Elected to Division Two 1897. Resigned 1900
Founder members of Division Three 1920. Relegated to The Conference 2009.
Promoted to Sky Bet League Two 2014.
1885 a m
1892-1896 b l m
1897-1898 l m
1899-1901 b l
1901-1906 b l
1907-1910 b t l
1910-1915 b l
1920-circa 1932 b l
1935-1936 f l t
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late 1963-1964 j l
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2005-2007 i t
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2010 Special i l
At a meeting at Luton Town Hall on April 11 1885 it was resolved to merge The Wanderers (a local side and not the FA Cup Winners based in Battersea) with Excelsior FC and the new outfit would be called Luton Town FC. Their first playing kit would be "navy blue and pink for both shirts and caps." There are no records about how these colours were arranged but it is generally accepted that the shirts were halved.
A little later they adopted "cochineal red" jerseys and photographs reveal that a curious eight-pointed star adorned these shirts from 1892. These were replaced by unique shirts with white, black and dark red stripes in 1896. The team are wearing these striped tops in a photograph taken prior to the 1898-99 season (above) but the Bedford Advertiser (Friday September 16th 1898) reported, "Luton are expected to wear their new shirts on Monday: the design is a pretty one of black and white and white knickers, Notts County offering closest resemblance." Their match report the following Monday confirms, "The new black and white striped shirts gave a business like appearance."
In 1890 Luton became the first southern club to adopt professionalism. Four years later, in 1894, Luton, became founder members of the Southern League and in 1896 rather splendid irregularly striped shirts were adopted. These were adorned with a crest comprising the club's initials intertwined. (A similar design appeared in 1899.)
In 1897 Luton were elected to the Second Division of the Football League at the expense of Burton Wanderers. At the time the majority of members were in the north and midlands and Luton struggled to meet their travel costs so after only three seasons, having finished in 17th place, rather than face re-election they resigned and rejoined the Southern League.
In 1901 Luton adopted light blue, navy and white as their colours.
In 1920 Luton rejoined the Football League when the Southern League First Division was incorporated as Division Three. At the time their first choice of colours was still light blue with a change kit of black and white stripes. A directive from the Football League required teams to travel with a set of white shirts in addition so, rather than carry the costs of having three sets of kit, Luton adopted plain white shirts as their first choice.
Luton was famous for producing straw boaters, giving rise to the club's nickname of "The Hatters" (originally, the "Straw Plaiters"). This inspired the new crest, introduced in 1933: this was modified for the rather unusual shirts worn in 1935-36 and a third version appeared between 1936 and 1947. After finishing as runners-up in 1936 Luton won the championship of Division Three (South) in 1937. (The graphics here are mock-ups as original images have yet to be found).
After the Second World War the Hatter crest was retired and instead the club adopted a simplified version of the Luton coat of arms although this did not appear on the team's shirts until the 1959 FA Cup final. Luton consolidated in Division Two and thanks to a progressive youth policy, built a side that pushed for promotion in 1953 and 1954 before a tight race in 1955 saw them finish as runners-up for a place in Division One. Having finished eighth in 1958, Luton reached the FA Cup final in 1959 where they lost to a Nottingham Forest side reduced to ten men.
The decline that followed was dramatic and saw Luton plunge all the way down to the Fourth Division by 1965.
Faced with an indifferent public and with no money to invest in new players, the future seemed bleak but their canny manager, Allan Brown, used free transfers to bolster the team and in 1968 they won the Fourth Division title and began a long climb back to the top. New money was brought in when Reggie Burr and Tony Hunt, owners of the giant insurance company Vehicle & General joined the board. Brown was controversially sacked after applying for another management job and was replaced by Alec Stock who guided the club back to Division Two in 1970. The Luton coat of arms made a brief appearance in the 1970-71 season.
The money dried up when Vehicle & General collapsed in March 1970 and suddenly the club was forced to sell players to balance the books. Among those released was Malcolm MacDonald, sold for what was then the huge sum of £180,000 to Newcastle. Stock resigned at the end of the season but despite all these misfortunes, Luton won promotion to Division One in 1974, having made a radical change of strip to orange shirts and navy shorts. A modern crest was designed in 1973 but did not appear on the pitch until the following season. Over time the shirts would return to be predominantly white but the orange motif remains.
