Discussion The real reason behind Collingwood's 2001 guernsey change

Gibbsy

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Money.

But – there's a bit more to the story than that. Yes, the change and introduction of an "innovative" new pre-season jumper alongside an evolutionary home jumper coincided with a lucrative Adidas merchandising contract, but Eddie and the Pies also spun history and a return to tradition as a reason for their controversial 2001 guernsey change.

The Pies, despite their strong beliefs, had not relented in adopting alternative strips throughout the 1990s. With the AFL keen for clubs to expand their design horizons during the pre-season competition, the mid-90s saw a number of clubs look for extra revenue through the adoption of radically different guernsey designs.

The 1995 Ansett Cup – the first year these alternative strips were displayed – saw Fitzroy, Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne experiment with new colours and patterns. The following year saw Adelaide, Collingwood, Melbourne and St Kilda also jump on the pre-season bandwagon. The Pies' 'barcode' attempt was arguably the most garish of the lot, but it showed that the club was not afraid of change.


Gavin Brown, Damian Monkhorst and Nathan Buckley model the club's new pre-season kit in 1996.

The first inkling of the club potentially changing its kit in the home-and-away season was raised by Age journalist Rohan Connolly in an article published on the 20th of April, 1997. Then-president Kevin Rose declared that the black and white colours were "sacrosanct", but that the club was open to the idea of changing their design for an away strip.

Connolly explained how Rose quickly hosed down suggestions that the Pies were to "relinquish the black-and-white stripes" as part of a proposed sponsorship deal with insurance company FAI.

"I think the day will come when most clubs will change their jumper for away games as a marketing tool," Rose said.


Kevin Rose, Collingwood's president from 1996–99.

"The traditional colors will always remain and maybe we would just do something like we had in the pre-season competition with a Magpie on the jumper. But I think there will be some changes to away jumpers in the "not too distant" future," Rose continued.

"We would consider it, we consider every proposal. The thing we must be very careful about is that the traditions of Collingwood don't blur our vision for the future."

By 1998, the club had switched apparel sponsors from Puma to Adidas and "the brand with the three stripes" had inventive plans for their portfolio of AFL clubs. Geelong was earning nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year wearing a controversial navy blue 'away' strip that prominently showed off the three stripes in full view on the chest; Fremantle utilised the wonders of sublimation with a 3D anchor; Adelaide had a new away guernsey in the pipeline for the following season to replace their existing pre-season jumper; and Collingwood explored white numbers on a black base for the first time with a tasteful new away jumper that featured a condensed version of the Magpie crest on the front.


Nathan Buckley in the Pies' first 'away' strip, worn from 1998–2000.

Veteran Age journalist Martin Flanagan exclaimed in his piece on "away clobber" in the paper's 1st April, 1998 edition, that Collingwood's new alternate guernsey was the pick of the bunch. "Its new guernsey actually emphasises its tradition," Flanagan said, "and serves to express the character of the club in a mildly different way".

The guernsey would last three seasons, scrapped at the same time the club renegotiated a merchandising deal with Adidas that would see a new home jumper and pre-season jumper (later to also become an away/clash jumper) introduced to the Magpies' wardrobe.

"Magpies get new look, but stripes still in" was the headline that the Age ran with on Saturday the 10th of February, 2001, ahead of Wednesday's guernsey reveal at the then-Colonial Stadium. The designs were still under wraps at this stage, but journalists had caught wind of the fact that the Ansett Cup design would feature "a much larger magpie" and that the club would wear only one uniform throughout the regular season.


Adidas and the Pies went with a new 'swooping magpie' motif for the 2001 Ansett Cup guernsey, which became the club's away/clash strip in the three seasons following.

After Collingwood's VFL side dissolved at the conclusion of the 2000 season, the club aligned with traditional VFA stalwarts Williamstown for the beginning of 2001 and manufactured a divisive agreement that would see the Seagulls wear the Collingwood pre-season strip for two curtain-raiser games in the regular VFL season, while donning their traditional blue and gold for all other matches. Collingwood president Eddie McGuire saw this as a way to emphasise the importance of the black and white stripes in the senior team, and the new-found exclusivity of the design, saying it would now "mean something more special".

McGuire also said that the reaction from sports retailers towards the club's new pre-season jumper was far beyond its expectations. "We gave some of the trade stores a sneak preview and they've already tripled their orders," he boasted.

The Mercury ran a syndicated article on the 15th of February, 2001, post the announcement of the designs and the headline spoke of the Pies going "back to the future". The lead paragraph, believe it or not, read as follows:

"COLLINGWOOD turned back the clock today with the unveiling of its new football guernsey.

"The new jumper has the traditional white-on-black stripes, first worn by the 1917 premiership side -- as opposed to the black-on-white stripes of recent seasons."


Collingwood's new home jumper for the 2001 season.


