So Who Were First To Wear ‘The Horizontal Stripes’ and why The Celtic Wiki got this one wrong

I was always told that the first Celtic team to wear the green and white horizontal stripes (they weren’t called the Hoops until decades later!) was the team that beat Partick Thistle 2-1 on a very wet day on the opening day of the 1903/04 season at Celtic Park. This has not been proved, and there does not seem to be any evidence to indicate that this is the case. The Scottish Referee, by some distance the best newspaper of the era for football and indeed sport in general, talks about Celtic having a “youthy” appearance but makes no mention of any change of strip.

Celtic then played two friendlies at Hamilton and Dunfermline (opening the new East End Park) and another League game at St Mirren without any mention being made of a new strip. But then came a game against Third Lanark on 29 August 1903 at Celtic Park in which ex-Celtic favourite Johnny Campbell was playing for the Thirds, and Celtic, playing poorly lost 1-3.

A propos of this game The Scottish Referee says “The Celts appeared in new jerseys on Saturday – horizontal stripes of green and white, instead of vertical. For some time, the change rather tickled one, but latterly the alteration was appreciated. The players also wore black armlets in memory of Mr Hugh Murphy, who died during the week”.

This quite clearly seems to put the move from vertical to horizontal stripes to 29 August, rather than the traditional date of 15 August. It does not absolutely prove it, of course. It could be that the writer has made a mistake, or it may be that the strips are “new” to him personally, but I don’t think so. I am going for 29 August 1903.

There are two footnotes to this one. One is that on 29 August a few years after 1903, I was born! So I share a birthday with the hoops!

The other is that it may be that Celtic were only the second team in Scotland to wear the hoops! All you Celtic fans who live in Methil, Leven and Buckhaven (and there are loads of you, I know!) pay particular attention to this. On 15 August 1903, East Fife played their first ever game against Hearts Reserves – and they definitely wore green and white hoops on that day! So did Celtic copy East Fife? And even more confusing – Aberdeen FC played their first ever game as well on 15 August 1903 and they wore black and gold, colours that we now associate with East Fife!

So does all this matter? Well yes, if you are a Celtic geek like me, it is absolutely vital to get this right. The first Celtic team to wear the horizontal green and white stripes were as follows:

McArthur, Watson and Battles; Moir, Young and Hay; Muir, Grassam, Bennett, Somers and Quinn.

Pity they got beat 1-3. Willie Grassam who played inside right that day will not go down in history as one of Celtic’s greats, but his last game was the first one in which Celtic wore the hoops! His family should be proud of that.

David Potter

In the headline above we mentioned that the wonderful The Celtic Wiki may have got this one wrong and we should explain why we now think that. David Potter emailed this article over last night and it would have been published then. However while searching for a photograph of the said match against Third Lanark on 29 August 1903 we came across this one on The Celtic Wiki which clearly states that it was taken on 29 August 1903 at the Celtic v Third Lanark game which Celtic lost 3-1 ie the match in which David Potter states was the first that Celtic worn the now famous Hoops, or ‘Horizontal Stripes’ as they were called then.

As you can see this photograph shows Celtic still wearing the Vertical Stripes so for the first time ever we referred an article back to the Celtic Historian to double check his facts! Tin hats out!

We also pointed out that the same kind of team photograph from the following summer, 1904 does indeed show Celtic wearing the Horizontal Stripes, see below, so you can understand out confusion. Either David Potter or The Celtic Wiki had got this one wrong so we asked David to double check.

Here’s David’s response….

I hate to say the Celtic Wiki is wrong because they are an absolute fund of knowledge, but I’m going to disagree with them here for two reasons, one of them being what The Scottish Referee says, and the other that there is not a game going to be played this day, otherwise there would be more people around and also there would be just the 11 players who were to play in the game. (The others would be away with the reserves or farmed out to a junior team).

It is definitely summer 1903 though because Sunny Jim is there having arrived from Bristol Rovers in May. I think it will be the pre-season squad photograph.

It is a brilliant photo – one of the best I have seen of the old pavilion and don’t you just love Maley’s panama hat?

David Potter

If anyone has any further information or anything at all that you would like to add to this debate, please email

About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

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