At a Town Hall meeting on April 11th 1885 a resolution was passed to create a “Luton Town Football Club”. It came into existence through the amalgamation of Wanderers and Excelsior. The Wanderers, who had changed their name to Luton Town just three months prior to the merger, had catered for the better off whilst Excelsior was in essence a work’s team. In the early matches the new Luton Town FC team selection had to be made with great diplomacy.
Anyway, the club chose Excelsiors’ Dallow Lane ground, or Town Meadow as it was later also called, as its headquarters. The ground lay close to a railway line and if the wind blew in an unfavourable direction the fans would be engulfed with smoke from the frequent trains or would have their straw hats blown from their heads. More about railway lines and hats later.
Dallow Lane became unsuitable with regard to the club’s progress and in 1897 Luton Town moved to the new Dunstable Road ground. In 1904, after a spell in the Football League, form was poor, attendances were down and to add to the misery the club had to vacate Dunstable Road as the land was needed for building purposes. In 1905 work got underway to construct a venue that became known as Kenilworth Road, barely a pitch length away and once again very close to a railway line.
The first Luton Town team kicked off at Dallow Lane in an immaculate strip of navy blue and pink halved shirts and caps, the latter undoubtedly at the instigation of the Wanderers contingent within the club. However, the caps were soon cast aside, and the colours were changed to a splendid cochineal red ensemble before, at the turn of the century, sky blue shirts were en vogue, later smartly updated with a navy blue ‘V’ and matching belt.
The team’s colourful attire was brutally interrupted when white shirts and black shorts were adopted in 1920, coinciding with the club joining the third division of the Football League. However, Luton Town started flirting with a fluorescent orange design in 1973 and the black was replaced by blue. However exciting orange is as a colour for shirts, Luton’s faithful did not really take to it – and so by popular demand back came the white shirts and black shorts (albeit for a while actually navy-blue). Orange was retained in the trim and in change strips.
Luton Town’s official emblem is inspired by the Borough Council’s coat of arms, granted in 1876, and is yet another very colourful affair. The bee on the white cross is the icon of industry and the hive in the top right corner represents in particular the strawplaiting industry for which Luton has become famous, thanks to the excellent supply of wheaten straw, represented by the wheatsheaf in the top left corner. The straw-plaiting industry was brought to Luton by a group of Scots under the protection of Sir Robert Napier of Luton Hoo.
The arms of Napier contain a rose and it is this rose in the bottom left quarter that bears reference to the patron of the strawplaiters, while the thistle next to it denotes the country whence they came. An alternative theory is that the rose was incorporated as a national symbol, and that the thistle was taken to indicate the connection of the borough for a long period with the Marquess of Bute, who formerly owned the Manor of Luton Hoo.
The crest shows a blue-sleeved arm with a white cuff and a hand holding a bunch of ears of wheat. This crest is derived from the arms of John Whethamsteade, Abbott of St. Albans who in the 15th century rebuilt the chancel of St. Mary’s Church in Luton, where his arms, three bunches of ears of wheat may still be seen. In the meantime the crest has been replaced by a hat and Luton Town’s nickname, the Hatters, in favour of the now rarely used ‘Strawplaiters’.
Luton Town’s magnificent badge is a far cry from the horrid design from the turn of the Eighties, displaying the letters LT on a football. It is perhaps fitting that Luton, of all teams, retain a historical badge. Luton were after all the team that pioneered identity cards, banning away fans and plastic pitches. Of the latter it was of course always said “What was the difference between Kenny Dalglish and a Boeing 747? The Boeing stopped whining over Luton.”