The Watford Observer has again teamed up with its friends at The Watford Treasury to share stories from Volume 7.

Neil Dunham talks to Watford kit historian Geoff Allen about the club-defining Golden era.

Watford had been considering a kit change from ‘run-of-the-mill’ blue as early as 1955, but if there’s any question of when and why a decision was made, it’s often wise to turn to the experts. Geoff Allen is happy to oblige: “Ah, yes! It was in May 1959 that the West Herts Post reported that, after 32 years of ‘The Blues’, Watford would change colours to gold and black. Thankfully, the proposed blue and gold socks never saw the light of day!”

In fact, the rather natty new stockings would be gold with black hoops, and as Geoff says: “Players like Cliff Holton liked to wear these sock turnovers pulled further down to show some black above the rings while others just displayed the hoops”.

Beyond the move away from the ubiquitous blue, the board had other considerations. “The big club of the era were Wolverhampton Wanderers, which may well have been an influence on the change. The Wolves played in ‘old gold’, but I remember once calling Watford’s shirts ‘old gold’ and being reprimanded, ‘No, Watford play in gold’. What the difference was, I don’t know. I saw this first gold kit in use a few times, still worn by the Watford schoolboy teams as late as 1965. My memory of the colour would be better described as amber.”

The well-known ‘WFC’ was added part-way through the season to give what Geoff notes was “the first badge on the home shirt since the late 1800s”. However, pictures in match programmes show a more ornate variant being worn for the first match of 1959/60 against Stockport while, for games following this, shirts without badges were again used. “The Watford Observer reported that a new club badge was ‘in course of preparation’ in September and the final version appeared in October."

“After a change to white socks, borrowed from the away kit, two new shirts were introduced during 1961/62. This started a trend of using two or three different home kits a year, probably due to the supply chain. No manufacturer deals were available in the 1960s, so all kit was bought ‘off the shelf’ from the local sports shops, like Peter Spivey’s and Clements. This was my first full season supporting Watford and I remember a lot of us had generic gold-and-black kit bought from Wren’s shop in North Watford. Just one friend, who had a paper round, could afford the exact replica, only available from Spivey’s in the High Street.”

The 1962/63 season was badly affected by freezing snow. “We were among the leaders after beating Carlisle at the end of December, but didn’t play again until late February. The disruption was such that, by the time Watford played Wrexham in April, we were heading towards relegation trouble. A great time to introduce gold shorts! I remember distinctly going to the last game of the season against Port Vale yet I have no memory of them at all.

Watford Observer:

Barry Endean models the classic 1968/69 kit at Old Trafford. Picture: Watford Observer. Colourisation: Colin Payne

“The following season saw the appointment of a new manager, Bill McGarry. He gave us a great run and we came within a whisker of the Second Division. There was also a new shirt: now in yellow, or ‘mustard’ to my mind. This is one of my all-time favourite kits, simple and classy. The last game of the season, away to Luton, would be my first away game, the 11-year-old me finding the Oak Road entrance through someone’s garden. The Luton supporters were perfectly friendly; how things would change by my next visit five years later!

“McGarry blotted his copybook for me when he sold favourite Charlie Livesey, then left for Ipswich. On the up-side, the new plain yellow, round-necked shirts for 1964/65 were the model for the late 60s classic, missing just the badge. Of course, it wouldn’t have been Watford if they didn’t wear a second home shirt and this one was a real oddity, yellow with white collar and cuffs!

“McGarry’s replacement, Ken Furphy, nursed us to a ninth-place finish. Again, the next season, yellow shorts were tried, proved unpopular and mercifully gave way to black shorts after a few games! Then in 1968/69, Ken led the club to the Third Division Championship and promotion.

“It was won in what is regarded as a true classic kit, similar to the previous one, but with the important addition of the new design ‘Hornet’ badge, as well as a yellow team number on the shorts. Later versions of the shirt were a darker colour – I remember watching during 1970/71 and realising the colour had become almost orange and not much to my liking.

“Furphy left after a couple of seasons working miracles keeping us in the second tier, but with little money from the Chairman, Jim Bonser, he felt forced to resign and, with that, Watford’s best manager up until that time was gone.

“George Kirby came in with a reputation for trying new innovations and it was possibly he who inspired a dramatic change to a collared shirt style. If it was meant to lift the team, it didn’t work, and Watford sank back to the Third Division.”

Watford Observer:

The ill-fated 1974/75 squad

After some minor tinkering with the kit, including the return of the badge, 1974/75 would see a major change to the shirt and another classic born. “Two black stripes were added down the left side along with a new badge featuring ‘Harry the Hornet’, Watford’s cartoon mascot used for several years previously by the Supporters Club. For the first time, the shirt also displayed the maker’s logo, although there was a set of kit without it. Unfortunately, this and the selling of Billy Jennings did nothing for Watford and, after losing our must-win last game against Walsall, we were back down to the basement division, taking us full circle back to where we’d been at the beginning of the golden era.”

Volume 7 of The Watford Treasury is available to buy from