Just why are West Bromwich Albion called the Baggies? There are a lot of theories behind this question. Villa fans calling Albion fans Baggies after the baggy trousers the foundry working fans of Albion wore.
Baggy Trousers: A Popular Theory
The baggy shorts worn by the players — if that is correct, then every team in the country would be called the Baggies. Could it be that Albion fans went around local pubs to collect for their hard-up team, who at the time were staring extinction in the face, collecting money in bags.
Tracing the Roots to Early Victorian England
However, to understand the real meaning behind the name “The Baggies,” you have to go back before the team was even formed.
Victorian Society’s Efforts to Change the Town
Victorian England was a much different place than today, morally and ethically. In fact, their whole way of life was different. West Bromwich in early Victorian times was a dirty, drunk-ridden town with nothing to do except work, drink, make children, and knock the wife about.
Introducing New Sports for a Healthy Community
For leisure time, bare-knuckle fighting, dog fighting, cockfighting, and rat-baitting were the local sports. Then along came Victorian middle-class society who thought it would be a good idea to change things a little.
The Victorian thinking was a healthy body promotes a healthy mind, a healthy mind promotes healthy living, and healthy living promotes a grateful workforce who will work better for their employer.
Boom Town and Sporting Clubs
In 1878, at the time when West Bromwich Albion was being formed, there were already a few large companies in West Bromwich. Kenrick and Jefferson printing works had recently opened, Chances Glass with its school for its workers’ children already well-established, George Salter Spring works busy making springs, and the Hudson soap factory, who at the time, were probably the largest employers in the town and in a small way were a reason behind the Baggies nickname.
West Bromwich was becoming a boom town. Five of the country’s top six spring manufacturers had established themselves in the town, and West Bromwich started to clean up its act.
Anti-Drink Campaign and Organizing Clubs
The Rechabites, anti-drink campaigners of the time, even moved to an office opposite the Wine Stores in Sandwell Road in an effort to stop people from drinking.
To promote the Victorian ideals even further, each of the firms and local churches started to organize clubs for its workers: cricket, bowls, band practice — anything to stop the workers from going to the pub and get them active. Cricket became the popular sport. This was ok during the summer months, but what about the winter? No one had got a sport to play from September to April.
Emergence of Football and West Bromwich Strollers
Around this time, a new sport, although it had been around for some time, had been given a face-lift. Proper rules were drawn up, and football was born. It was catching on quickly as the ideal sport to keep the workforce from the demon drink in the long autumn and winter months.
Workers at Hudson’s soap factory quickly formed a team, as did other works and church organizations. George Salter’s workers formed their team, West Bromwich Strollers. The word “strollers” was a Victorian word coming from the fact that they had nowhere to play as a fixed ground, and they strolled around looking for a suitable playing area.
Sponsorship and the Adoption of Blue and White Stripes
Bloxwich Strollers and other teams in the local areas were already formed; Wednesbury had a few teams, and West Bromwich itself boasted seven teams — all bigger and better than West Bromwich Strollers, but that’s another story.
Victorians were also interested in new media advertising, with the advent of the railways. Movement of goods around the country was getting better, and goods could be shipped out to a wider audience. Hudson’s was one of the companies at the forefront of advertising and, as such, had contacts all over the country.
Robert Spear Hudson and Football Interest
Robert Spear Hudson, the owner of Hudson’s Soap, was a great friend of the owners of Reckitts soap in Hull. Robert Reckitt often advertised their products on stagecoaches from Hull to Liverpool and Hull to Birmingham.
On his visits to West Bromwich to meet with Hudson’s, Reckitt became interested in football, and in particular, West Bromwich Albion, who had now become one of the bigger teams in the area.
Financial Difficulties and the Adoption of Blue and White Stripes
Sponsorship had not been thought of; however, many of the newly formed teams chose the colors of the founding churches or works’ colors. Albion still did not have a regular strip; they had used six different colors from 1878 – 1883. Around 1885, funds had dried up, and collections began taking place around the town to try and keep the club afloat — even Aston Villa chipped in with a small loan!
The Birth of “The Baggies”
Reckitts were now advertising all over the country as the leaders in Blue soap, which washed clothes whiter! It may have been suggested as part of a sponsorship deal to help Albion out of financial difficulties, promoting Reckitts blue bag, that Albion adopted the wearing of Blue and White stripes, signifying the Blue and White stripes of the Reckitts Blue bags.
Thereby not breaking any rules in the amateur sport for payment or a financial inducement. The new strip was then open for a bit of banter from the local rivals Villa and Wolves. A bit like Wolves call Albion Tesco Bags today, to shout “here’s the Baggies!” However, it was quickly picked up by the Albion faithful as Baggies. Just another theory but more plausible than Baggy trousers.
Article by John Nicholls
The nickname “The Baggies” traces its roots to the club’s history in the late 19th century, as players wore baggy shorts in their early years. One theory suggests that Villa fans used to call Albion fans “Baggies” due to the baggy trousers worn by the foundry working supporters of the club.
Another theory speculates that Albion fans went around local pubs collecting money in bags to support their financially struggling team, facing extinction at that time. However, this is just one of many conjectures.
West Bromwich was historically known for its booming bagging industry, which could have influenced the nickname. However, concrete evidence linking the nickname to the bagging industry remains scarce.
The nickname’s roots can be traced back to Victorian times when West Bromwich was transforming into a boom town with various large companies, including the Hudson soap factory. Robert Reckitt, the owner of Reckitts soap in Hull, was a friend of the Hudson’s owner and developed an interest in football and West Bromwich Albion.
Reckitts soap was widely advertised as the leader in blue soap, and it is suggested that Albion adopted the blue and white stripes as a nod to the Reckitts blue bags. This potential sponsorship deal might have contributed to the emergence of the nickname “The Baggies”.
Regardless of its origin, the nickname “The Baggies” was quickly embraced by Albion faithful, becoming a symbol of pride and identity for the club. Over time, it became an endearing term, synonymous with the rich history and enduring spirit of West Bromwich Albion.
Yes, “The Baggies” is a specific nickname unique to West Brom, distinguishing them from other football clubs.
Yes, the club proudly incorporates “The Baggies” in their branding, including merchandise, social media, and communication with fans.
While “The Baggies” has remained the primary nickname, variations such as “The Throstles” have been used in reference to the club’s crest featuring a throstle, a type of songbird.
While not an official ritual, fans often affectionately chant “Come on you Baggies!” during matches, showcasing their strong association with the club’s unique nickname.
The nickname not only reflects the early players’ baggy shorts but also symbolizes the rich heritage and sense of identity that West Bromwich Albion carries throughout its long history.