Umbro | A British Football Icon


Umbro – A Sporting Legacy On and Off the Pitch

Umbro, a British sportswear and football equipment supplier, has carved out an enduring legacy in both football and broader sports culture. Founded in 1924 in Wilmslow, Cheshire, by brothers Harold and Wallace Humphreys, the brand quickly established itself as a cornerstone of British sportswear. The name Umbro is derived from “Humphreys Brothers,” reflecting the familial roots of the company.

© Umbro

From its inception, Umbro focused on producing high-quality sportswear, initially specialising in football kits. By the 1930s, the brand was already making a mark, supplying kits for both the 1934 FA Cup finalists, Manchester City and Portsmouth. This early success laid the foundation for Umbro’s future dominance in football apparel.

Umbro’s reputation soared through the mid-20th century, but it was in the 1960s and beyond that it truly became iconic. The brand’s partnership with the England national team is particularly noteworthy. In 1966, England won the FIFA World Cup wearing Umbro kits, a defining moment that solidified Umbro’s association with football excellence. This victory not only heightened Umbro’s prestige but also embedded the brand into the national consciousness.

© Umbro
England’s iconic 1966 shirt. © Umbro
England football fans, Wembley, Euro 2020
England fans, Wembley, Euro 2020. © Lee Eldred
England fans. Wembley stadium. Wembley stadium, Euro 2020.
England fan, Euro 2020 at Wembley. © Alex Amorós

The company’s influence wasn’t limited to England. Umbro also created kits for the Scottish national team, symbolising their broader appeal across the UK. Internationally, Umbro’s collaboration with Brazil’s national team in the 1990s further enhanced their global standing. The Brazilian squad, adorned in Umbro’s distinctive kits, achieved great success, capturing the imaginations of football fans worldwide.

The 1990s were a golden era for Umbro, particularly in the realm of club football. During this period, the brand produced some of the most memorable kits in football history. Manchester United’s 1992-94 home kit, with its iconic lace-up collar, and Tottenham Hotspur’s kits from the same era became cult classics. Italian clubs Inter Milan and Lazio also became synonymous with the Umbro diamond. These designs were celebrated not only for their aesthetic appeal but also for their association with iconic football moments and players such as Paul Gascoigne and Ronaldo.

Champions League Final. Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich. Camp Nou, Barcelona. 26 May 1999.
United fans wearing Umbro outside the Camp Nou ahead of 99 final against Bayern Munich. © Duncan Quinton

Umbro’s impact extended beyond kits. The brand was a significant player in the football boot market, providing high-quality footwear for some of the sport’s biggest stars. Legends like Alan Shearer and Michael Owen donned Umbro boots during pivotal moments in their careers, further cementing the brand’s reputation for excellence and innovation in football gear.

Umbro football boots
© Umbro

Moreover, Umbro’s training wear, particularly their drill tops, became a cultural phenomenon. These pieces of apparel, characterised by their comfort and style, transcended the training ground and became fashionable items among football fans. The drill tops, with their distinctive design and practicality, were embraced by supporters and became synonymous with the casual, terrace culture of the 1990s.

Liam Gallagher famously wore an Umbro top on stage during Oasis’s legendary Maine Road gig, cementing the brand’s status as a symbol of 90s British culture.

Umbro’s influence on football culture is multifaceted. On the pitch, they provided kits and boots that helped define eras and celebrated footballing excellence. Off the pitch, their apparel became ingrained in the fabric of football fandom, symbolising a connection to the sport that went beyond mere support.

Delilah - Stoke Lads 1990-92 © Tony Davis | Lower Block
Stoke City lads,l 1990-92 © Tony Davis
Chelsea book. And Now Are You Going To Believe Us: John Ingledew
Chelsea fans wearing Umbro, 2000. © John Ingledew

In recent years, Umbro has continued to innovate and adapt, maintaining its relevance in a competitive market. The brand’s commitment to quality and its deep-rooted connection to football heritage ensure that it remains an iconic name in sportswear. Whether through their historic kits, celebrated by collectors and fans alike, or their continued presence in football stadiums around the world, Umbro’s legacy endures, a testament to its lasting impact on football culture.

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