Admiral kit history 1975-1980
the change and third kits

Admiral produced some of the best loved United kits during their time as kit manufacturers in the late Seventies. Although this period saw a plethora of variants, with seemingly no attempts at uniformity, the Admiral change kit, introduced in 1975, has become one of the most iconic kits in United's history.

We are grateful to Marvin Nash for this invaluable insight into the story behind the 'three stripes/four stripes' debate.

"A long-standing neighbour and close family friend was a Sales Representative for Admiral from the early seventies until an internal restructuring in 1979, after which he moved to Umbro where he stayed until his retirement in 2001. As the change shirt from 1975 is my all time favourite Manchester United shirt and was the first one I ever bought, I once asked him about the two versions produced by Admiral for United (the great 'three stripe / four stripe' mystery). The story he gave me (and this was around twenty years ago) was that when Admiral designed this shirt in 1975 it was always their intention to have three vertical stripes running down the left hand side of the shirt. United were photographed in the shirt, and it was featured in the United poster mag that summer.

"Once it was released adidas (unsurprisingly) got in touch with Admiral's hierarchy and requested to know what was going on (although the exact wording was a tad stronger!). They quite obviously believed the design was a clear case of 'Copyright Infringement' as they had cornered the market somewhat in the realms of Sportswear with three stripes decorating them. The Directors, Sales teams and Designers at Admiral took legal advice on the issue and were told that as the stripes on United's shirt were not a sleeve adornment they were well within their rights to use them. They were also advised that a straight line could not be registered as a 'Trademark' regardless of how many others you added to it. The advice formed the basis of Admiral's response to adidas. In an angered response, adidas launched a legal case in 1975 to halt the use of this shirt. It was agreed by all parties that until a resolution was found, as a compromise a further stripe would be added to the shirt. This four stripe shirt was worn by United at Anfield on November 8th 1975, and perhaps earlier. All told the shirt was seldom used, and I have never physically seen a 'Match Worn' version.

"Our family friend recalled that this legal case became very expensive for both sides and with no end in sight and after failure to find agreement in the first two rounds of deliberation over a lengthy period, a compromise was reached where Admiral would be able to revert back to the original 'three' stripes on the proviso that they paid Adidas a small retainer on an annual basis. The three striped shirt was re-introduced at the start of the 1976/77 season. He is also convinced (though this can't be proven) that a deal was put in place to allow Adidas to have first refusal on United's next 'kit supplier' contract the next time it was up for renewal.

"Solely due to this fall-out with Admiral, adidas decided to apply the tag line 'The Brand with Three Stripes' to all their Sportswear packaging from this period on, although they had already been using it in some small degree."

The Change Kit - History

1976-77 Admiral advert

Above: Stuart Pearson models the replica kit in an Admiral advert from 1976/777.

Version 1

Three stripes. Introduced pre season 1975/76. The Admiral logo was in black & white. Unlike later versions the single red hoop on the sleeve is above the three black hoops. This style was retained for all replica versions of the kit.

Version 2

Three stripes. The Admiral logo is now in the more familiar red & white and the red hoop on the sleeve is below the three black hoops. The shirt was worn at Stoke on August 30th 1975 - before the dispute with adidas - and possibly at Aston Villa on October 8th.

Version 3

Fourt stripes. Introduced in autumn 1975 and worn for the first game at Villa Park on October 8th 1975. A variant with a black & white Admiral logo (heat applied transfer) was also worn.

Version 4

Three stripes. Introduced in winter 1976 and first worn on February 21st 1976 at Villa Park. The Admiral logo was in thefamiliar red & white. The red hoop on the sleeve is below the three black hoops. This was the standard change shirt for the 1976/77, 1977/78 and 1979/80 seasons.

Version 5

Three stripes. Worn in the 1977 Charity Shield and in at least four League games through 1977/78. The Admiral logo and club badge were reversed and the Charity Shield match details embroidered on the shirt.

Version 6

Three stripes. Introduced for the 1978/79 season and featuring the centenary club badge.

Red Admiral Change

The Change Kit (Red Stripes - Buyers Beware!

Tim Stevens has sent a couple a photo of a shirt he bought in the mid Seventies with a red trim rather than black. Tim believes it is a genuine Admiral shirt as, "the only place I would have bought it from is either the caravan that passed as the club shop in front of the East stand at Old Trafford in the mid '70s, or a retail sports shop in my hometown."

Initially Mark Hutton's suggestion that it was perhaps a production error, possibly an Aberdeen away shirt with an MUFC badge, seemed plausible. However Jimmy Barrie, a serious Admiral shirt collector, has recently purchased a similiar shirt on eBay and is under no illusions that it is a fake.

Of course this does not rule out the possibility that Tim's shirt is genuine, but as with everything bought on eBay, buyers should be wary of any unsubstantiated claims. Jimmy Barrie mentioned this website was referenced in the eBay ad. Please note NEVER provide endorsements of authenticity for eBay sellers.

The Third Kit - Red trim

Tim has unearthed a new variant of the seldom worn blue third kit. The shirt has a red trim on the collar and cuffs rather than the more common blue. We have not been able to confirm if the shirt was worn in a competitive game. We do know from the club badge, which features football boots rather than scrolls, that the shirt is post 1977. If you have any information on this shirt please contact us.