VICTORIAN INTERSTATE UNIFORMS (1877-1896)
July 1st, 1879 marked the official birth of representative football with an intercolonial match between Victoria and South Australia at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. The South Australian Football Association (SAFA) had first challenged the Victorian Football Association (VFA) to a match in 1877 but that tour was cancelled before a match could be played.
For the 1879 intercolonial matches the Victorian side adopted the colours of the colony (red, white and blue); the new uniform making its first appearance on June 28 when the colonial side played a practice match against a Combined Hotham-Essendon 23. Note: the exact design of the 1879 and 1880 uniforms remains unknown (newspaper articles of the day refer only to the colours). An 1881 article in The Argus [2-7-1881] confirms the players would be wearing red, white and blue stripes that season.
May 22, 1886 vs New South Wales
Intercolonial matches resumed after a four year recess but the VFA found themselves facing an unexpected problem: during the intervening years Footscray had switched from blue and white hoops to a new design that featured Victoria's old colours. The solution? The Association simply borrowed Footscray's uniforms for the intercolonial match.
May 21, 1887 vs Tasmania
Victoria again wore red, white and blue. A pre-match report in The Argus [19-5-1887, p.7] is somewhat confusing: "Last year when the Victorians met New South Wales, the former had the use of the uniforms of the Footscray team, which are similar to the footballing colours of the colony. The Association has since, however, purchased a special set of colours for its representatives".
The Australasian [12-5-1887] reports: "The following will be the representative colours in the match next Saturday - Victoria: red, white and blue".
A retrospective of the 1887 match in The Mercury [7-8-1930] and a May 1889 article in The Argus (see below) also confirm Victoria wore these colours. It's evident that "purchased a special set of colours" actually meant "purchased a special set of uniforms".
May 18, 1889 vs Southern Tasmania
During the 1996 AFL pre-season Hawthorn wore a navy blue jumper adorned with brown and gold diamonds. Rarely has a football uniform aroused such contempt as the Hawks' diamond disaster, which is still mocked by many fans as the worst jumper ever worn. That diabolical design appeared for one game and was banished thereafter. History tells us the Victorian diamond jumper of 1889 illicited similar emotions and suffered the same fate.
The week before the match against Southern Tasmania, The Argus [13-5-1889] provided background (and an incorrect description) for the new design: "... the new uniforms, which are half blue and half gold, will be worn for the first time by a Victorian team in this match. The old colours (red, white and blue) have been discarded as these were adopted by the Footscray club, and in securing new colours an effort has been made to obtain something unique and easily identifiable".
The Argus [20-5-1889] described the uniform as: "...motley royal blue and gold suggesting strongly the harlequin".
The North Melbourne Advertiser's reporter was clearly not a fan of the new design:
"The new uniform of which we heard so much as being a beautiful blue and gold, and which was soon to take with the public and especially attract the ladies, is an ugly combination of dirty yellow and light blue most peculiarly striped, reminding one very strongly of the antics of a circus clown".[18-5-1889]
"The remarks made last week regarding the Victorian uniform were fully borne out upon the team making their appearance on the field. the general opinion being that the newly adopted costume was hideously ugly and entirely unsuitable". [25-5-1889]
July 13, 1889 vs Northern NSW
Following the uproar in May, a change of uniform in July was something of an inevitability. The Argus [13-7-1889] on the morning of the match re-assured their readers: "The Victorians will not wear the harlequin-pattern colours as in the match with Tasmania, but the blue and gold in narrow vertical stripes, something after the pattern of the jackets worn by the St Kilda, North Melbourne and Richmond clubs".
It was also noted: "So that spectators may have a chance of picking out the representatives of the different clubs, they will wear their own club caps. This is not likely to be a very great assistance, as the Ballarat and South Ballarat colours are very like those of the South Melbourne and Melbourne clubs".
No doubt the Northern New South Wales uniform of royal blue and white in diagonal bands would have added to the confusion for spectators.
