The company was founded by Harold Humphreys, along with his brother Wallace in a small workshop in Wilmslow, Cheshire, inspired by the growing interest in football witnessed nationwide. The word "Umbro" is an acronym derived from Humphreys Brothers Clothing. Umbro's kit debut was in the 1934 FA Cup final, when both teams Manchester City and Portsmouth wore uniforms designed and manufactured by the company. Other teams supplied by Umbro during the 1930s and 1940s were Sheffield United and Preston North End, Manchester United and Blackpool.
In 1952, the British team at the Summer Olympics wore Umbro kits, tailored for the needs of their individual sports. Umbro would supply kits for the British Olympics team for the next 20 years.
In 1957 Umbro entered the tennis market, producing sports clothing in collaboration with player Teddy Tinling. This collaboration extended for three decades. After his death, it was also discovered that Tinling had worked as a spy for the British government during the Second World War. Another sportsman who collaborated with Umbro was Manchester United manager Matt Busby, in 1959. That same year the company started to sell its junior boys' kits, a set of shirt, shorts and socks that would allow young players to wear the same look as their footballing idols.
Brazil became the first World Cup champion to wear uniforms by Umbro, in the 1962. Two years later, Manchester United Scottish player Denis Law signed an exclusive agreement with the brand, becoming the first footballer to be sponsored by Umbro. The England national team won its first title in 1966 wearing kits by Umbro (the deal had been signed in 1954). Of the 16 teams that competed, 15 wore kit manufactured by Umbro, the only exception being the USSR. At the same time, 85% of British football teams wore uniforms by the company, including Celtic, the first British team to win a European Cup in 1967.
In 1974 Umbro's founder, Harold Humphreys, died. His sons John and Stuart took over the running of the company. The England national team wore Umbro shirts by choice until 1974, until the Football Association, encouraged by the England manager Don Revie, sold the jersey manufacturing rights to Admiral. In 1982, the FA returned to Umbro as England jersey manufacturers. For example, in 2009 Umbro produced the kit in collaboration with London tailor Charlie Allen (designer).
After more than a decade wearing Admiral kits, the England national team signed with Umbro again in 1984. In 1986 Umbro began to manufacture its own football boots. The company added footballers Alan Shearer and Michael Owen (who was only 14 years old) to its list of sponsored athletes. In 1994 Brazil won its 4th FIFA World Cup title in the United States and club teams AFC Ajax (in 1995) and Manchester United F.C. (in 1999) obtained the UEFA Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup, in Tokyo, all of them wearing Umbro kits.
In 2008 Umbro was bought by American sportswear giant Nike. With the objective of revitalising the brand, Umbro launched the "Tailored by England" lines. As of 4 June 2009, Umbro signed a deal with Manchester City to supply uniforms for the team. Wearing Umbro kits, the City won its first championship in 35 years.
In May 2012, Nike reported that they will be selling Cole Haan and Umbro, in order to focus on their sports brands, including Nike, Converse, Hurley and Jordan. In September 2012, the Football Association announced that future England kits would be manufactured by Nike.
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