SINCE 1914

The History Of Admiral Sports

Over the last century Admiral has grown into a world renowned name in sportswear. 
The journey started in 1914.
About Admiral Sports

1914 - 1970

The Admiral Brand Is Born

From humble hosiery beginnings and Royal Navy service, to brand reinvention and the birth of a football-focused sportswear giant.


1914: The Admiral brand is born

A decade into business and with a growing reputation, Cook & Hurst built a new, bigger factory next to the original. From these expanded facilities, the company started manufacturing underwear for the military, in support of the First World War effort.

Our first foray into sportswear came during the First World War, producing exercise clothing for the Royal Navy, and this is how the ‘Admiral’ brand came into being – Admiral being the most senior naval rank.

This is why we started to market our products with the stoic-looking Admiral’s head: to signify superiority and to assure the wearer of high-quality British manufacturing.


1922: The product range expands

We registered the Admiral trademark in 1922. By the 1930s, our product offering included a wide range of interlock sportswear, as well as bathing costumes for adults and children.

During this decade, the Royal Navy was a keen advocate of troops’ participation in sport, due to the benefits for physical and organisational training, not to mention recreation. Our already-established military connection thus led to us securing a contract with the Royal Navy, supplying white-and-blue rugby shirts for sailors’ sports activities.


1939: Trusted military suppliers once again

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, our Wigston factory began to operate around the clock to produce garments for both British and American forces.

We continued to manufacture sportswear for the military, even after the conclusion of the war in 1945 and all the way up to the 1970s.


1956: Bert Patrick enters the picture

Entrepreneur Bert Patrick joined us in 1956, and then purchased the company in 1958, for £34,000. He recognised that the traditional underwear market was undergoing a transition, and decided that the company needed to reinvent itself.

One of Patrick’s first ports of call was replacing the admiral’s-head artwork with a new, cleaner, more modern-looking logo. Oakley Young Associates designed one, based on the stripe-laden insignia of the admiral navy rank, as worn on the sleeve cuffs of an admiral’s uniform. This, of course, became the now-classic Admiral logo that everyone knows.


1960: Admiral becomes a sportswear brand

Patrick decided that we needed to move into the fast-growing sportswear market. The machinery and the sportswear-manufacturing expertise was already there – it was just a case of adapting to the modern market and expanding the product range.

An opportunity came knocking in the early 1960s. Cheshire-based sportswear brand Bukta was short on production capability, and approached us for help in producing rugby shirts.


1965: Gordon Banks’s 1966 World Cup shirt

In anticipation of the 1966 World Cup, we designed a new style of lightweight interlock football jersey. The ‘World Cup’ shirt featured built-in elastication at the neck and cuffs, giving complete freedom of movement while also helping to retain its shape.

We produced the shirt at our Wigston factory, and it was purposely unbranded. Leicester City goalkeeper Gordon Banks chose to wear it during the 1965-66 season, as well as for England’s glorious World Cup campaign that summer. He did not receive payment: he wore it purely for its quality.

1978 - 1991

On The World Stage

The brand took over the North American Soccer League (NASL), won cycling's biggest prize and kitted out England for the World Cup in 1982.


1971: Outfitters for the victorious Lions

When the British & Irish Lions rugby squad set off to tour New Zealand in May of 1971, they turned to us for a durable new rugby shirt. The team’s previous visit, in 1966, was an unsuccessful one, losing all four tests, so they had a real point to prove.

Adorned in Admiral, they took the fight to the All Blacks and went into the final game 2-1 up, needing a draw or another win to secure victory. New Zealand brought the scores level in the final moments of the game, 14-14, but it was too little, too late. The Lions got the glory.


1972: The second factory opens

As demand for our products grew in the early 1970s, we soon needed to open an additional factory, so we chose a site in Market Harborough, 13 miles south of Wigston.

This coincided with a redefining moment in the sportswear industry: the advent of visibly branded, copyrighted kits – spearheaded by Admiral.


