A pictorial history of Northern Ireland football kits...
Notes: Shirt worn by Andy Gara in 1902 (National Football Museum). Blue was Ireland's regular choice of shirt colour for nearly 50 years.
Notes: Shirt designs evolved comparatively slowly in football's early decades. The style shown was the last blue shirt to be worn by Ireland before green was adopted as the first choice colour in 1931.
(top shirt worn by Patsy Gallagher)
Notes: Green shirts were used by Ireland Amateurs and were also available for matches against Scotland. There is evidence that they were also used in other matches.
Debut: 19-09-1931, Scotland (Away) Lost 1-3
Notes: In 1931 Ireland’s first choice colour was switched to green to avoid the regular clash with Scotland who wore navy/blue. At the same time the shirt badge was switched to a sprig of shamrocks. For many years the shirt was virtually identical to that worn by the Irish Free State.
There were slight variations in the collar design. In the 1930s there were usually two visible buttons with a three button design appearing briefly through 1937 (above). After WWII the butons were generally concealed (below).
Kits were usually sourced by the Athletic Stores, Belfast, with Bukta the usual manufacturer.
Notes: The Celtic cross badge was re-introduced in 1952.
1954-1957 Home Kit
Notes: Reportedly inspired by the "Magnificent Magyars" who destroyed England at Wembley, many British teams adopted lighter-weight "European"-style shirts - and Northern Ireland was no exception.
This shirt was worn by Eddie McMorran c.1954.
1957-1965 Home Kit (Bukta/Umbro)
Notes: In late 1957 the Irish FA introduced a more modern badge.
This shirt is believed to have been worn by Bobby Braithwaite against Wales on 15th April 1964.
1965-1967 Home Kit (Bukta)
Notes: Top shirt worn by Billy McCullough against England in 1966 (courtesy of Roy Cathcart). Bottom shirt is a modern reproduction.
1967-1974 Home Kit
This shirt is believed to have been worn by George Best.
1974-1976 Home Kit (Umbro)
Notes: Manufacturers logos appeared on the shirt for the first time in the mid-1970s. The shirt on the left was also worn without the Umbro logo.
Shirt was worn by Allan Hunter (c. 1975).
1976-1977 Home Kit (Umbro)
Record: Games: 7 (tbc)
Shirt worn by Allan Hunter vs Scotland 8th May 1976 (NI Match Worn)
1977-1982 Home Kit (Adidas)
Record: Games: 44 (tbc)
Notes: Adidas became Northern Ireland's kit suppliers in late 1977. A slight variation on this with a white V-neck rather than green was worn during the 1979/80 season.
It is amazing to look back today and consider that this shirt (in the two variations) was worn over forty times.
1983-1986 Home Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 23-05-1983, England (Home) Drew 0-0
Record: Games: 20
Notes: Adidas released a new Northern Ireland kit for the May 1983 British Championships.
At the end of 1983 green trim was added to the collar, these were used through to early 1986.
(top shirt worn by Jimmy Nicholl vs Wales, 1983)
1985-1986 Away Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 26-02-1986, France (Away) Drew 0-0
Record: Games: 1 (1 draw)
Notes: The 'away' kit seems to have been worn only once (tbc), in a World Cup '86 warm-up match with France along with white shorts and socks. However, it had been featured in a catalogue at least a year earlier along with green shorts.
1986-1990 Home Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 12-06-1986, Brazil (Neutral) Lost 0-3
Record: Games: 21
Notes: Adidas' contract with the IFA ran through to the 1990 World Cup Finals. These kits were the last to see as much as four years 'service'. The home and away shorts and socks were inter-changeable. The Irish FA badge was redesigned and featured the words "Northern Ireland" along the centre for the first time.
1986-1990 Away Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 03-06-1986, Algeria (Neutral) Drew 1-1
Record: Games: 3
Notes: This new away kit was introduced alongside the home kit for the Mexico 1986 World Cup Finals. Used in two of the three matches Northern Ireland played in Mexico, it had only a few outings thereafter.
