Since 1877, Saints have had many badges or crests used by the club for different reasons ranging from the most obvious, i.e. the official club badge used on shirts, to administrative logos which mainly had a shorter life span.
Using a club badge on shirts wasn’t always the done thing in football, and it took until the 1940’s some seventy years into the existence of St Mirren before this started to happen on a regular basis, a trend unbroken with the exception of the period 1974 – 1977 when the shirt had no crest.
The only occasions since this when a Saints badge was not present on a shirt was for one match in Europe against Slavia Prague in the old Czechoslovakia in 1985, when the team wore a plain blue Adidas strip with white pin stripes; and on the two occasions when the team has worn an opposition shirt due to a colour clash; firstly in 1960 against Dundee United when they wore the blue of Dundee, and most recently in 2000 when the team ran out in yellow Morton away colours to take on Clydebank.
The current club badge has evolved over the years, and is based on the Paisley Coat of Arms, which in turn came from the seal of Paisley Abbey with St Mirin on the front. This seal was the first known badge used by the club and is present on the very first season tickets issued by the club as early as 1890.
Throughout the next few decades, the town coat of arms replaced the Abbey seal, but by the time the club decided to put the crest on the shirt for the first time in 1944, the badge was slightly different as the town motto and St Mirin figure had been removed.
This crest on the shirt remained the same until 1958 when the club’s shirt suppliers Umbro decided to produce a kit with a white badge on a black background surrounded by a shield, however this was a short term measure and the previous badge returned in 1960 although this time it had a yellow cloth background. The exception to this was in the 1962 Scottish Cup final when Umbro produced a home shirt with colour badge embroidered directly into the white material, with the colours paler than usual giving the crest a unique but fresh look.
To supplement the official badge around this time, another crest was used by the club for administration purposes and appeared on headed note paper for example as well as in the main stand at Love Street in terms of a large sign which has made it’s way to the 1877 club and is above the exit area within the bar.
In 1970, a stick man “Saint” began to appear on the front of the match programme derived from the TV show with the same name, and was used fleetingly for around four seasons before disappearing again as the club had that brief period of having no crest on the shirt.
However in 1977 when the very first sign of commercialism took hold, another version of the classic traditional club badge was used on the kits, similar to that of the 1962 cup final but in splendid full colour, again woven directly onto the material. In addition to the main club badge, another additional one was released after a competition in the local media which was allegedly won by future journalist Bill Leckie, and this had a black and white version of the Saints badge with a player in front in the same style to St Mirin on the town coat of arms.
In 1981, Adidas became official kit manufacturer for the club as the team enjoyed regular success on the park and a new official club badge was released which had a black and white striped shield behind a small white version of the now traditional Saints badge with SMFC emblazoned along the widest part of the exterior.
For many supporters this change was not popular, however it appears this decision was made with the colours of the strip in mind by the manufacturer and it disappeared completely in 1984 when the second and final Adidas kit was launched with a return to the full colour crest, and this badge was then used for the next decade before Lord Lyon intervened in 1996.
Unfortunately for Saints, an ancient Scottish law protects the use of heraldic crests or its parts without permission, and despite using the badge for over half a century, Saints were forced by Lord Lyon (responsible for enforcing heraldic law in Scotland) to remove the “castellation” (brickwork) from their registered crest and five stripes were incorporated into the design to replace this.
The modern and current badge was therefore born in 1996 out of a legal necessity and has been used ever since, and this followed a brief period on the mid 1990’s where the Paisley Pattern ‘Saints Man’ was also used commercially by the club.
It should be noted that this law doesn’t apply in England where clubs are able to register “heraldic devices” as a trade mark for just £150, unlike their Scottish counterparts who are at the whim of public complaint over heraldic use due to this law brought in back in 1592 in a bid to stop ‘commoners’ using a family crest as they were “not worthy”.
In Scotland however, a club requires to apply to the Lyon Court for registration of a crest/badge. The cost to register a basic shield is £2,500, and if the request is successful, you are then provided with your new badge hand painted on calfskin vellum. Lord Lyon will then protect you in the event that anyone else seeks to use it. No animals are killed in England for the exact same service at a fraction of the cost.
If Saints ever wanted to reuse their old badge, the good news is this law can be changed. However it would need to proceed via Westminster and 10,000 signatures would be required as a starting point. Airdrie are the most recent club to attempt to get the required number of signatures for this to happen in 2015, but managed only 1534 additions and the campaign ended unsuccessfully.
The possibility of a return to the traditional badge however is maybe not as difficult as we believed.
The Evolution of Saints Badge
The six ‘Saints Men’ badges displayed are displayed n the top two rows.
Top row L to R.
1. Commercial badge with black background
2. Commercial badge with white background
3. Red Buddies Boys and Girls (BBG)
Second Row, L to R.
4. Saints Business Club
5. Westmarch Catering
6. St Mirren Sport and Leisure Complex
The bottom row displays three other badges used by the club throughout the decades.