The Irish Rubgy Top appeared at Celtic in the mid-eighties. A well-known ginger lad wore it with a Daks scarf whilst a lot of lads and lasses had Benetton. It was quite an anti-suss look as well. Scotland were playing Ireland at Murrayfield when we visited Edinburgh.
Phil Thornton gives us another insight on it from down in the North West.
by Phil Thornton 2020
“Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”
So said proto-fascist ‘war hero’ Sir Winston Churchill. I beg to differ. Rugby (union at least) is a hooligan’s game played by public school boys and bizzies with a sense of entitlement and hatred of the working class.
Rugby doesn’t feature much in the annals of terrace fashion in the same way as say, cricket jumpers were worn – sometimes around the shoulder in a ‘Parkhead Re-visited’ kinda way – so rugby tops enjoyed a very brief moment in the sun around the mid 80s.
Probably inspired by the success of the Benetton rugby shirts, the trend was big and Ireland tops in particular became very popular, although some right wingers wouldn’t wear them and put on the crap England ones.
Let’s rewind to 1985. Everton v Man Utd FA Cup final day. We were travelling south in the back of a transit and got off at Watford Gap to be confronted by coach loads of Evertonians, many wearing Benny rugby tops and Rapid Wien beanie hats from their recent Cup Winners Cup triumph in Rotterdam. We walked through them and remarkably didn’t even get a comment, although behind a coach on the North Circular another coach load began threatening the lad in the front with a machete from the back seat window.
When we got home, we had a big row with some local Evertonians who were woolyback Toffees in the local alehouse. Blue and white Benetton and Green and white were the favourite colour schemes for supporters of all colours, whereas Ireland tops became the trend even for those with no Irish heritage. I vividly remember being in the United Road in 85 or 86 and one Villa lad made his presence felt in J Stand, stood in an Ireland top and staring down in his best hard man manner at those of us taking the piss below. Villa weren’t really known for their fashion sense at this time (if ever!) so it was surprising to see one of them confident enough to place himself in ridicule’s way.
The United Road in those days was a funny place with various individuals being selected for ridicule – a fat Spurs fan in a donkey jacket ‘ There’s only one Eddie Yates’ – the give me a ‘B’ give me a ‘W’ what’ve you got? Bwbwbwbwbwbw!! Lip wibble sound! This Villa lad got tormented all through the game especially when he reacted by trying to offer out the entire terrace.
Maybe only The Farm only ever sported ye old rugger top on stage in the musical world, where terrace fashions and Top Of The Pops were a galaxy away from each other. The trend faded away as quickly as it arrived although there have been a few revivals from time to time – I’ve worn them mid way through the 90s and the past few years, although Patagonia had replaced Paddygonia this time around.
Rugby is still a game played by divvies for divvies and no one from football should have anything to do with it. Having said that, the Italian squad’s top with the big fuck off Kappa logo was belter!