Harp, crown, Saturn, and heritage: The history of the four Hibs club crests

Despite club crests being one of the most important features of a football club in the 21st century, it wasn’t always this way.

By Patrick McPartlin
Friday, 26th March 2021, 7:00 pm
The four main club crests used by Hibs since 1875
The four main club crests used by Hibs since 1875

When Hibs were first established they wore jerseys with a logo on the chest but for over a century there was no emblem, no badge on the famous jersey.

The harp

When the team was founded in 1875 and given the name Hibernian, from the Latin Hibernia for Ireland, it seemed logical to pick an accompanying emblem that represented the club’s roots.

The harp was a familiar symbol for the “old country” and for the first year of the club’s existence Hibernian players, according to John R Mackay’s history of the club, were “required to furnish at their own expense caps [and] a white guernsey with harp on left breast”.

The team would wear the white jersey for just 12 months, switching to green and white hooped tops with the letters “HFC” on the chest in 1876. The harp was nowhere to be seen, although it would remain the symbol most associated with the club for roughly the first 75 years of existence.

Perhaps the most famous harp was the one in mosaic previously found at the entrance to the stadium, while one adorned with shamrocks also formed part of the club’s official letterhead in the late 1920s.

In 1938 the club moved away from the all-green shirts that had been worn since 1879 and began wearing green shirts with white sleeves. Despite the modernisation of the kit, there was still no badge on the jerseys.

Other badges

Despite no badge on the playing kit, certain crests did appear on some matchday programmes while the club’s stationery was also updated.

By the 1950s Hibs were using a variety of emblems for various means.

One of these was a circular badge featuring a thistle with the letters HFC over it and Edinburgh underneath.

Variations on this logo appeared on player cards of the time as well as commemorative badges from European competitions such as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1960.

In the early 1960s the club was also using a modified version of the coat of arms of Edinburgh with a football and the words “Edinburgh Hibernian Football Club” added.

This appeared on club correspondence and can also be seen on the front of the Coronation Cup Final programme of 1953.

Neither of these crests appeared on playing kit but as football changed and badges became more prominent it became clear that Hibs were going to need a club crest.

The football and the crown

Hibs may have blazed a trail by being one of the first clubs to wear sponsored jerseys but the Bukta shirts worn between 1977 and 1979 didn’t feature a badge. That came later, when the 1979/80 kit had a crest added to the left-upper chest.

This new badge was simple in design; a football garlanded with a laurel and a crown on top with Hibernian FC above and Edinburgh below, in a circle.

The placement of the football, laurel, and crown looks vaguely similar to a thistle and may have been a nod to the logo used in the Fifties.

One popular theory is that the badge was inspired by Real Madrid’s crest. Just as Hibs were said to have taken inspiration from Arsenal when introducing the white sleeves, it was thought that the Spaniards may have inspired the new badge.

The new badge was stylistically very simple when first added to the shirts; effectively a stamped monochrome image but it was constantly updated and by the mid-1980s it was a fully colourised embroidered version on a white background.

Duff takeover and the Saturn badge

When David Duff purchased the club in the late 1980s, the idea of brand identity for football clubs was taking off.

Replica kits, merchandise, and marketing were becoming more and more important and many clubs updated or modernised their badges as a result.

When the Lord Lyon pointed out that Hibs were using the regal crown on the badge without permission, Duff seized the opportunity to rebrand the club.

After a fans’ competition, a new badge that was viewed as “modern and representative of Hibernian at the end of the twentieth century” was chosen.

This would be the first Hibs crest that would feature on a wide range of memorabilia and apparel and while it was certainly modern in look, many supporters felt it paid little attention to the club’s history and traditions.

It became disparagingly referred to as the “planet Saturn badge” while others likened it to a beer mat or beer bottle label.

Despite that the outline was immortalised in the girders of the Famous Five Stand and remains there to this day as a reminder of a certain point in Hibs’ past.

A new badge

After Sir Tom Farmer saved the club in 1991, many changes were made. The relationship between the board and supporters improved immeasurably, and reached a stage where consultation was a way forward.

In autumn 1999 it was announced that a new badge would be chosen from supporters’ suggestions to mark the club’s 125th anniversary.

This was a popular decision as many fans felt the club needed a symbol which better recognised the constituent parts of its history.

At the turn of the Millennium, Hibs’ fourth official badge was unveiled, combining the original harp, the ship of Leith, Edinburgh Castle, and a football to represent the club’s roots.

The new badge embraced the club’s history as well as its geographical base.

There has even been a suggestion that Hibs’ European opponents in 2017 Asteras Tripolis took inspiration from the Capital club for their own new badge.

Crests and curses

It’s worth noting the coincidence that once the new badge – incorporating the harp – was mounted on the Main Stand the decades-old curse, said to have been enacted after the original harp was removed from the club entrance in the 1950s, was lifted in 2016 when the Scottish Cup was finally brought back to Leith.

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