The History Of Umbro

The Brand

Umbro. For many the ultimate vintage UK sports brand is reminiscent of Gazza’s goal against Scotland in Euro 96, cheap Sunday league boots and 90s’ Serie A and for others, Umbro is all about crazy bomber jackets and warehouse raves. But how did they start?

Foundation & Incorporation

Umbro was founded in Manchester, 1920, making it one of the oldest sportswear brands that are still around. They changed their name in 1924 from ‘Humphrey Brothers’ to ‘Umbro’, that’s the ‘um’ from ‘Humphrey’ and the ‘bro’ from brother.

The World Stage

They were one of the first companies to supply professional football clubs with kits. Manchester City won the FA Cup in their kit in 1934, then a smaller team called “Brazil” went on to win something called the “World Cup” three times in 12 years (1958, 1962, 1970) with player such as “Pele” sporting Umbro strips as they lifted the trophy again and again. The only other team to win the World Cup in those 12 years was England, in their iconic red Umbro kit from the final.

Influence on Culture

The Mancunian sportswear firm then changed football culture forever in 1958 when they introduced replica football shirts for children who wanted to feel like their favourite players. This trend has grown massively since then. From kids dressing up to teenagers training in their heroes’ shirt to Pukka Pie wielding dads wanting to represent their team, we are now at the point where Snoop Dogg, Drake and Pusha T wear whichever European football shirt they think looks good with their jeans. This replica kit culture has only grown and grown since its inception, giving way to the first ever $1 billion kit deal, between Adidas and Real Madrid.

In the late 80s in America, the tiny drawstring shorts made by Umbro became popular with youth up and down the nation. Known as “Umbros”, the shorts were first being worn in after-school soccer games but nobody knew how to buy them independently. The only place you could buy them was through a catalogue called “Eurosport” where brands like Kappa, Lotto, Diadora and Umbro graced each page, showing American kids a whole new world, based around classic European design and the beautiful game.

Umbro became a part of everyday fashion in the UK during the 90s. They began manufacturing tracksuits, jackets, raincoats, hats and other ‘off the pitch’ style clothing that was unrelated to any football club. This picked up in an emerging streetwear market, with DJs, musicians and consumers alike falling in love with Umbro’s loud designs and crazy colours on their unique track tops.

This emergence of Umbro as a streetwear brand was most certainly helped by Manchester United’s unrivalled superiority in the 90s. Kids across the world getting into football or even just wanting to buy a tracktop saw the brand with an extra level of prestige as it was worn by the world’s best.

Umbro Today

Nike bought Umbro in 2008 and for the last decade, the brand has been on a road to recovery to its glory days in the 90s. They now sponsor teams like Everton and West Ham but have struggled to sell their football boots, not only in comparison with staple names Nike and Adidas but even to the likes of New Balance and Puma.

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