1973: Admiral meets Don Revie of Leeds United

In 1973, a group of Admiral employees attended a meeting near Elland Road, home of Leeds United, one of the world’s premier teams at the time.

Watching the Leeds players train after the meeting, our employees got talking to Don Revie, the team’s legendary manager. After learning who we were, Revie enlisted our help in designing a new away kit and tracksuit for his side – the home kit being out of bounds at this point.


1973: Admiral’s Leeds kit is a hit

Our first Leeds kit was revolutionary in that the shirt included several colours, rather than just one block colour. Replica versions of it and the tracksuit were put on sale to the general public, proving a huge success and thus kickstarting the replica-kit market.

It wasn’t long until Revie sought our input for a new home kit.


1973: Colour TV moves the goalposts

Television’s transition from black-and-white to full colour was pretty much complete by the early 1970s.

This vivid new spectacle offered football clubs a new way to market themselves and earn additional revenue: by wearing radically redesigned kits on the pitch, and then selling replicas to fans.


1974: Admiral lands the England job

When England failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, the FA sacked longtime manager Sir Alf Ramsey and appointed Don Revie, who immediately set about making changes big and small, including the kit.

Our new shirt design was like nothing the national team had worn before: white, with a pointed collar, and bold red and blue lines going down the sleeves. It was also the first England kit to feature any manufacturer’s logo – a controversial move at the time.


1975: More teams switch to Admiral kits

In the summer of 1975, we secured the kit contract for Manchester United, who had just been promoted back to the First Division after a season below. United soared to third place in the ensuing season, and reached the FA Cup Final – all decked out in Admiral.

The following season, several more top-flight clubs followed suit and signed with Admiral, including Leicester City, Norwich City, West Ham United and Sheffield United.


1976: The Admiral FA Cup Final

United’s ’76 Cup Final opponents were Southampton – another Admiral client. However, the BBC told Bert Patrick that both teams walking out with ‘ADMIRAL’ across the fronts of their tracksuits was an impossibility, due to the BBC’s non-advertising policy.

Patrick arranged for one-off redesigns, putting the Admiral logo on the backs of the tracksuits instead – a stroke of genius, because that’s what the cameras captured as they followed the players out onto the Wembley pitch.


1977: Other kit-makers follow Admiral’s lead

By this point, other brands were still using plain designs for the most part, with small and subtle branding if any. But our outlandish outputs meant that kits were now marketing tools for clubs – and marketable products in themselves, especially among children.

As such, the other kit-makers began to experiment with bolder designs and make the branding more prominent – not just on shirts, but also on shorts, socks, tracksuits and more.

1978 - 1991

On The World Stage

The brand took over the North American Soccer League (NASL), won cycling's biggest prize and kitted out England for the World Cup in 1982.


1978: Soccer across the pond

Football’s transatlantic explosion gave our soccerwear yet more exposure, as many teams in the North American Soccer League (NASL) donned Admiral kits. One such team was the Los Angeles Aztecs, for whom George Best played; another was New York Cosmos, whose kit was designed by Ralph Lauren and manufactured by us.

At the NASL’s peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s, matches were televised and the average attendance was almost 15,000 – putting us in front of a whole new audience once again.


1980: Outfitting the Tour de France winners

The 1980 TI-Raleigh-Creda team, which won that year’s Tour de France race, pedalled to glory in Admiral jerseys. This was a welcome bit of non-football representation for our brand, helping to combat pigeon-holing and raise our profile among a totally different sports audience.

In addition to TI-Raleigh-Creda, we provided the jerseys for another team that year: Splendor-Admiral, who ended up finishing in 6th place out of the total 13.


1982: That England ’82 World Cup kit

Despite having been the England kitmaker for eight years, Admiral had not yet outfitted England for a World Cup. Thanks to a Paul Mariner goal against Hungary in a tight 1-0 qualifier, the Three Lions just about clinched their place and headed for Spain in June 1982.

Although England’s performance didn’t pan out as the nation had hoped, the shirt we designed is now one of the side’s most iconic – and was the first England replica shirt to be sold in adult sizes.