1990-1992 Home Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 12-09-1990, Yugoslavia (Home) Lost 0-2
Record: 12 games (Won 3, Drew 5, Lost 4)
Notes: Umbro replaced Adidas in 1990 and introduced these eye-catching kits in green and blue. The early 1990s saw football kits evolve into fashion wear and bold geometric patterns were in vogue for all the leading manufacturers. Worn with white shorts and green socks (which really didn't match).
A purple version of shirt was worn by Latvia against Northern Ireland in 1993, a year after we'd retired it.
1990-1992 Away Kit (Umbro)
Record: Games: 0
Notes: After nearly 60 years the Irish FA were able to field a team wearing blue again. Worn with navy shorts and socks.
It appears to have never been worn in a senior international (tbc)
1992-1994 Home Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 09-09-1992, Albania (Home) Won 3-0
Record: 12 games (Won 7, Drew 2, Lost 3)
Notes: A second set of stylised kits by Umbro brought stripes on both kits. The home kit was the same design as Nottingham Forest's kit.
1992-1994 Away Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 31-03-1993, Republic of Ireland (Away) Lost 0-3
Record: 3 games (Lost 3)
Notes: The 'away' kit remained predominantly blue in colour in a template also used by Celtic.
1994 Home Kit (Umbro)
Record: 0 games
Notes: Kit released in 1994 but never used as Umbro’s contract with the Irish FA had expired.
1994-1996 Home Kit (Asics)
Debut: 07-09-1994, Portugal (Home) Lost 1-2
Record: Games: 11
1994-1996 Away Kit (Asics)
Debut: 29-03-1995, Republic of Ireland (Away) Drew 1-1
Record: Games: 2
1996-1998 Home Kit (Asics)
Debut: 29-05-1996, Germany (Home) Drew 1-1
Record: 14 games (3 wins, 6 draws, 5 defeats)
Notes: After their safe first efforts, Asics’ second Northern Ireland kits hugely divided opinion. This quartered shirt was the first time that blue had featured so heavily in a Northern Ireland home kit since the 1930s. The shirt was won with white shorts and green socks.
1996-1998 Away Kit (Asics)
Debut: 22-01-1997, Italy (Away) Lost 0-2
Record: 2 games (1 win, 1 defeat)
Notes: Perhaps even more controversial than the home kit was a similarly quarter-patterned away kit in red and white. Although the colours mirrored the Northern Ireland flag (which brought calls for their use as a home kit), many felt that it was too much of a break with tradition. The shirt was worn with white shorts and socks.
1998-1999 Home Kit (Olympic Sport)
Debut: 03-06-1998, Spain (Away) Lost 1-2
Record: 7 games (1 win, 3 draws, 3 defeats)
Notes: Olympic Sport replaced Asics but kept a similar colour scheme. This garish shirt was the company’s standard template at the time and was also sported by Dundee United and Rushden & Diamonds. Normally worn with the usual white shorts and green socks, navy shorts were also made available and used against Turkey in September 1998. A range of training gear and leisure wear was widely available. The Irish FA’s contract with Olympic Sports was cut short in the summer of 1999 due to the firm’s financial difficulties.
1998-1999 Away Kit (Olympic Sports)
Debut: 29-05-1999, Republic of Ireland (Away) Won 1-0
Record: 1 game (1 win)
Notes: Olympic Sport’s away offering used the same template as the home kit and retained the same red and white colouring as the last Asics away kit but with added silver-grey. The shorts and socks were red as rather than the white used with the Asics version. Used just once for Northern Ireland’s match against the Republic of Ireland in a fundraiser for the victims of the Omagh Bomb.
1999-2002 Home Kit (Patrick)
Debut: 18-08-1999, France (Home) Lost 0-1
Record: 18 games (4 wins, 2 draws, 12 defeats)
Notes: When Northern Ireland stepped out for their glamour friendly against world champions France in August 1999 most fans were surprised to see this new retro-style shirt. Patrick had quietly stepped in to replace the financially troubled Olympic Sport as Northern Ireland’s kit supplier, introducing one of the plainest but most popular shirts in years. Worn with white shorts and green socks, though the navy away shorts were used for matches in Denmark and Malta.
1999-2002 Away Kit (Patrick)
Debut: 28-03-2000, Malta (Away) Won 3-0
Record: 1 game (1 win)
Notes: Navy was used as Northern Ireland’s away colour for the first time since the mid-nineties. The kit also featured hefty amounts of white and green trim. Worn with navy shorts and socks, while the shirt was used just once, the shorts were paired with the home kit on two further occasions.
2002-2004 Home Kit (Patrick)
Debut: 13-02-2002, Poland (Neutral) lost 1-4
Record: 13 games (1 win, 7 draws, 5 defeats)
Notes: Patrick’s second Northern Ireland home kit introduced navy panels on the sides but proved hard to find in the shops! The kit coincided with the infamous goal-drought, Steve Lomas’ goal against Poland on its debut being Northern Ireland’s last for 1298 minutes! Goals were however scored in each of the shirts last four appearances. Worn with white shorts and green socks.
2002-2004 Away Kit (Patrick)
Debut: 17-04-2002, Spain (Home) Lost 0-5
Record: 7 games (2 wins, 5 defeats)
Notes: A very plain white shirt which harked back to Northern Ireland’s early-eighties kit. Made from a strange shiny fabric, Northern Ireland elected to wear it at in a home friendly against Spain 20 years on from that night in Valencia. Sadly the result in a rainy Belfast was a demoralising 5-0 defeat. Worn with green shorts and white socks.
2004-2006 Home Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 18-08-2004, Switzerland (Away) Drew 0-0
Record: 13 games (3 wins, 4 draws, 6 defeats)
Notes: Umbro returned as Northern Ireland’s shirt manufacturers after a decade. The introduced this highly popular, but figure hugging, kit with a large navy stripe on the shoulders. Normally worn with the traditional white shorts and green socks, the green away shorts were worn against Austria in October 2005. While the kit was manufactured by Umbro, the Irish FA's deal was actually with JJB Sports who sourced the kit and team wear.
2004-2006 Away Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 08-09-2004, Wales (Away) Drew 2-2
Record: 1 game (1 draw)
Notes: A plain white shirt complemented the home kit well and proved popular with fans. Worn with green shorts and white socks.
2005 Anniversary Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 04-06-2005, Germany (Home) Lost 1-4
Record: 2 games (1 draw, 1 defeat)
Notes: Released to mark the Irish FA’s 125th birthday. It featured an old-style IFA crest with a harp in the centre, lace-up collar and in a much darker shade of green than Northern Ireland had previously worn. The shirt was worn just twice in “Gala Friendlies” against Germany and Portugal arranged to celebrate the Anniversary. Worn with white shorts and dark green socks.
2006-2008 Home Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 21-05-2006, Uruguay (Neutral) Lost 0-1
Record: 15 games (8 wins, 2 draws, 5 defeats)
Notes: Released prior to Northern Ireland’s summer 2006 tour of the USA, the new home kit was less tight-fitting than its predecessor and featured much less navy. A shadow effect IFA badge appeared on the back and the Umbro badge on the front was placed high up to facilitate a number beneath. The number on the back also featured a small IFA crest at its base. Usually worn with white shorts and, for the first time, white socks. Green shorts and socks were also available.
2006-2007 Away Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 07-10-2006, Denmark (Away) Drew 0-0
Record: 1 game (1 draw)
Notes: A new shade of blue appeared for the Northern Ireland away kit, dividing opinion among fans. Like the home kit released at the same time the shirt featured a “shadow” IFA crest. Worn with navy shorts and socks which were an odd-match. Like the previous Northern Ireland away kit it was worn just once.
2007-2008 Away Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 08-09-2007, Latvia (Away) Lost 0-1
Record: 3 games (1 draw, 2 defeats)
Notes: Based on the classic 1982 World Cup away kit and to coincide with the visit to Spain 25 years after the famous 1-0 win. The green stripes had a blue shadow and the Umbro diamonds featured heavily as trim. Worn with green shorts and white socks.
2008-2010 Home Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 06-09-2008, Slovakia (Away) Lost 4-2
Record: 14 games (4 wins, 3 draws, 7 defeats)
Notes: Released on 5 September 2008 based on a standard Umbro template with a “false collar”. Worn with white shorts, though both the green shorts from the 2007-2009 away kit and navy shorts from the 2009-2010 away kit were also used. Green socks were re-introduced. For the shirt’s first match the Northern Ireland players wore squad names and numbers rather than 1-11 but this practice lasted just one match.
