Have you ever asked yourself why do Manchester United wear red?
It is a perfectly legitimate question.
These days every club is immediately identifiable by its home colours.
But how did they choose them?
We look at that in this blog and delve a little deeper into the history of the Red Devils kit.
So let’s get started.
Why Do Manchester United Wear Red?
Manchester United began wearing red in 1902, the year the club changed its name from Newton Heath. The club set about creating a new identity for its new name and wanted to change from the white shirts Newton Heath had worn. It is believed that the red kit was readily available for the new owners to buy, and it was also a colour not widely worn in the Football League at that time.
When Did Manchester United Change to Red? A Potted History of Their Kit
It is important to know that Manchester United haven’t always worn red.
In fact, they haven’t always been known as Manchester United.
From 1878 to 1902 they were known as Newton Heath, named after the area of Manchester in which they were formed by a group of railway workers.
Those formative years as Newton Heath also saw the club wear a variety of different colour kits.
Their first recorded colours, in 1880, were white with blue cord. Most likely because white tops were the cheapest available for a humble works team.
At some point in the 1880s Newton Heath began wearing green and gold shirts, the colours of the railway company they worked for.
This colour has reappeared more recently in the modern-day history of the club. Supporters use it as a sign of protest against the ownership of Manchester United by the Glazers.
In the 1880s and 1890s Newton Heath changed colour a few times. Switching between green and gold, red and white and plain white.
It was in 1902 when the club changed its name to Manchester United, that it switched colours to the now famous red shirts, white shorts and black socks.
But this wasn’t quite a permanent switch.
In 1922 United switched back to white shirts, with a red V on the chest.
Five years later, in 1927, they switched back to red shirts and that has remained their home shirt ever since.
But it still begs the question, why do Manchester United wear red?
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It Was a Simple Matter of Convenience
The problem with going so far back for matters like this is the lack of any real documentation as to why the newly renamed Manchester United chose red as their main colour.
There was an obvious desire to put a line under the history of Newton Heath and to start a new chapter as Manchester United.
One of the most visible ways to do this was to introduce a new set of colours for the team. Newton Heath had played in plain white shirts for their last six seasons, dating from 1896 to 1902.
But why red?
It could be a simple case of the fact that the red shirts, white shorts and black socks were readily available to purchase when a group of local businessmen invested in the club to save it from a winding up order in 1902.
At that time red was also somewhat of a more unusual colour amongst Football League teams at the time, many of whom favored white or pastel colours.
With a lack of any substantive evidence, it seems these are the most likely reasons.
Why Did United Change Back to Red in 1928?
As mentioned Newton Heath was in danger of going out of business until it was saved by a group of investors in 1902 who promptly changed the club name to Manchester United.
How these investors were found is a story in itself.
In an incident that shows how times have changed, club captain Harry Stafford’s St Bernard dog, Major, escaped from a club fundraising bazaar with a valuable collection tin around his neck.
He found his way to local brewer John Henry Davies. Davies saw the Newton Heath crest on the tin and got in contact with the club.
This led to a meeting between Stafford and Davies, which possibly saved the club from going bust.
The wealthy Davies joined Stafford and three other local businessmen in investing £200 each, to save the club from the winding up order issued against it.
Davies became club president, and Newton Heath became Manchester United and began donning red shirts instead of white.
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But in 1922, after twenty years of wearing red, United suddenly changed to plain white shirts with a red V across the chest.
This was at the behest of new manager John Chapman, the colours were based on those worn by his previous club Airdrieonians.
In 1927 United switched back to red shirts.
There are rumours that it was because United, who were in financial difficulties again, couldn’t afford a new kit and turned up to play rivals Manchester City in tatty shirts.
City apparently refused to play them when they were wearing such a shambolic kit and went out and purchased a new kit for their city neighbours.
It is said the only kit available was a red one, and as United won, they kept their lucky kit.
However, the real reason is much simpler.
In 1927 manager John Chapman left the club, and United reverted back to their traditional solid red shirts for the 1927/28 season under new manager Herbert Bamlett.
Red has remained the colour of their home shirt ever since.
And You Are More Likely to Win in Red
Now I will be straight here, I am sure this had nothing to do with Manchester United changing to a red kit in 1902, but apparently, if you want to give yourself a better chance of winning in sport then wear red.
Or so a 2005 study by the University of Durham says anyway.
The study focused on sports where colours are randomly assigned, in particular the contact sports of the 2004 Olympics, boxing, tae kwon do and wrestling.
In these sports, the two competitors are given red or blue colours at random.
The results proved that those wearing red were more likely to win:
- In 21 rounds, 16 had more red winners than blue.
- Across weight classes, 19 out of 29 had more red winners than blue.
Interestingly the study was released just days before the 2005 FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United, two teams who wear red.
Arsenal won the draw to wear their home strip in the Final.
Arsenal won the match…
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I am not sure if we have thoroughly answered that eternal question of why do Manchester United wear red?
And that is probably because there is not a definitive answer one way or another.
It seems like when Newton Heath renamed itself Manchester United in 1902 the club wanted to create a whole new identity for itself.
And the most obvious way of doing this was by wearing an entirely different strip.
We can only surmise that red was chosen as the kit was easy to get hold of, or maybe the new owners and squad expressed a preference for it.
However it happened, with the exception of a five-year spell in the 1920s, red has been the main colour for United ever since.
It is as synonymous with the club as Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton.