Crest and color are as much a part of a football team’s visual identity as its stadium and players. Admittedly, of these three the players get the most attention, but it can be helpful to begin to understand the history of our favorite team’s crest and colors, as they’ve not been constant through the years and decades.
Many new Chelsea supporters are unaware that Chelsea’s current crest is not its first. In fact, Chelsea has had four crests throughout the years, each of which was adjusted in various ways. In this way, the Chelsea football crest has undergone constant evolution since its original development.
The first crest bore the visage of a Chelsea pensioner. Pensioners were army vets who lived near the club at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. This is why one of the early nicknames the team was “pensioner”, though many fans forgot its origin even as they continued to use the moniker over the next five decades. The “Pensioner” moniker was never formalized, nor did it appear on any team shirts.
The pensioner crest was thought to be old-fashioned in the early 50’s during Ted Drake’s time at the help. It was scrapped and replaced with the letters C.F.C. while another crest was developed.
The next year, 1951, Chelsea’s new crest was revealed to be the iconic blue lion, looking behind and holding a staff. This image drew inspiration from the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea’s coat of arms. It featured rodes and footballs and was to start appearing on shirts in the first years of the 60’s decade.
This crest too wore out its novelty, and in 1986 a new lion above C.F.C. initials was introduced (also in part because the first lion could not be trademarked). The new, more lifelike lion was in place for 19 years, but it did get a few touch-ups along the way (red, yellow, and white in different quantities at different times).
When Roman Abramovich bought the club, there was a largely fan-led push to go back to the original logo with the lion and the staff. This change was officially made in 2005, making this the second time the old logo was used, the first time from 1953 through 1986. When the club turned 100 in the 2005-2006 season, this was celebrated with the logo on shirts.
As you can see, the Chelsea Football Club’s crest has been far from consistent over the years, though it has been centred around important images, some of which have remained completely recognisable across the decades.
There are sure to be further changes in the Chelsea crest as the years continue to slip by, but it’s very likely that a crest informed by the team’s rich history will prevail in future design choices.