Why is a Rugby Top called a Rugby Top?

Author: Amelia Phillips   Date Posted:29 March 2022 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there is a large proportion of the rugby-wearing population who have never really thought about why the rugby is actually called a rugby. You might call them a Rugby Jersey, a Rugby Jumper, or a Rugby Shirt. At Allingtons, we call them a Rugby Top.

Like many other items of clothing, we see it, we buy it, we love it, and we wear the life out of it. Simple as that. Does where it came from really matter? Probably not.

However, for those of you out there who are curious about the new rugby you have just purchased, read on!

Doing a bit of digging, it turns out that the modern-day rugby top, or shirt, has its origins dating back to the 1800’s. It is in fact, the original style of shirt worn by rugby players in England way back when rugby was only finding its place in the sporting world. Pretty simple stuff, right? That question answered, what do I write about for the rest of my blog?

With thought processes running wild, I did get to thinking about how the actual game of rugby came about in the first place. Let’s face it. If it wasn’t for the game, we wouldn’t have this wardrobe essential! So how and where did the game of Rugby start?

Join me now for a trip back in time, all the way back to 1567. To a small market town called Rugby in Warwickshire, England, where Elizabethan merchant Lawrence Sheriff - grocer to Queen Elizabeth the 1st - founded a Grammar school for boys of the town Rugby and the surrounding areas.

Rugby School Warwickshire EnglandOver the centuries, the school served its purpose as an institution for the boys of Rugby. The students were taught to become strong leaders with a focus not only on academic achievement but also on social standing and power. Physical activity was also seemingly prominent, with the boys participating in the earliest version of what we now know as soccer.

Rugby School | Warwickshire | England - Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/



And so Rugby the ball game was born.

What does this boy's school in England have to do with the game of rugby you ask? Well...fast forward a few hundred years to 1823 when William Webb Ellis, a pupil at the school was partaking in a game of football (soccer). In defiance of the traditional football rules, he picked up the ball and ran! This act became - quite literally - a whole new ball game!

The school saw this intended misdemeanor as an opportunity to develop a new game, which over the following decades, became simply known as “Rugby”.

Rugby was played regularly at the school, and it soon became apparent that there was a need to identify the opposing teams. This is where the good old Rugby top came into play.

The original participants of the ‘Football as played at Rugby School” wore white shirts with trousers and even a bow tie and cap. This quickly led to a seemingly more conventional uniform of white-collared wool jerseys.

Anyone who has worn a wool jumper will tell you how uncomfortably irritating the fabric can be, and how ill-equipped it is to cope with the pulling and stretching endured in physical activity. Subsequently, the ‘uniform’ was reworked with heavy cotton replacing the wool; behold, the long-sleeved, collared, cotton rugby top was born.

As the game of rugby has evolved and technological advances have dominated the manufacturing of modern sporting garments, the good old Rugby jersey of almost 200 years ago is essentially unrecognizable on the field today.

Modern-day rugby jerseys are now slim fitting and made from materials specifically designed for player comfort (no itchy wool tops to be seen) and a competitive edge.

Thankfully for those of us who prefer to wear the rugby in a purely spectatorial sporting sense, the design hasn't changed that much at all.


Over the years, countless brands have had a stab at a rugby range. You can even find them as part of school uniforms. With the original mostly white-collar and quarter button-down front, there is still a strong resemblance to those worn by the very first rugby players way back in the 1800s.

Who wins the Rugby Top branding war?

Which brand out there has the best rugby design? Well, that is really personal opinion. I love the Wrangler range simply for their more form-fitting design. Honestly though, all the brands in the Allingtons range of Rugbys are of great quality and come in so many colours and designs that finding your perfect rugby top is guaranteed to be easier than scoring a 'Try' against the NZ All Blacks!


Check out our full range of Rugbys from the biggest country brands.

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