2009-2010 Away Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 12-08-2009, Israel (Home) Drew 1-1
Record: 3 games (1 draw, 2 defeats)
Notes: Released on 22 August 2009 and based on another standard Umbro template also used by (amongst others) Sweden. The first time a white/navy combo has been used by Northern Ireland. Worn with navy shorts and white socks.
2011-2012 Away Kit (Umbro)
Debut: 24-05-2011, Rep. Ireland (Away) Lost 0-5
Record: Games 3. (Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 3)
Notes: Released 27th May 2011 and worn with green shorts and white socks. A standard Umbro template (also used by Crusaders, Ballymena United and Rangers) it has been popular with fans but disastrous in terms of on-field results.
2012-2013 Home Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 15-08-2012, Finland (Home) Drew 3-3
Record: Games 8. (Won 1, Drew 4, Lost 3)
Notes: In December 2011 it was announced that the Irish FA had agreed a four year deal, worth in excess of £500,000, with Adidas to supply the Northern Ireland kit. It sees the return of a manufacturer who kitted out the team during the 1980s golden-age.
2012-2013 Away Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 07-09-2012, Russia (Away) Lost 0-2
Record: Games 4. (Won 0, Drew 2, Lost 2)
Notes: Adidas introduced a new colour to the Northern Ireland away palette - black. The kit features matching black shorts and socks.
2013-2014 Home Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 15-11-2013, Turkey (Away)
Record: Games 4. (Won 2, Drew 0, Lost 2)
Notes: In November 2013 the Irish FA announced a new retail partnership with JD Sports who would exclusively sell all Adidas official replica and training-wear products. The shirt, launched with the slogan "all in or nothing", is a darker olive green than has been used in a regular home kit before and features lime green trim rather than the usual white and/or blue. It is paired with white shorts and green socks, but was worn with the away green shorts in Greece in October 2014.
2014 Away Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 05-03-2014, Cyprus (away)
Record: Games 3 (Won 1, Drew 1, Lost 1)
Notes: JD Sports revealed Adidas' new Northern Ireland away kit in February 2014. It is in a standard template and is paired with dark green shorts and white socks.
2014-2015 Home Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 13-11-2014 vs Romania (away)
Record: Games: 6 (Won 3, Drew, 2, Lost 1)
Notes: After just a year in dark green, Northern Ireland returned to a more traditional shade, trimmed with mesh. As usual, the shirt is paired with white shorts and green socks.
2015 Away Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 25-03-2015 vs Scotland (away)
Record: Games: 3 (Won 0, Drew 2, Lost 1)
Notes: The quick fire release of kits by adidas/JD Sports continued in February 2015 as a new two-tone blue shirt was unveiled. It is to be paired with blue shorts and socks.
2015- Home Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 13-11-2015 vs Latvia (home)
Notes: The release of the latest Northern Ireland kit has been met with howls of derision and a Facebook campaign to get it changed. Blue has been re-introduced to the shirt to the largest extent since the late-1990s. The contrasting blue band across the chest looks odd when compared to the navy sleeves. As normal, the shirt is paired with white shorts and green socks.
The kit maintains the one-year release cycle and will again be available exclusively via JD Sports.
Irish FA Announcement
2015- Away Kit (Adidas)
Debut: 24-03-2016 vs Wales (away)
Notes: Within a few days of the release of the green/blue home kit the 2016 away kit was unveiled. Although in the same template, the colouring is much more traditional and the overall design was met with a sigh of relief. The white shirt is paired with the traditional green socks and white socks, which should also allow for an easy mix-and-match with the home kit if required.
Reproductions of the older shirts are available from a number of shops, such as the Irish FA, Toffs, Score Draw, Copa etc (whose sites have been raided for some of the images), and originals can be found on eBay. The current kit is available from JD Sports.
More pictures of old Northern Ireland shirts can be found at Old Football Shirts and at Historical Kits.
With thanks to Roy Cathcart, Alan Crossley and Francis Heaney.