One of the most iconic sportswear brands in the world started from humble beginnings in a sleepy Cheshire village. In a cupboard upstairs in one of Mobberley’s popular pubs, to be precise.
The Bull’s Head on Mill Lane is the birthplace of Umbro, the brand that has outfitted great football teams for their finest hours on the pitch. The gastropub, now famous for its steak and wobbly ale pie, was once owned by Harold and Wallace Humphreys’ parents.
Born in 1902, Harold left school at the age of 13 to clean for a textile company in Manchester and quickly worked his way up to the haberdashery department. He later secured a job as a salesman at Stockport sportswear brand Messrs Bucks – later known as Bukta.
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In 1922, Harold opened his own sportswear retail store, initially in a closet in the back room of his parents’ pub – The Bull’s Head. With the help of his brother Wallace, the couple formed Humphreys Brothers Ltd in 1924 and moved to a workshop in Wilmslow.
The name was shortened to Umbro – taking the ‘um’ from Humphreys and the ‘bro’ from the brothers. In the decades that followed, the brand provided jerseys for some of the biggest teams in the world and was once dubbed the “Dior of football”.
Ten years after the company was founded, Umbro supplied both teams in the FA Cup final, which was played in front of a crowd of 93,000, as reported by CheshireLive. Portsmouth, in a black and white kit, would lose 2-1 to Manchester City, who wore maroon.
By 1966, the vast majority of England teams played in their shirts. When the World Cup kicked off that year, 15 of the 16 teams in Umbro kits competed, including North Korea – with only the USSR snubbing the kit maker.
When Manchester United completed the treble in 1999, they did so in two Umbro home kits, with a special kit reserved for European games.
Brazil also twice won the World Cup trophy in Umbro jerseys, first in 1958 when Pelé and co. lifted Jules Rimet in blue jerseys; and again in 1994 when he defeated Italy in yellow in the final in Los Angeles.
A year after the 1994 World Cup, Ajax won the Champions League wearing Umbro kits. The star-studded team consisted of Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert, who wore the white and red that made Cruyff famous a generation earlier.
When a similarly full-fledged Scottish side reached the World Cup in 1978, Liverpool stars Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness wore Umbro shirts, just like at their club.
Away from football, Umbro supplied the kits for the British Olympic team for twenty years between 1952 and 1972. In 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man to break the four-minute mile while wearing the clothing brand.
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