts, but overall this happens more often than not.

What is the Premier League Rule About Changing Shorts?

As far as the Premier League handbook is concerned there is no requirement to change shorts if they clash.

Rule M.22 simply states that the strips must be of “sufficient contrast” so spectators, both at the ground and on TV, and match officials can “distinguish clearly between the two teams”.

Ten days prior to each Premier League match the away team is required to notify the home team and the Premier League of the strip it intends to wear.

Once notified the Premier League consults with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) to ensure there are no problems with this, and then three days before each match will notify both clubs and the match officials of the colours that will be worn at the game.

The PGMOL has said in the past that they are only concerned about shirts and socks being different colours.

That is because the shirts and socks cover the parts of the body that are more directly involved in the game.

It makes it much easier for a referee to spot who got the last touch on the ball if the two pairs of socks are of different colours.

Or to tell whose arm a ball struck if the shirts are of different colours.

With shorts, it is less important.

So this goes back to it being at the discretion of the club. 

Quite often United wear their black shorts to avoid clashing with white or pale shorts, but it doesn’t happen on every occasion, so I have no doubt you will find instances of shorts clashes in games they are involved in.

Interestingly in UEFA competitions, such as the Europa League and Champions League, shorts clashes ARE NOT allowed.

RELATED ===> Why Do Manchester United Wear White Socks In Europe?

Final Thoughts

Black shorts have only ever been a permanent part of Manchester United’s home kit for one season in their history.

But they do wear them with a degree of regularity.

And it tends to be when they wear their home shirt in an away game against a team that wears white or very pale shorts.

This isn’t an exact science, and due to their not being a necessity to change shorts in the event of a clash it doesn’t happen every time.

But if you are watching Manchester United play and notice they are wearing black shorts, take a look at the colour of their opponent’s shorts.

They are almost certainly white or very light in colour.

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