Carlton Football Club’s early uniform

Carlton Football Club’s early uniform
Jeff Atkinson

While most clubs in the Australian Football League (AFL) identify themselves with an animal or object (for example, the Swans, Bulldogs, Bombers) the Carlton Football Club identifies itself solely with a colour – the Blues. 

Perhaps no other team in the AFL has more invested in a colour than Carlton. The colour in question is a rich dark colour known as Oxford Blue. The name originates from the rowing competitions between Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK in the mid-19th century. 

In order to distinguish themselves from one another, the two universities adopted different colours for their rowing and other sporting teams. Cambridge adopted a light blue and Oxford a dark blue.

The Carlton Football Club’s theme song says: “We are the Navy Blues. We are the Old Dark Navy Blues”. But it was not always so. 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Carlton uniform was not dark navy blue but a mid-blue with beige shoulders. The shoulders were made of chamois leather because it was more comfortable to wear than the canvas often used for the rest of the guernsey. Chamois is a type of porous leather, traditionally the skin of a type of European mountain goat, but today usually made from sheepskin. 

The chamois leather shoulders were dyed or painted white, so the official colours were therefore mid-blue and white. But after repeated washing, the white dye or paint would wear off to reveal the beige chamois underneath, which meant that the colours of the Carlton Football Club appeared to be mid-blue and beige. Being of a stiff material, the guernseys were not pulled on over the head but were laced up down the front.

It was not until the early 20th century that the uniform was changed to the navy blue one that we are familiar with. A sports magazine in April 1907 reported that: “Owing to similarity in uniforms of several League teams, and the consequent difficulty of distinguishing one footballer from another in close play, Carlton will have a large ‘C’ worked on the front of their jerseys”. 

This was adopted by the Club in 1909, which at the same time changed from the mid-blue and beige to the dark blue guernsey with a white monogram on the front featuring a large letter “C”. 


It took some time for the change-over to be completed however, and for a number of years around 1910, Carlton took to the field wearing a mixture of the old and new uniforms. But by the time of the First World War the change was complete. The shape and design of the monogram on the front however, continued to change and develop from an original that was quite elaborate to the simple clear style of today. 


Even today the Carlton team does occasionally return to the use of a lighter blue in place of the navy blue. In 2011, for example, Carlton players wore a light blue guernsey with a thin navy-blue stripe down each side and the monogram in dark blue on the front.


Caption: The Carlton team, runners-up in the 1904 Grand Final, wearing the old uniform of mid blue with beige shoulders. Photo: Blueseum.

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