Umbro is an English sportswear and football equipment supplier, and a subsidiary of Nike since 2008. Umbro designs, sources, and markets sport-related apparel, footwear, and equipment. Its products are sold in over 90 countries. The company was founded in 1924 by Harold Humphreys, along with his brother Wallace in a small workshop, inspired by the growing interest in football witnessed nationwide.
The word ‘Umbro’ is an acronym derived from Humphreys Brothers Clothing. Umbro’s major debut was in the 1934 FA Cup final, when both teams Manchester City and Portsmouth wore uniforms designed and manufactured by the company. Other teams supplied by Umbro during the 1930s and 1940s were Sheffield United and Preston North End, Manchester United, and Blackpool. In 1952, the British team at the Summer Olympics wore Umbro, tailored for the needs of their individual sports. Umbro would be a major supplier to the British Olympics team for the next 20 years.
In 1957 Umbro entered to tennis market, producing sports clothing in collaboration with player Teddy Tinling. This collaboration extended for three decades. After his death, it was also discovered that Tinling had worked as a spy for the British government during the Second World War. Other sportsman that collaborated with Umbro was Manchester United manager Matt Busby, in 1959. That same year the company started to sell its ‘junior boys kits,’ a set of shirt, shorts and socks that would allow young players to wear the same look as their footballing idols. Brazil became the first World Cup champion to wear uniforms by Umbro, in 1962. Two years later, Manchester United Scottish player Dennis Law signed an exclusive agreement with the brand, becoming the first footballer to be sponsored by Umbro. The English national team won its first title in 1966 wearing kits by Umbro, the same that 15 of the 16 teams, with the only exception being USSR.
In 1974 Umbro’s founder, Harold Humphreys, passed away. His sons John and Stuart took over the running of the company. The England national team wore Umbro shirts by choice until 1974, until the Football Association, encouraged by the England manager Don Revie, sold the jersey manufacturing rights to Admiral. In 1982, the FA returned to Umbro as England jersey manufacturers and they have remained so ever since. For example, in 2009 Umbro produced the kit in collaboration with London tailor Charlie Allen. After more than a decade wearing Admiral kits, the England national team signed with Umbro again in 1984.
Until the mid-1980s, the company manufactured only sports clothing, in particular football jerseys, shorts, and socks, but had no footwear range. Eventually, in 1985 Umbro decided to introduce its first football cleats into the Brazilian market. This design, cheaper than the products of existing brands such as Adidas, proved popular and went into mass production internationally two years later. Umbro also manufactured a popular style of shorts that reached its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were made of nylon, had a drawstring waistband, and often came in bright colors. With the growth of youth football (soccer) leagues in the United States in the 1980s, many youths, teens, and young adults began wearing them as everyday clothing. Like football itself, they were equally popular among both genders. At the height of the fashion, other brands of football shorts, such as Adidas, Diadora, Hummel, Lotto, and Mitre, also became popular.