At UKRugbyStore, we understand the excitement of gearing up for rugby. Wondering what to wear to rugby training, or what to wear to a rugby match? Look no further! Sometimes it helps to look at rugby uniforms history before deciding on what you'll wear. 

Styling a rugby jersey has come a long way since it became a popular wardrobe staple many decades ago, and knowing your history can help you find which jerseys best complement your style.

Our article delves into the rich history of rugby uniforms, tracing their origins from the early gentlemanly attire to the modern athletic designs seen on the field today.

We'll walk you through the transformations in fabric, style, and functionality that have shaped rugby jerseys into the beloved garments they are today.

From the introduction of vibrant colours and contrasting collars to the incorporation of technical fabrics for performance enhancement, we'll explore the intriguing milestones in the evolution of rugby apparel.

Whether you're a seasoned rugby fan or new to the sport, our exploration of rugby uniforms history promises to be an enlightening and enjoyable read, offering insights into the heritage and innovation behind these iconic garments.

What this article covers:

The History of the Rugby Shirt

At UKRugbyStore, we take pride in delving into the fascinating history of rugby shirts, tracing back to the early 19th century.

The inception of rugby shirts finds its roots at the Rugby School in England, where the prestigious School House team became the pioneers in 1839, adorning themselves with distinctive red velvet caps complemented by gold tassels during their matches.

These early uniforms, marked by their gentlemanly appearance, gradually evolved to accommodate the athleticism inherent in rugby. While cotton initially dominated as the fabric of choice, the pragmatic demands of the sport led to the adoption of synthetic materials, prized for their durability and performance.

This historical evolution reflects the enduring legacy and adaptability of rugby shirts, embodying the spirit and tradition of the sport through generations.

And it's hardly a novel concept to include a rugby jersey in your wardrobe either. In fact, according to Good Housekeeping, it's been a staple of casualwear since the 1950s.

How to Find the Perfect Rugby Shirt

The perfect rugby shirt combines authenticity, comfort, and durability, reflecting the spirit and heritage of the sport.

It's important that you consider the history of these uniforms when making your choice because a thorough analysis will help you tailor the way you incorporate rugby shirts into your wardrobe.

A true rugby shirt isn't just a piece of apparel; it's a symbol of passion, a memento of fierce battles on the field, and a badge of honour for fans and players alike.

It's impossible to know which rugby shirts are perfect for you without reviewing as many styles throughout history as you can.

Let's take a look at some of things that should go into your decision.

best rugby uniforms history

Authenticity Is Key

At UKRugbyStore, we understand that authenticity is paramount when choosing a rugby shirt. That's why we ensure our shirts reflect the true essence of rugby – from the design and fabric to the iconic features like rubber buttons and a contrasting collar.

While it's often lighter on your wallet to grab unofficial merchandise, it also displays a lack of fervour for the game. To become a part of any culture, you must immerse yourself in it. Buying authentic rugby shirts is a good place to start.

Whether you're attending a match or just expressing your love for the game, our rugby shirts stand out as symbols of genuine rugby culture.

Materials Matter

The choice of material significantly affects a rugby shirt's look, feel, and longevity.

While traditionalists prefer heavy gauge cotton for its classic texture and nostalgic value, modern rugby enthusiasts may lean towards synthetic fabrics designed for enhanced performance and durability on the field.

It's not a coincidence that so many classic jerseys have stood the test of time. An authentic retro jersey is made from excellent, durable materials, and you should be confident about storing it as an heirloom.

We cater to both preferences, offering a range of shirts from classic rugby jerseys that celebrate the sport's rich history, to contemporary designs made with cutting-edge materials for maximum comfort and endurance.

Why UKRugbyStore Shirts Stand Out

Our rugby shirts are crafted with the enthusiast in mind, balancing traditional aesthetics with modern functionality. We provide the best of both worlds:

  1. Retro collection: For lovers of the game's history and tradition, our retro rugby shirts offer timeless designs that hark back to the golden ages of rugby.

    These classic shirts are made with high-quality fabrics and feature the distinct, bold patterns of past eras, perfect for those who want to showcase their enduring love for the sport.
  2. Contemporary designs: Understanding the needs of modern players and fans, our collection of contemporary rugby shirts blends style with functionality.

    Made from advanced synthetic fabrics, these shirts are designed to keep you comfortable and performing at your best, whether you're on the field or cheering from the stands.

Express Your Passion With UKRugbyStore

At UKRugbyStore, we believe that a rugby shirt is more than just sportswear; it's a piece of the game's soul. That's why we are committed to providing shirts that meet the highest standards of quality, authenticity, and style.

Whether you're a seasoned player, a devoted fan, or a collector of rugby memorabilia, our shirts are designed to help you express your passion and love for the game in the most genuine way possible.

rugby shirts uk

History of Numbers on Rugby Jerseys

Numbers on rugby jerseys are crucial for identifying players during a match.

This system started around the mid-20th century and was formalised to help fans, referees, and commentators quickly distinguish between individual players.

It aids in streamlining team organisation and improving the spectator experience by allowing onlookers to easily follow the game's progress and understand each player's position and role.

The Evolution Of Jersey Numbering

Originally, rugby teams didn't wear numbered jerseys, which led to confusion on the pitch. The introduction of numbers was a significant change, making it easier to identify players and their positions.

