Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hoops or Stripes

Courtesy of
Back in the first week of the EPL season I found myself in front of Fox Soccer, as I do every weekend, this time it was the opening match for newly promoted Queens Park Rangers and Bolton. The match was at Loftus Road in London, a stadium where the second deck appears to actually hang over the end-line of the pitch, so naturally QPR were wearing their traditional home kits. As I was watching the match my wife came to join me for a spell and I explained to her a little bit about the history of QPR. She politely pretended to listen to my soccer dissertation and asked, "so they're the team in the stripes?" I smiled and explained, "sort of, they are the team in hoops." She looked at me, looked at the screen, and then said, "I have stuff to do" and walked out of the living room. I, of course, went back to watching the match but I did make a mental note that someday soon I would write an article explaining the difference between "hoops" and "stripes".

Let's get one thing out of the way quickly. "Hoops" are horizontal lines; "stripes" are vertical lines, at least when it comes to soccer kits. Hoops are pretty rare in the modern game, with only QPR wearing true hoops in EPL, but Celtic is better known for them in the SPL. Stripes are everywhere these days; Newcastle, Sunderland, and West Brom are the better known ones in the EPL. The beginning of the hoops and stripes for most teams go way back to their original formation as clubs, but the actual origin dates back to the mid-1800's.
Prior to the Football Association (FA) forming in 1863, "football" had no formal set of rules governing the hundreds of clubs that had sprung up across England in the previous decades. The goal of the FA was to provide uniform guidelines for all clubs to use in competition, however there was a catch. The early game allowed for "running with the ball in hand" and "kicking, tripping, or hacking an opponent running with the ball in hand." During the FA meetings in 1862, it was decided that the rules allowing for the "ball in hand" would be removed from the charter, thus creating a sport where only the feet would be used. Up until this point, "football" was a combination of soccer and rugby, but with the rule changes the two sports became separated for the first time. Actually, the term "soccer" was first used during this period to provide delineation between the two different types of "football". All the clubs in England were forced to choose between the new "soccer" rules established by the FA or the hybrid rules of "football" (until the Rugby Football Union formed in 1871). So clubs that had competed against each other for decades were now competing in different sports altogether, which raised the question of how could fans know which teams played which sport. Enter the hoops and stripes. Many of the clubs from in and around London who met to form the FA already played in vertical striped kits and several of the clubs who decided to continue with the rugby-style of football had horizontal striped kits or hoops. It was much an effort to differentiate between the two sports as it was to promote each brand of football. However, some of the teams that decided to follow the rules of the FA had already been wearing hoops for decades (like Reading), so there were some exceptions to the rule. In the case of QPR, they were formed in the late 1880's with a mostly Irish population, so they decided to take the colors and hoops of Celtic as a tribute to the team. Hence the reason hoops have found their way into the EPL of today.

I hope you enjoyed your history lesson; class dismissed.


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