Men's Team

From Milan to Manchester: The making of City's iconic red and black strip

From Milan to Manchester: The making of City's iconic red and black strip
One of the most iconic and fondly remembered strips in Manchester City history marks its 53rd anniversary today.

For October 5, 1968, marked the debut of City’s red and black striped shirt – which, twinned with our accompanying black shorts and socks - would subsequently become one of the club’s most revered and popular kits.

That said, the shirt’s debut arrived in less than auspicious circumstances.

Joe Mercer’s reigning English champions first wore the strip in a league clash away at Everton on an early October afternoon, where City slipped to a disappointing 2-0 loss at Goodison Park.

Coming just three days after the Club’s eagerly-awaited and maiden European Cup campaign had come to early and hugely disappointing end away at Turkish side Fenerbahçe in the first round, it was hardly the most encouraging of starts.

Over time however, the red and black kit would not just weave its way into City folklore, it would also become entrenched as something of a lucky Club talisman.


                        WEMBLEY WONDERS: Mike Summerbee and Joe Mercer celebrate our 1969 FA Cup win
WEMBLEY WONDERS: Mike Summerbee and Joe Mercer celebrate our 1969 FA Cup win

And, as with so much of City’s success in that special, golden period of the late 1960s, the architect behind the bold new look was revered and visionary coach Malcolm Allison.

“The special red and black kit was definitely Malcolm’s idea,” recalls Tommy Booth, one of the totems of that great City side assembled by manager Joe Mercer and Big Mal.

“He had seen the brilliant AC Milan side of the late 1960s wearing that shirt and Mal said they look awesome in that. They also won a European Cup and Cup Winners Cup wearing red and black stripes, so Mal’s view was: ‘We’ll wear that too.’

“We loved it and it became a bit of a lucky strip for us too.”
Tommy’s view is echoed by Mike Summerbee, wing wizard of that golden generation and now a much-admired Club ambassador.

“Wearing that kit made you feel bigger than you were and I thought we looked pretty good in that strip – people were a bit afraid of us,” added Buzzer.


                        STARS AND STRIPES: The boys of 1969 kitted out in our red and black strip
STARS AND STRIPES: The boys of 1969 kitted out in our red and black strip

They were right to be

For City subsequently went on enjoy 1969 FA Cup glory wearing red and black – first in our 1-0 semi-final win over Everton 1-0 at Villa Park and then against Leicester City in the final itself at Wembley too where we secured the famous silverware thanks to Neil Young’s stunning goal.

The die was well and truly cast.

And when the European Cup Winners’ Cup and League Cup were both won the following season, few were in any doubt that not only was it a lucky strip, but one that seamlessly had become woven its way into the Club’s very fabric.

The red and black strip has resurfaced several times in the ensuing 50 odd years – and has again accompanied several memorable moments in City history.

We were wearing those colours when we beat Ipswich in the 1981 FA Cup semi-final, while City famously secured promotion back to the Premier League in 2000 resplendent in red and black during a classic encounter away at Blackburn Rovers.


                        ROVERJOYED: City on the way to promotion - in red and black - at Blackburn in 2000
ROVERJOYED: City on the way to promotion - in red and black - at Blackburn in 2000

On the way to our FA Cup success of 2011 – the Club’s first trophy in 35 years - more than 4,000 City fans donned red and black scarves in emotional tribute to the late, great Neil Young, as we played out a 2-2 draw away at Leicester City in third round tie.

And for our subsequent first title in 44 years and maiden Premier League success, the second strip was (of course), red and black stripes.

More latterly, Pep Guardiola’s squad wore a special red and black striped top as part of our Wembley warm-up attire before the 2019 FA Cup final against Watford, our subsequent 6-1 marking the 50th anniversary of our Leicester win in fitting fashion.

Truly a kit for the ages…


                        FITTING TRIBUTE: City wore red and black warm up shirts, celebrating the 50th anniversary of our 1969 FA Cup win, ahead of the 2019 final against Watford
FITTING TRIBUTE: City wore red and black warm up shirts, celebrating the 50th anniversary of our 1969 FA Cup win, ahead of the 2019 final against Watford

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