For those of a certain age, if you were to say the brand Admiral you would instantly have visions of the bright and bold football strips of the ’70s and ’80s. However, life actually started back in 1903, in the small textile town of Wigston, Leicestershire, where they produced a not-so-glamorous range of high-quality woollen underwear.
After an expansion to larger premises and with the advent of WW1, they found themselves shifting away from the undies and into sportswear, when they created the exercise clothing for the Royal Navy. This naval connection resulted in the company adopting the name ‘Admiral’.
Post-war, Admiral continued to supply the military, plus with the increase of new swimming baths popping up over the country, they ventured into bathing costumes. Then, with the outbreak of WW2, they worked tirelessly round the clock to provide garments for both the British and US forces.
Fast forward to the ‘66 World Cup (sorry, our Scottish readers!) and the company, with new ownership, put all their efforts into creating a new style of lightweight interlock football jersey’s. With an elastic neck and cuffs, they managed to convince local lad Gordon Banks to wear the famous bright yellow Admiral shirt throughout the campaign, which coupled with the arrival of colour TV, firmly put Admiral on the map. This was the start of the replica strip explosion, with Admiral at the helm. Every team wanted Admiral to design their strip – throughout England, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Italy and the US, plus the national teams of England, Wales, Belgium, Poland and many more. In total, they designed strips for 21 national teams and a whopping 111 club teams.
So, for most of us, that’s where the story ends. Nike, Adidas, Puma and Umbro, with their massive budgets, all got in on the action and before you knew it, the small company from Leicestershire was forced out of the market. Well, it’s kind of true. After a period of relative inactivity during the ’90s the company then changed hands numerous times, and although filled with promises of resurrection, it never came to fruition.
Now on to the present day and the latest chapter in the long history has just begun. In September 2020, the "Admiral Sporting Goods Co." line was launched. The line takes inspiration from pre-1966 sportswear, composed of good old honest t-shirts, ¼ zips, sweats and hoodies – all expertly made in Portugal from 100% cotton.
The first collection of the modern era is a new strand of Admiral Sportswear, plugging into the past to create timeless classic sportswear with uncompromising construction. Products in this collection include long and short sleeve t-shirts, their signature Wigston sweatshirt, the Braunstone hoodie and their take on the vintage drill, the Chartwell training top.