Thanks to Fraser Warburton for providing his memories of the green kit:
When I first starting watching Chester they played in green shirts, old gold trim and white shorts. This sounds very appealing and I was rather pleased as the colours were very unusual, in a period of unimaginative and somewhat plain strips, but it was not a pleasurable experience to see the kit in action. The green, though by no means the dark ivy green of a hundred years or so ago, was by no means vibrant and was not as light as say Burscough’s kit. Neither did it have the brightening effect of a combination with white which we have seen in recent years with the hoops of Yeovil and Northwich. The ‘old gold’ is an intriguing description, but was in practice a dark (you could almost say ‘dirty’) yellow, and had the effect of muting the green. It was the official kit for three seasons, from 1959 to 1962. In the first two seasons it was combined with green and yellow hooped stockings, and in the last with yellow (‘old gold’).
I don’t know whether statistics would prove that the winter of of 1960-1 was unusually wet, but my overriding memories of the time were of watching soaked and drab green shirts on a churned muddy pitch against the background of the weathered concrete and corrugated iron of the old stadium on an overcast day. What wasn’t actually rusty was painted a dark rust-red colour; even the gravel on the Kop, where the flagged terracing finished, seemed to be crushed from the local sandstone. Muddy green, brown, rust-red – it was like camouflage.
So where did the green come from? For obvious reasons green isn’t the most practical colour to play a field-based sport in, and the few teams that use it tend to throw in generous dollops of white. Was it a memory in the mind of a director of the older green kit? Information was at a premium in those days, and no-one in my generation was aware that Chester had played in green until 1920. But that was only forty years before 1959, when the colour was reintroduced. Nowadays we’re well aware of Chester’s colours in the 1970s; in fact, next season’s kit is a bow to the 1974 strip. So it could have been a harking back to the past.
Or was it associated with Stan Pearson as manager? It was certainly dropped pretty sharply when he left. He was of course notably associated with Manchester United, and we have become aware in recent years that Newton Heath played in green and yellow. But this is last recorded in 1896 and in seems unlikely that in those pragmatic and non-nostalgic days that Pearson would have been influenced by this.
It wasn’t very popular. There was a feeling amongst the older generation that it was something of an aberration from the traditional colours of blue and white stripes, and even the younger supporters, who hadn’t seen the old strip, felt that it was a somewhat unnatural colour. So the change to the iconic pinstripe in 1962-3 was generally welcomed. If nothing else it was brighter and cleaner.
News travelled slowly in those days. Teams normally playing in predominantly blue colours still absentmindedly turned up with their change strip, which I remember annoyed me as a youngster. I was, for instance, looking forward to seeing Hartlepools United playing in their blue and white stripes and was less than impressed when they trotted out in red. By the time Chester readopted their blue and white in 1962 the penny had dropped that they played in green and we were treated to a succession of teams having to play in Chester’s old green shirts because they had brought only their (by now clashing) first choice colours. Take a bow again, Hartlepools United.
On a personal level, the colours caused me some embarrassment. In 1961 someone gave me a programme of a League Cup tie between West Ham United and Plymouth Argyle in which it was stated that Plymouth were the only team in the Football League to play in green. Ever sensitive to any slight to my beloved Chester, I fired off a somewhat snotty letter pointing out the true state of affairs and was a little ashamed to get a nicely conciliatory letter in reply.
Not a kit whose demise should be regretted. But I’m still fond of it because that was my bonding experience with Chester.
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