July 5, 1890 vs South Australia
The Victorians adopted another design, pairing royal blue jumpers with a gold sash. The Australasian's correspondent, Markwell was impressed by the new uniform:
"The (Victorians) certainly commanded the admiration of the thousands of ladies who graced the scene, though it was perhaps the particularly well-chosen and neatly arranged colours of the uniform they wore that gained for them this enviable distinction. The richness of the blue of their jerseys and hose, and the immaculateness of their white knickerbockers, together with the excellently contrasted bright golden band with which the upper garment was diagonally accoutred, constituted just about the most taking football costume yet invented by Mr. Theo S. Marshall, and the worthy hon. secretary has had some experience at the business. The sterling and durable colours... worn by the South Australians would probably have carried off the palm against any other costume, but they were certainly in the background on this occasion". [The Australasian 12-7-1890]
The South Australian Register [9-7-1890] was also favourable to the new uniform: "The Victorians, in their very pretty costume of royal blue jersey, hose, and cap, and a gold sash and white knickerbockers, were led into the field by their captain, and were well received".
The Argus [5-7-1890] incorrectly stated that the Victorians would wear dark knickerbockers to avoid a clash with South Australia's colours (red, white and blue) but correctly noted: "Although the colours blue and gold have of late been adopted as the colours of the colony for intercolonial football, every year finds a variation in the method of wearing them". This continued to be the case throughout the 1890s.
July 10, 1890 vs South Australia (not shown above)
Played midweek, this match would have been an absolute shambles for spectators and players alike. The South Australians again wore their red, white and blue uniforms but, for reasons unknown, the Victorians took to the field with each player wearing his own club uniform instead of the new state jumpers. The Argus [11-7-1890] reports: "The jumble of colours - each man playing in his own club colours, with the exception of the white knickerbockers - had rather confused the Victorians, and several times they had managed in this way to give little marks to the wrong men".
To put this in perspective, here is a description of the various VFA club colours on display in this match:
Carlton - navy blue with white shoulders, white undershirts.
Essendon - navy blue with red sash, navy blue sleeves.
Fitzroy - maroon with yellow shoulders/centre stripe, white undershirts.
Footscray - red/white/blue stripes, white undershirts.
Melbourne - navy blue with red centre stripe, white undershirts.
North Melbourne - royal blue/white stripes, white undershirts.
Port Melbourne - blue with a red stripe down each side, no undershirts.
South Melbourne - red/white hoops with red centre stripe, white undershirts.
St Kilda - red/white/black stripes, no undershirts.
June 1891 vs South Australia
The South Australian Register [15-6-1891] incorrectly describes the gold sash as a "gold hoop".
June 25, 1892 vs South Australia
Match reports in The Argus and The Leader [25-6-1892] confirm the continued use of royal blue.
June 1893 - Victoria 'A' tour of Adelaide (left)
June 1893 - Victoria 'B' tour of Hobart (left)
The uniform had finally achieved some consistency with blue jumpers and a gold sash worn each season during this decade. However, 1893 saw the Victorians wearing dark/navy blue for the first time. It was also the first year that Victoria would select more than one representative team to play on the same weekend (a concept later championed by the VFL with their regular selection of Victorian 'B' teams).
This new dark blue jumper with gold sash was worn in Adelaide by Victoria 'A' (June 10 versus South Australia, June 12 versus Norwood) and in Hobart by Victoria 'B' (June 7 and 10 versus the Southern Tasmanian Football Association).
June 1893 - VFA vs Port Adelaide (right)
A third VFA representative team also played on June 10, defeating Port Adelaide at the MCG; the team wore the uniforms of Essendon, the reigning VFA premiers.
July 21 vs South Australia
The Victorian uniform was altered to all black with a gold sash [The Advertiser 23-7-1894, p.5] (note that Richmond did not adopt black jumpers with a gold sash until 1914).
September 24 - VFA vs Essendon (not shown above)
An end of season exhibition match between Essendon (the 1894 VFA Premiers) and a representative team comprised of players from the other VFA clubs (except Geelong). The players on the representative team wore their own club uniforms, leading to a number of turnovers throughout the match.