A telegram sent by Manchester City to their kit suppliers after their triumphant 1934 FA Cup final, which was unearthed by chance in an archive, has been the inspiration behind the shirts the club will wear against Stoke City on Saturday.
The telegram of 5 May, 1934, which, in a nod to the days of such communication, includes the club's telegraphic address 'Football Manchester', was sent from Maine Road by club secretary Wilf Wild, thanking Humphreys Bros – whose names spawned the Umbro company name – for the "jerseys, knickers, hose, slips and anklets" used in the Wembley final seven days earlier. "The fit, quality and smartness of the entire outfit was undoubtedly perfection," Wild wrote.
It was while researching the project of creating Saturday's shirts that David Blanch, a senior designer at Umbro, discovered the telegram and has created a modern version of the same type font for the player numbers and names, which have been bonded on to the shirts. "Many fonts in football look retro and rigid but this one has a real authenticity about it," Mr Blanch said yesterday.
The shirts and the Mercer jackets which the players will wear on to the pitch feature a number of intricate links to the historical detail of the kits City players have worn at Wembley. Discreetly featured within the numbers on the players' backs is the historic Manchester coat of arms, which City players used to wear when they had no crest of their own. Technically a privilege bestowed upon the club by Manchester's city council, it has generally been a tradition over the past 60 years that City carry the coat of arms in some way when they play at Wembley.
The shirt numbers have also been individually made with small holes enabling the numbers to "breathe" – in a nod to the tailoring tradition of football jersey numbers being handsewn from fabric. "The shirts are inspired by the past, rather than mimicking it," said Mr Blanch, who unearthed the telegram in a book archived in the Umbro vault decades ago. "We wanted to celebrate City's achievement and to respect the past but also to celebrate where the club is heading. Manchester has deep roots in City and the club is continuing to build on that history."
Umbro, which presented its ideas for the final shirt in Abu Dhabi, has also developed the shade of "vista" blue that City have used since 2009. Before the introduction of the club badge, only 10 years ago, City had to rely purely on the colour of their shirts for recognition. The Manchester coat of arms is also embroidered on to the breast of the jackets City will walk out in, inspired by the overcoat of the late Joe Mercer, and of which only 16 have been made. Mercer took a City side wearing the Manchester coat of arms to their last FA Cup final victory in 1969. The goalkeeping heroics of a young Frank Swift, replete in "jersey, slip and anklets", inspired the 2-1 win over Portsmouth 35 years earlier.