They play in red and white striped shirts and dark blue shorts. They are sometimes nicknamed Los Colchoneros from the Spanish for "mattress makers" because of the original material that gave the striped appearance of their shirt. Home stadium is the Vicente Calderón that seats 57,000 spectators.
Originally formed as an affiliate club of Athletic Bilbao in 1903, playing in blue and white, by 1911 the team was playing in its current colours in the Spanish league. In 1921 they became independent of Bilbao and by 1923, the club built its first stadium, the Metropolitano. By the 1939-40 season, the team had changed name to Atlético Aviación and had won their first league title after some years of playing in the Segunda División.
The Vicente Calderón stadium was inaugurated in 1966, named after the then-president of the club. This was an era of great success, just after winning its first European Cup, and with the great pichichi winner, Gárate signing. Probably the sixties and seventies were the two best decades in the club's history so far.
In recent years the club has been in the shadow of Real Madrid, which is painful for a great rival. Despite having won the league in 1995-96, the club was relegated to the Segunda División for the first time in years in the 1999-00 season. More recently (2001-02) the team was promoted back to the Primera as champions.