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A History Of the Rugby Shirt

by Neil Jennings

Players wear them with pride and fans wear them to show their comradery and commitment to their team. The rugby shirt, which can be traced back to the mid-1800s, symbolises one united team who are committed to serving their club and its loyal supporters. For over two centuries, the rugby shirt has been the ultimate sportsman statement.

The origins of this glorious game can be tracked back to 1823 where a young man called William Webb Ellis first ran with a ball at Rugby School. That was the moment that the game was invented and there was a need for some way to tell teams apart from one another. So the rugby kit was born, also responding to the need for comfort and functionality.  At this time, the Rugby School was the first known team to play in a kit or uniform, which consisted of long flannels, shirts and caps, which were made out of loose-fitting cotton – not the most practical of outfits.

Although this was the first official rugby kit, the loose fitting items were far too easy to grab on to, giving the defending side an advantage against the attack. This was the case until synthetic fibres were developed and became cheaper and more readily available. However, as the sport has evolved, so has the shirt. By the 1950’s, the rugby shirt had become somewhat of a style statement. Their bold colours with contrasting collar proved popular both on and off the pitch.

Today, rugby is a faster, more competitive and more powerful sport, and the kits you see are scientifically designed with the modern game in mind. 2003 was a notable year for rugby for many reasons, one of which being the radical facelift of the shirt. It was tight fitting and made from a mixture of cotton and polyester, providing improved sweat removal and comfort. Since 2003, many teams have adopted this style and over the past 11 years technology has advanced even further. Techniques such a dye-sublimation printing have allowed direct printing on to polyester or other synthetic fabrics, meaning that rugby shirts can be customised to teams’ needs, with as many logos or images as you wish. This process permanently dyes the fabric, meaning that the images do not peel or fade, and it can be washed without damaging the quality of the image.

Here at Centurion we understand the significance of the rugby shirt, to both players and fans, having provided rugby kits to teams for over ten year. We offer bespoke sublimated shirts that can be customised to your team, inclusive of club crest, sponsor logos, squad numbering and names – all at one fixed, cost-effective price. The shirts are available in three styles; Tight-fit, Loose-fit and Ladies-fit, and there are 44 different designs to choose from. There is even a choice of collar styles, numbering options and added customisation such as silicone dots, long sleeves and reversible shirts.

If you want total control over you club’s shirt, thanks to technological advances, we are now able to provide a service where you can build up your team’s shirt, selecting the individual design, colour, and style and adding as many logos as you wish. 

For further details contact our sales team at