The history of the crest that features on the tourists' shirts
British & Irish Lions Badge Explained
‘Kissing the badge’ is a phrase used in many sports but the first British Isles tourists did not have the chance to celebrate a try by puckering up to an emblem on their shirt. There wasn’t one.
The current British & Irish Lions badge, in various forms, has been on the jersey since 1938. As you look at the shirt you have the rose of England top left, the thistle of Scotland top right, the shamrock of Ireland bottom left and the three feathers of Wales bottom right.
All the nations are represented on the badge; they have not always been represented on the actual kit but that is another story.
Related: History of British & Irish Lions Shirt
The shirt may be more crowded with sponsors’ logos and manufacturers’ branding than it was, even as recently as 1993, but the four quartered badge has been there since before the Second World War.
It was a sewn-on effort in the past, then the badges were stitched into the garment, with the 2017 one, apparently, being HD quality. As for the 2021 Test jersey, there is a 3D silicon badge.
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The emblem being used for the 2021 series against South Africa has a Lion above the four home nations symbols and the words ‘Since 1888’ under the badge, marking the date of the first unofficial trip to New Zealand and Australia.
The 1888 reference was introduced for the 2017 shirt; prior to that, from the 1993 trip to New Zealand, the badge incorporated the venue and date of the tour. For example, ‘Australia 2013’. In 2017, the date and venue of the tour was referenced on the sleeve of the shirt.
A badge, featuring a single rampant lion design, was first used on the 1910 visit to South Africa, but when the side returned there in 1924, under captain Ronald Cove-Smith, a version of the quartered emblem was on the left breast.
The 1930 tourists had a blue and gold badge, featuring three lions, on their jersey and so did the players on one of the so-called ‘Forgotten Tours’, which took in Argentina, captained by Bernard Gadney and including Alexander Obolensky in 1936.
The four nations emblem was back in 1938, on the last blue shirt used by the Lions, and it has stayed there ever since with the odd tweak and the odd nod to history.
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