With Hibs having been formed 13 years before Celtic, fans have always rejoiced in the fact that their club was, in fact, the first to “wear the hoops”, now so synonymous with the Glasgow outfit.
The jersey was adopted a year after the club was formed in Edinburgh’s Cowgate, an area at the time home to close-knit community of first and second generation immigrants and known as Little Ireland.
The early years were tough, members of the Catholic Young Men’s Society attached to St Patrick’s Church deciding they could do at least as well having watched the new-fangled game of Association Football being played in the Meadows.
Michael Whelahan, who had grown up a keen member of Father Edward Hannan’s teetotal CYMS, founded at St Patrick’s Church, suggested that perhaps some members of the parish could form a couple of teams and have “a kickabout”.
A ball was bought and so, on August 6, 1875, Hibernian was established, names such as St Patrick’s, Harp, Shamrock and Celtic having all been suggested and dismissed. The name, though, left no-one in any doubt who they represented.
However, other teams didn’t take kindly to these upstarts who had begun playing on “their” pitches – and what was more they were Irish! To get around this, the Hibernian players would go out and play their games at 6.30 in the morning, on occasion bringing along some of their burly navvie supporters who ensured they weren’t disrupted.
At one time, the resistance was such that the SFA rejected an approach to put the club on an official footing with a short sharp reply “We are catering for Scotsmen, not Irishmen”, while the Edinburgh Football Association banned their member teams from playing them.
Hibernian were left to play games against themselves and with other non-EFA registered teams until, on Christmas Day, their first recorded game was played against the first EFA team that ignored the ban, Heart of Midlothian.
Eventually, the EFA relented early in 1876 and the following year Hibernian, renowned for having a heavy, robust side which nevertheless dribbled and passed well, were admitted to the SFA.
In that first year, captain Whelehan’s team played in a “uniform” – which they had to provide themselves – of a “white guernsey with harp on the left breast, green and white knickerbockers, green cap and hose”.
The Hoops were introduced in 1876, complete with the initials HFC emblazoned across the chest – no sponsor’s names in those days – and it was worn until almost the end of that decade when the club, having switched from the Meadows to Powderhall, were on the move again to Mayfield although it was hardly convenient for the players as their changing rooms were still in St Mary’s Street. At that point the colours, too, were changed, to plain green jerseys.
Unfortunately, no original jersey featuring those famous green-and-white hoops remains in existence, but a replica hangs in the club’s boardroom.
• HIBS are hosting an Open Day at Easter Road this Sunday. The event runs from 1pm to 5pm, entrance is via the West Stand. Entry is free but children under 12 should be accompanied by an adult.