Many considered that promotion had come too quickly and that the club lacked the resources to remain at the top. They were proved right and the Hatters were relegated the following season. In 1978 David Pleat, the reserve team coach, was appointed manager and he set about building an attacking side that, in 1982 won the Second Division title with considerable flair. Goals flew in at both ends as Luton took on the First Division and only a last minute winner at Manchester City in the final game of the 1982-83 season saved them from relegation. The pictures of an ecstatic Pleat skipping around Maine Road in his naff suit remain one of the enduring images of the period.
Over the next few years, Luton consolidated and were among the first clubs to install an artificial playing surface in 1985. These proved unpopular and grass was restored to Kenilworth Road in 1991. Also controversial was the decision to ban away supporters from Luton’s home matches. Amid considerable acrimony, Pleat left in 1986 to manage Spurs. His replacement, John Moore, who had played for Luton in the Fourth Division, took the team to seventh place in 1987, their highest ever position, but he resigned at the end of the season because he disliked holding such a high profile job.
The traditional crest was reinstated in 1987 embellished with the club's name in full.
In April 1988, after the team had been beaten in the FA Cup semi-final, an army of supporters made the short trip to Wembley to witness a dramatic Littlewood’s League Cup final against Arsenal. Having trailed 1-2, the Luton keeper saved a penalty and the team stormed back to win 3-2. Luton had won their first major trophy. They reached the final again the following season but their run of success was coming to an end and in 1992 they were relegated.
In 1994 the crest was redesigned and became known as "the rainbow badge" for obvious reasons. A straw hat replaced the extended arm at the top of the shield and the traditional nickname was added.
In 1999 the club returned to their traditional white shirts and black shorts (albeit with orange trim) but was once again in long term decline and by 2001 they had dropped all the way down to Nationwide Division Three (the old Fourth Division). Remarkably, history appeared to be repeating itself as the Hatters clambered their way back up and in 2005 they had reached The Championship (originally Division Two).
To mark this achievement a simplified crest was introduced with black rather than navy lettering.
Unfortunately, Luton went into free fall and in 2008 they were relegated to League Two, the lowest level of the Football League, going into administration that spring. The club's difficulties were compounded during the close season: they were penalised 20 points for failing to reach a CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement) with their creditors as required by Football League regulations. A further ten points were deducted when they were found guilty by the FA of breaking the rules on payments to players' agents. Because of the uncertainty over their future, they did not negotiate a kit deal until August and started the season wearing retro shirts commemorating their 1988 Littlewood's Cup win.
A poll of supporters led to a return to the white, navy and orange colour palette associated with happier times and the crest was slightly modified with the addition of the year of the club's formation. The team were unable to overcome the severe disadvantage of a 30 point penalty.
Inevitably the Hatters were relegated to the Conference in 2009 but supporters took consolation from a victorious trip to Wembley to win the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. The debacle raised serious questions over the Football League's policy of penalising clubs for breaching financial rules when those responsible for the infractions had already left (taking considerable profits with them), leaving the new board and the supporters to suffer the consequences.
To mark what supporters and management alike hope would be a fresh start, Luton switched to orange shirts and white shorts for their first season in the Blue Square Conference while white shirts and navy shorts were retained as a change strip.
To mark their 125th anniversary, the club commissioned a special edition kit based on their original colours: this was worn three times, against Great Marlow in July 2010 in a replay of their first ever match, against Altrincham in the opening match of the season and against Bath City at the end of October. The shirts featured a special commemorative badge consisting of the town's coat of arms rendered in full for the first time.
The retro theme was maintained in 2011 with the re-creation of Luton's iconic late-Seventies outfit.
After an absence of five seasons, Luton won the Conference and returned to the Football League. Supporters were canvassed on the colours to be worn in the 2014-15 season and the decision was to stick with orange, navy and white.
- (a) Luton Town Fan Site
- (b) Brian Ellis
- (c) Football Focus
- (d) Doncaster Rovers FC - Images of Sport (Peter Tuffrey)
- (e) Classic Kits
- (f) empics
- (g) Bristol Rovers FC - Images of Sport (Mike Jay)
- (h) Football Cards
- (i) Luton Town Official Website
- (j) Sporting Heroes
- (k) Will Kelly
- (l) Simon Monks (HFK Research Associate)
- (m) The Luton Town Story 1985 - information provided by Simon Monks
- (n) David King
- (o) Simon Darnell
- (p) Football League Review provided by Simon Monks
- (q) Football Shirt Culture
- (r) Alick Milne
- (s) Christopher Worrall
- (t) Mark Hughesdon
- (u) Tim Davis
- (v) Keith Ellis (HFK Research Associate)
- (w) Shane Malia
Modern crests are the property of Luton Town FC.