Brodie Holland and Leon Davis celebrate in the new black-backed guernsey.

The article went on to say:

"As well as being worn by the 1917 premiership side, the traditional jumper also featured in the first two of the club's record-breaking sequence of four premierships between 1927-30."

McGuire hoped to generate merchandise sales of over $1 million in the 2001 season alone from the release of these jumpers. But it is the 'tradition' line that draws the most attention to us guernsey fanatics. The dates, in particular, prompt further investigation.

Mero's depiction of the Pies' 1917 jumper – which he states was worn from 1912 to 1922 – does actually feature white stripes on a black base. This is most evident by the middle stripe being white, as it is on the current home guernsey, compared to the rest of the jumpers following it which all have a black middle stripe.


Collingwood's 1917 jumper, courtesy of footyjumpers.com

What loses the illusion of this being a black based jumper is the stitched-on white number panel. Due to the manufacturing limits of the time, the stripes couldn't be cut off at the back like they are today, therefore a number panel was necessary, and it can only be assumed that the white panel with black numbers was not only easier to source but was also more readable in adverse weather.

If we modify the above guernsey to have a black number panel instead of a white one, the base colour is more evident.


Collingwood's 1917 jumper, modified to feature a black number panel rather than white.

Furthermore, cutting off the stripes at the top and bottom like what is the norm in today's day and age, even more so highlights that the Magpies did in fact wear a black jumper with white stripes nearly 100 years ago.


The 1917 strip further modified to feature modern cut-off stripes.

Without the close inspection and the articles I researched, I was never aware of this revelation and I'm sure many of you are the same. But the more puzzling of the claims in the article is that the Pies wore a black-based guernsey in 1927 and '28 – the first two of the four premierships in the famed 'Machine' dynasty.

Our favourite footy jumper expert Mero has the following jumper – the basic design being Collingwood's most well-known – starting to be worn in 1923.


Collingwood's 1923–52 jumper, courtesy of footyjumpers.com

My own somewhat limited research doesn't necessary link up with this timeline (and I endeavour to explore this further over the summer), and the historic collection of Boyles Football Photos can be used to back up this claim. The split between black-on-white and white-on-black appeared to be 50/50 for most of the 'tens' decade, likely due to there being no standardised manufacturer, but by 1922 the club appeared more uniform in its appearance.


The majority of players in this 1922 team photo wear a guernsey with a black base.

The 1927 side wore guernseys that looked almost like rowing singlets of the time, but again featured a white stripe in the middle with distinctive buttons allowing the guernsey to be loosened or tightened to the player's preference.


The 1927 Collingwood premiership team wore a black-based variant.

In 1928, the Pies changed their uniform once more, and this time progressed to the 'black stripes on white' which we most associate the club with during the 20th century. These guernseys feature a regular collar and leads me to believe that the guernsey which footyjumpers.com has starting in 1923, in fact began in 1928.


Only three players – Jack Beveridge, Percy Rowe and John 'Jiggy' Harris – wore the collarless, black-based guernseys of the previous season in this 1928 team photo.

The 1929 and 1930 'Machine' premiership photos utilised the same design, which continued in various guises until that defining redesign in 2001.

A cursory glance at Collingwood's home guernseys on footyjumpers.com show that the Magpies began wearing a black-based guernsey with a white middle stripe from the time that woollen jumpers were most commonly worn, around 1908. Prior to this, it is difficult to ascertain the base colour on early lace-up jumpers.

Ultimately, it can be said with relative confidence that Collingwood wore a black-based guernsey for at least 20 seasons throughout the early years of their history, and the 2001 redesign was not revolutionary – merely evolutionary, and based heavily on the premiership-winning designs of decades gone by.
 
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Gibbsy

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This is huge, though. Really nice work Gibbsy trawling through countless articles and presenting this to us.

Great read.
Thanks, mate. I genuinely consider this one of the biggest revelations to come to light on this board – the reasoning and history behind Collingwood's 2001 change – given the displeasure that is often directed towards the club for the move as an Adidas-directed cash grab and nothing more.
 

Gibbsy

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VERY nice article. I much prefer the black backed jumper tbh.
Cheers Fizz, appreciate it. I hope people aren't put off by the large amount of text; I inserted plenty of photos for that very reason so as to break up the text, as well as the illustrations that further explain the black-based variants of the time.

And you know what, the more we wear the black-based jumper, the more I like it. It makes sense that darker colours appear more menacing – look how great North and Geelong appear in their clash jumpers, or how bold Port Adelaide is since its move to the 'BiB' jumper. I do still love the white jumper with black shorts look, but the longer it remains but a memory, the more its romance becomes clouded by nostalgia.
 
