Steven Taylor celebrates scoring against West Brom

By Dan Sheridan - Newcastle United Managing Editor


The reasons why Newcastle United wear black and white stripes have divided many over the years, with stories ranging from the influence of a Dutchman from the city's Blackfriars monastery to a pair of magpies nesting in one of stands.

But the more likely explanation, according to Club Historian Paul Joannou, lies squarely at the feet of the Duke of Northumberland's piper, who donned black and white tartan as far back as 1760.

The tartan - also known as the Shepherd's Check - formed the official dress of the Duke's piper and was originally worn by shepherds tending their flocks in the Borders. It even predates some of the more colourful Highland tartans that followed.

And as Joannou explains, the shirt worn proudly by United for the past 117 years came about after a trio of other colours had been used on Tyneside - with one in particular raising more than a few eyebrows.

"Newcastle United, and the pioneers Stanley Football Club, certainly didn't start life wearing black and white stripes," explains Paul, whose new book, Newcastle United: The Ultimate Record is out now.

"The first recorded colours were royal blue shirts, which were worn by Newcastle East End.

"They then changed to light blue before revising the shirt completely 1891, when the team ran out in all red shirts - something a lot of fans are uncomfortable with because of the obvious link to Sunderland's colours.

"We played in red shirts and white shorts for around four years, but once Newcastle were established in the Football League in 1893, it soon became apparent that at least two thirds of the teams in the Second Division also played in red.

"This meant there were lots of clashes in terms of kit so the Club decided to make a change. The decision was made to adopt the colours of Northumberland's tartan in August 1894 - which was black and white.

"We've worn the famous colours ever since, with the only exception being in the lead up to the First World War we often played in dark blue shorts instead of black."

Make sure you get a copy of the official 130th Anniversary book, NEWCASTLE UNITED: THE ULTIMATE RECORD 1881-2011. Packed with facts and figures on the Magpies, it truly is the United Bible and is available now from our Club Stores.