In the early 80s, Rangers were in something of a rut.
Having gone without a league title for almost 10 years, the blue side of Glasgow were in need of a change, and in April 1986 the arrival of Graeme Souness was the first piece of the puzzle.
Souness, arriving as a player-manager (remember those?), helped kick start a radical new strategy for the club. Prior to 1986 most of the top Scottish sides would sell their best players to English clubs but Souness flipped the script, signing the best English players instead. The likes of Trevor Francis, Terry Butcher and Ray Wilkins would all arrive in the coming months, and the “Souness Revolution” would change the fortunes of Rangers for the next decade.
From a shirt perspective, the late 80s also brought with it some major changes. Rangers shirt sponsor in the mid 80s was CR Smith, the same company who sponsored rivals Celtic at the time. Following a long-awaited league title triumph in 1986, the new 1987 Rangers home shirt broke free of the Old Firm similarities with a new sponsor: McEwan’s Lager. It would be the start of one of the most iconic team x sponsor combinations in world football.
Though there wasn’t an immediate repeat of league success in 87/88, the new McEwan’s Lager-sponsored shirt would be retained for the 1988 and 1989 seasons, with Rangers finishing top on both occasions. The team would go on to win 9 leagues in a row, and McEwan’s Lager would be there every step of the way.
Pound for pound, the 1987-1990 Rangers home shirt is ever bit deserving of the success it would be attached to. Umbro’s typical brilliance was on full display, with an all-over subliminal check pattern being the star of the show. The look is so good that I’d love to see the club using the theme more often than they have, and though there have been a couple of tributes to the checks (most notably a great nod in 2009/10, also from Umbro) it should be a regular feature in my opinion.
The other standout feature of the ‘87 shirt is the grandad collar. Though not one to my personal taste, I can’t deny it’s impact on the kit here, especially with the elegant white and red trim that adds a flash of something different to the mostly blue getup. A further word on McEwan’s Lager also. The simplicity of the company’s logo made it the perfect addition to the Rangers ensemble, and the added novelty of a food and drinks brand only helped.
There are many great 80s and 90s Rangers shirts (including more than a few quality adidas Equipment creations) but the 1987 design, the first of the McEwan’s era, is without a doubt one of the best.
What makes a football shirt good? It’s a purely subjective question, right?
Whilst there are indeed a lot of subjective elements when it comes to shirts, there are still factors to consider. Sometimes, a design is notable for its unique aesthetic. The colourway, pattern or construction may have gone where no shirt dared to go before it, or it might simply be a particularly good utilisation of a classic approach. Other times, a legendary player elevates a design to immortality, even if the design in question would’ve been hard to pick out of a crowd before.
Our series FSC Approved will be a lovingly curated list of shirts that deserve to be in the conversation as good, possibly even great football shirts, no matter who you support or what your taste in shirts is. Old classics, new contenders, if it’s FSC Approved it’s as close to a certified banger as you can get.
This Rangers shirt is just like some of the vintage shirts we have in store right now. You can browse them all here.