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Cheers Fizz, appreciate it. I hope people aren't put off by the large amount of text; I inserted plenty of photos for that very reason so as to break up the text, as well as the illustrations that further explain the black-based variants of the time.
Yes, I use the same technique on my blog, makes it more appealing to peoples eyes, and they will want to read it.
And you know what, the more we wear the black-based jumper, the more I like it. It makes sense that darker colours appear more menacing – look how great North and Geelong appear in their clash jumpers, or how bold Port Adelaide is since its move to the 'BiB' jumper. I do still love the white jumper with black shorts look, but the longer it remains but a memory, the more its romance becomes clouded by nostalgia.
I wasn't alive when the white was the home jumper. It definitely makes it look stronger, and less washed-out.
 
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#8
Through the back half of last year I had a secret love for the Collingwood home jumper. The current clash definitely looks beautiful with black shorts, but I'm starting to waiver towards the current get up a lot more.

Does it cause unnecessary clashes? Shit yeah, but that's a problem the afl needs to resolve by shoving the big 4 into clash strips, regardless of opponent.
 

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Gibbsy

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So we can finally, finally put to bed the old "Collingwood wore white with black stripes for 100 years until Eddie changed it"

Gibbsy, you are my hero.
That's the plan! Hopefully it will silence all those know-it-alls on the main board ;)
 

rabbitoh21

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#13
I much prefer the white with black guernsey myself. As a Newcastle United fan too, even though I prefer wearing black (i.e. I'm fat) I've always liked their white based kit over their black based efforts. That's personal preference though. Collingwood are black and white, but as long as they follow the guidelines set by the AFL (which is somewhat questionable given their lack of contrast at times) they can wear whatever combination thereof and I won't complain.
 

Mero

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#15
Excellent read Gibbsy, good job.
I had actually come across the 1927 photo a while back but assumed they were 1908 style jumpers, with the collar and sleeves cut off.
I've even added them to the year by year images I've recently done, but not updated the Collingwood Home jumper page. This has not been added.

Another thing to bear in mind with the Collingwood 2001 Black jumper is that the clubs they are deemed to clash with all had lighter jumpers at the time.
Geelong and North still have mostly White Home jumpers, but North had been wearing a Royal backed Away jumper since the mid 90s.
StKilda, the other club listed as clashing with Collingwood wore the Red 'Crusader' jumper at the time of the change, and only created a clash when they returned to the tri-panel when Rod Butterss came back to the club to return it to its former glory.

And finally I'd also mention the third player wearing the older jumper in the 1928 pic is John 'Jiggy' Harris, not Percy Bowyer.
He was my grandfather's cousin, but we don't talk about him much, being a Collingwood and Hawthorn person.
They dropped him for the 1929 Grand Final, Derek Kickett style, and he took the job as Captain Coach of Hawthorn in 1930.
He actually looks a fair bit like my Pop in the 1927 pic.
 

SJ

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Through the back half of last year I had a secret love for the Collingwood home jumper. The current clash definitely looks beautiful with black shorts, but I'm starting to waiver towards the current get up a lot more.

Does it cause unnecessary clashes? Shit yeah, but that's a problem the afl needs to resolve by shoving the big 4 into clash strips, regardless of opponent.
It causes clashes, but it also removes some (say Geelong and North Melbourne).

When I grew up watching footy in the 90s, from afar it appeared as if Geelong and Collingwood wore the same guernsey design with just a 90-degree rotation.
 

Gibbsy

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Excellent read Gibbsy, good job.
I had actually come across the 1927 photo a while back but assumed they were 1908 style jumpers, with the collar and sleeves cut off.
I've even added them to the year by year images I've recently done, but not updated the Collingwood Home jumper page. This has not been added.

Another thing to bear in mind with the Collingwood 2001 Black jumper is that the clubs they are deemed to clash with all had lighter jumpers at the time.
Geelong and North still have mostly White Home jumpers, but North had been wearing a Royal backed Away jumper since the mid 90s.
StKilda, the other club listed as clashing with Collingwood wore the Red 'Crusader' jumper at the time of the change, and only created a clash when they returned to the tri-panel when Rod Butterss came back to the club to return it to its former glory.

And finally I'd also mention the third player wearing the older jumper in the 1928 pic is John 'Jiggy' Harris, not Percy Bowyer.
He was my grandfather's cousin, but we don't talk about him much, being a Collingwood and Hawthorn person.
They dropped him for the 1929 Grand Final, Derek Kickett style, and he took the job as Captain Coach of Hawthorn in 1930.
He actually looks a fair bit like my Pop in the 1927 pic.
Thanks Mero, appreciate it. That's an interesting point about the clashing teams of the time, particularly St Kilda. Although it didn't help with the distinguishing against interstate sides a la Adelaide or West Coast. What baffles me most is that it took until 2012 for the AFL to realise that both Collingwood and North can wear their home jumpers against each other without any real clash.