1983: Enlarging our British club base

Following the big-stage exposure at the 1982 World Cup, we started to compound our British club base, signing up clubs from all over the country over the coming years.

Between 1983 and 1988, these included Hull City, Notts County, hometown club Leicester City once again, Derby County, Bradford City again, Cardiff City again, Swansea City, Crystal Palace again, Stoke City again and Charlton Athletic.


1991: Motherwell Scottish Cup

In 1991, the Scottish Cup marked a significant moment for both the Admiral brand and Motherwell as they secured the trophy for the first time since 1952.

This historic victory also marked the first time a team clinched the cup with a kit adorned with the Admiral logo.

1992 - 2004

Admiral Enter The Premier League

Four teams in the newly formed Premier League were wearing Admiral kits in 1992, whilst the brand was winning leagues and cups with Rangers in Scotland. England started wearing the famous logo in all forms of the game including the Cricket World Cup.


1992: Admiral in the Premier League era

As the eighties became the nineties and the First Division became the Premier League, our brand was as big as ever. Middlesbrough wore Admiral kits from 1990 until 1994, and we secured a deal with Leeds United for the inaugural Premier League season, after they won the last ever First Division title.

Meanwhile in Scotland, we outfitted Rangers and Motherwell (both 1990-92), and Hearts (1991-93).

Other Premier League clients included Southampton (1991-93), Wimbledon (also 1991-93), Birmingham City (1993-96) and Portsmouth (1997-99).


1992: Rangers do the double

The 1991-92 season was a historic one for Rangers and Admiral in Scotland, as they achieved a domestic double by winning both the Scottish Premiership and the Scottish Cup.

This success was under the management of Walter Smith, with the team featuring a mix of key Scottish players and several England internationals.

The Scottish Cup win was a major success for Rangers as, unbelievably, Rangers hadn’t won the trophy in 11 years and this season was the club's first Double since 1977-78.


2000: England cricket outfitters

The new millennium brought us into yet another new market: the world of cricket.

We became the official kit supplier for England between 2000 and 2008, and won the contracts for other teams along the way – the West Indies and South Africa in 2001, and Canada in 2003.


2003: Admiral at the Cricket World Cup

Of the 14 countries competing at the Cricket World Cup, four of them wore Admiral kits: England, the West Indies, Canada and host nation South Africa.

These teams played a total of 22 games altogether, many of which saw two Admiral-clad sides play against each other, giving our brand some fantastic exposure across the globe.


2003: Wolves Promoted to Premier League

One of the greatest games of the football calendar is the Championship Playoff Final, dubbed the most expensive game in football.

Back in 2003 midlands giants Wolverhampton Wanderers entered the game at The Millennium Stadium as underdogs but left with the Playoff trophy and promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 1983–84.

All this happened whilst wearing the classic Wolves kit with the Doritos sponsor.

2005 - 2015

Admiral's Centenary & The Ashes

Outfitting England for a historic Ashes victory; reuniting with old friends; getting back to our family-run routes; our 100th birthday.


2005: Admiral-clad England smashes the Ashes

In summer 2005, the England cricket team won the Ashes for the first time in 18 years, beating Australia to claim the urn for the first time since 1987.

Many considered it to be the most thrilling Ashes series to date, and England’s Admiral kits were seen by millions of cricket fans around the world, further cementing the brand’s reputation in the gentleman’s game.


2005: Reunited with Leeds

For the 2005-06 season, we once again became the kit supplier for Leeds United, after a 12-year hiatus.

The Yorkshiremen went on to finish 5th in the Championship that year, and then got to the Play-Off Final, but lost out to Watford on the big day at Millennium Stadium.

We supplied Leeds’ kits for the following two seasons thereafter, with fresh and divergent designs each time.


2014: Admiral turns 100

Although our origins technically span back to 1903 with the founding of Cook & Hurst’s fledgling company, our official centenary as Admiral came in 2014 – marking exactly 100 years since the Admiral brand was first used on our products.