In international rugby, numbering follows a specific system from 1 to 15, starting with the front row positions and moving back to the fullback. This system enhances clarity and communication on the field and is now a standard practice in rugby leagues and unions worldwide.

Numbering Systems Across Different Leagues

While the standard 1-15 numbering is widely accepted, some leagues and countries have their variations.

For example, in South Africa, the blindside flanker wears 7 while the openside flanker wears 6, which is opposite to the tradition in other countries.

These differences are historical and cultural, offering a unique twist to the universal rugby language.

The Correlation Between Numbers And Rugby Positions

Here's how the numbers typically correspond to positions in rugby:

  1. Loosehead Prop: Front row player, part of the scrum's core strength.
  2. Hooker: Central figure in the scrum, responsible for winning the ball, and usually for throwing in lineouts.
  3. Tighthead Prop: Counterpart to the loosehead, completes the front row.
  4. Second Row/Lock: Tall, powerful players, providing push in the scrum.
  5. Second Row/Lock: Works with the other lock to secure lineouts and support rucks.
  6. Blindside Flanker: Combines strength and speed, often larger than the openside.
  7. Openside Flanker: Focuses on ball retrieval and is typically quicker than the blindside.
  8. Number Eight: Provides link between forwards and backs, controls ball at the back of the scrum.
  9. Scrum-Half: Distributes the ball from the base of the scrum, rucks, and mauls.
  10. Fly-Half: Directs the game, deciding when to pass, kick, and make strategic plays.
  11. Left Wing: Speedy, evasive player, tasked with finishing plays and scoring tries.
  12. Inside Centre: Combines strength and strategy, creating space and defensive breaks.
  13. Outside Centre: Often a key attacker with the speed and agility to break defences.
  14. Right Wing: Mirrors the left wing, utilising speed to exploit and create scoring opportunities.
  15. Fullback: Last line of defence, adept at catching high balls and counterattacking.

By understanding these numbers and their associated positions, fans can gain deeper insights into the game and appreciate the strategic elements that define rugby.

Plus, it makes it so much easier to wear your favourite player's jersey!

classic rugby shirts

Why It's Not a "Rugby Polo"

There's often some confusion when it comes to deciphering the differences between rugby shirts and polo shirts, and that comes from the historical style of rugby shirts.

For a long time, traditional rugby shirts resembled polo shirts in appearance, but their differences are significant. Here's why a rugby shirt is in a league of its own:

  1. Sturdy construction: Rugby shirts boast reinforced stitching and robust fabric, making them durable enough to endure the physical demands of the game.

    Unlike polo shirts, which prioritise comfort over resilience, rugby shirts are built to last through tackles, scrums, and all the action on the pitch.
  2. Thicker collar: The collar of a rugby shirt is notably thicker than that of a polo shirt. This design feature serves a functional purpose, providing extra protection and support during matches.

    Polo shirts, on the other hand, typically feature a softer collar for a more relaxed look and feel.
  3. Tailored for performance: Rugby shirts are tailored with the rigours of the game in mind. Their design prioritises freedom of movement and breathability, allowing players to perform at their best on the field.

    While polo shirts offer versatility and style, they lack the specialised features required for athletic performance.
  4. Authentic heritage: Embracing the rugby shirt means celebrating its rich heritage and cultural significance. From its origins on the rugby pitch to its iconic design, the rugby shirt embodies the spirit of the game and its devoted community of players and fans.

    Wear it with pride and honour its legacy both on and off the field.

So, while rugby shirts and polo shirts may share some visual similarities, their distinct features and purposes set them apart.

As purveyors of rugby culture, UKRugbyStore encourages you to embrace the authenticity of the rugby shirt and showcase your passion for the sport in style.

How to Style Your Vintage Rugby Jersey

If you're a rugby purist or just an admirer of their timeless elegance, transforming your vintage rugby jersey into a fashion statement is easier than you think.

Let's dive into some stylish tips to rock your retro piece.

Elevate Your Casual Look

When aiming for a relaxed yet chic appearance, opt for pairing your vintage rugby jersey with casual trousers or jeans.

According to GQ Magazine, this combination exudes an effortlessly cool vibe, perfect for various occasions. Be sure to choose trousers or jeans that complement the colours of your jersey for a cohesive look.

Dress Up With Tailored Pieces

For a more refined ensemble, consider dressing up your vintage rugby jersey with tailored shorts and loafers. This smart-casual look adds a touch of sophistication while retaining the jersey's nostalgic charm. 

Pairing it with loafers elevates the outfit, creating a stylish contrast between sporty and elegant elements.

vintage rugby shirts


After delving into the world of vintage rugby jerseys and exploring various styling options, it's clear that these classic pieces are more than just sportswear—they're a statement of style and heritage.

By incorporating retro rugby jerseys into our wardrobe, we not only pay homage to the rich history of the game but also showcase our individuality and love for rugby culture. So, why wait?

Let's inject some vintage flair into our outfits and elevate our fashion game with authentic rugby apparel. Whether you're heading to the pitch or strolling through town, let your style speak volumes about your passion for rugby.

Visit UKRugbyStore now to discover the perfect vintage rugby jersey to add to your collection and stand out from the crowd.

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March 13, 2024 — Alex Taylor