Thanks for picking me up on the player name; evidently it must be out of order on the captioning below the photo.
 

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#21
Thanks Mero, appreciate it. That's an interesting point about the clashing teams of the time, particularly St Kilda. Although it didn't help with the distinguishing against interstate sides a la Adelaide or West Coast. What baffles me most is that it took until 2012 for the AFL to realise that both Collingwood and North can wear their home jumpers against each other without any real clash.

Thanks for picking me up on the player name; evidently it must be out of order on the captioning below the photo.
I think it's just that Percy Bowyer didn't make the bench in the middle row, so he sort of squatted down, but not enough to put him sitting on the front row.
 

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Now, to the case of Collingwood's 'new' black-based jumper causing more clashes than its predecessor. In my research I have assigned each match-up a 'clash rating' which briefly analyses how difficult or easy it is to distinguish the two jumpers. Shorts and socks don't come into account given the AFL's policy of the time which pretty much had every single away team in white shorts no matter the base colour of their jumper. Taking that into account would skew these results. The study also analyses simply the difference in match-ups between both sides' home jumpers, as back then 'away' jumpers were merely a novelty and 'clash' jumpers didn't really exist.

The photos are sourced from our favourite database AFL Photos, with images of both side's home jumpers in action from a time as close to the 2000/2001 crossover as possible.

Without further ado...

ADELAIDE

Pre-2001



Clash rating:
2/10 – distinctive white vs navy, the only confusion could be between the black stripes and navy hoops, but smart shorts assignment accounts for any problems.


Post-2001



Clash rating:
7/10 – the white and yellow distinguishers are the only saving grace in this match-up. The Crows' navy looks particularly dark under lights.


BRISBANE

Pre-2001



Clash rating:
2/10 – the maroon can be seen as light or dark depending on the time of day, but there really were no issues with this particular matchup.


Post-2001



Clash rating:
3/10 – Only the slightest bit less of contrast between the two sides; the maroon and black work quite well against each other: see the 2002/03 grand finals for a great example.


CARLTON

Pre-2001



Clash rating:
3/10 – a solid, historical match-up that always looked good on television. Black stripes vs navy blue base the only query.


Post-2001



Clash rating:
8.5/10 – The first truly big instance where the change did not help. Admittedly it looks worse from the back, but the white numbers on dark base plus the coincidentally red sponsors on each side made the match-up a difficult one.


ESSENDON

Pre-2001



Clash rating:
2.5/10 – No problems here. The red being a great distinguisher makes the rating slightly lower than the Carlton match-up.


Post-2001



Clash rating:
7.5/10 – Bad. The red, a seemingly lighter more pastel-y shade, again provides some contrast but the fact that both teams now had white numbers on a black base didn't help. Are you seeing a theme here? Can the Pies turn it around?


FREMANTLE

Pre-2001



Clash rating:
3/10 – Apologies must be made for the choice of photo; these two sides only ever played in their traditional home jumpers once before 2001 (back in R19 1996) and it was a match where sadly there are no photos available online. Hence the closest thing we can get to that match-up, given Freo's penchant for away jumpers in the 90s, is this fixture from 2010. Take the wacky Adidas template out of the equation and it's not hard to imagine that the two jumpers would have little clashing between them, bar perhaps the big white anchor which has obviously since been lost.


Post-2001



Clash rating:
5/10 – The sheer variety of Freo colours meant there was always something to distinguish the two sides, but the white number on dark base problem reared its head again and therefore I have to grant this matchup with a higher clash rating. Still distinguishable, but a white guernsey would be preferable. Interestingly, the Dockers' away kit of choice in the late 90s with its white back proved problematic at Collingwood home games.


GEELONG

Pre-2001



Clash rating:
9.5/10 – A truly awful clash, demonstrated none better than by this picture. In my personal opinion, this clash was slightly worse than the Collingwood/North clash mainly due to the similarities in colour between black and navy.


Post-2001



Clash rating:
6/10 – Still a mish-mash of hoops and stripes, but the two sides have clear distinctive bases and it's a matchup we still see (and tolerate) today. The first time so far where the darker guernsey has actually been a benefit.


HAWTHORN

Pre-2001



Clash rating:
2/10 – No one's clashing with Hawthorn.


Post-2001



Clash rating:
1/10 – No one's clashing with Hawthorn.


---------------

Rest of the teams to come in the next post, as I'm pretty sure there's still image limits in posts. The pre-2001 white jumper currently holds a convincing lead, 24 points to 38 (this is like golf, the lower score is the better!) Can the black jumper mount a comeback?
 

CollarJazzKnee

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#23
You're right about Geelong/Collingwood pre 2001. Shocking clash!! When north played cats or pies it wasn't too bad given the difference between Royal and navy/black. But that clash is right up there with Essendon/Melbourne, St Kilda/Essendon, Carlton/St Kilda imo
 
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