Emblematically speaking - a new series

Wed 26th July 2017 | General
By Stewart Taylor

General FC

The new football season is almost upon us and a number of clubs will have been out there over the summer, sourcing new playing kit.

If we were to say that the club you support described their new playing kit as a shirt of gules and argent paly with sable shorts and gules socks (or stockings as socks were routinely and rather prosaically described in the NWCFL handbook until very recently), would you know what to expect as you queued patiently to purchase a replica kit for your youngest son or daughter prior to the season’s start?

Maybe or maybe not but, to shamelessly borrow a well know phrase or saying, “I know a man who can”.

It’s always handy to “know a man who can” and, in this case, a translation from Norman French is required. Such an individual in the case of the football kit described above is known as a Pursuivant of Arms, and he would readily explain that the kit is red and white vertical stripes with black shorts and red socks.

A Pursuivant of Arms is one of the permanent positions at the College of Arms, and there are just four Pursuivants among the thirteen officers (sometimes known as heralds) of the College. What they do is indicated by the alternative word for officer, in that they are experts in the rather arcane subject of Heraldry.

Amongst a number of related functions, heraldry is the broad term for the design and study of coats of arms. In essence, a coat of arms can be described as an identifying device and coats of arms have been used as such by many organisations for many centuries.

We have to think back here to different times, when the majority of the population did not have reading skills, so a picture becomes the preferred method of identification and communication.

Just how these coats of arms are put together, and how the various elements come together to provide an identity, is a fascinating area of study.

Whilst we might instinctively think about coats of arms associated with towns when we first think of such things, the concept can go much wider than this, and be applied to any organisation.

If we apply the term “organisation” to a football club, then the extension of the idea takes us into “club badges”. That the term “club badges” is in inverted commas rather suggests that there must be more to this than meets the eye, and this would be true.

A coat of arms generally consists of a shield with a crest on top, often with supporters to the sides and a motto below. This description would exclude the use of coat of arms for many football clubs, as the design does not fit this format.

If we have a quick look at how the 45 member clubs of the Hallmark Security Football League represent themselves in graphical form, we see, broadly, three groups.

The first of these is the use of the town coat of arms. Here we see a demonstration of the club representing the town in its purest sense.

We then see modifications of town coat of arms in a way which demonstrates visually that the organisation involved is a football club.

The third group consists of images which have been completely designed by the club, but will still, generally, show some references (in heraldic terms) to the town.

Remarkably enough, it has taken several weeks of consideration over the close season to arrive at a single world description for what we are talking about.

The first idea was “badges” but this was, eventually, rejected. One consideration was “logo” but such a device would normally be a simple design usually incorporating a name.

After some debate, the decision was taken to use the term “emblem” in the sense that something which is emblematic could be said to be representative and, in the end, that’s exactly what we are looking at – a representation in graphical form.

The objective for this coming season is to feature each of our 45 member clubs in turn, and try to use the device of their club emblem to widen our knowledge of various aspects of the history of both the emblem, and the elements which make up the emblem.

The headline title for this series could be the well known saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” and that harks back to the idea that the majority of the population had no reading skills several centuries ago.

But, as many who know me will guess, in this series we get not only the picture, but also the thousand words – well, around 500 – 600 words more like.

Back next week with the first in the series – Emblematically Speaking.

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