'Every day I pulled that black jersey on was a day of … just happiness really.'
Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford, All Black, 1986–90
When a player pulls on the All Black jersey, he also pulls on its proud history. Wearing the uniform of New Zealand’s iconic national rugby team can be a powerful, emotional experience – for fans as well as players.
But sports uniforms are about performance as much as identity and pride. The design of the All Black jersey has changed to keep pace with the game – and players’ changing body shapes. Its essential mana (prestige), however, remains.
The colour black and the silver fern
The colour black and the silver fern motif are emblematic of New Zealand sport. In 1890, the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association was the first sport to wear a black uniform with silver fern. In 1893, a black jersey and silver fern were adopted by the newly established New Zealand Rugby Football Union, and the national rugby team was first called the ‘all blacks’.
Rugby’s dominance in New Zealand since then has ensured that black and silver are essentially our national colours. However, they were never enshrined in law. The name ‘All Blacks’ and a stylised silver fern were finally registered in 1986.