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Arsenal to play in red and blue stripped shirts with blue shorts?

Arsenal to play in red and blue stripped shirts with blue shorts.

Err?  Really.  Arsenal in red and blue stripped shirts?

Yes, really, that is the story that did the rounds of the local newspapers that concerned themselves with Arsenal affairs towards the end of the 19th century.

The colour of the Arsenal shirt has always been an interesting debating point and was something of an issue at the recent meeting between Arsenal Independent Supporters Association and Tom Fox, the chief commercial officer at Arsenal, held at the Emirates Stadium.

What he failed to mention, but could have, was that at one time Arsenal played in the aforementioned red and blue stripped shirts with blue shorts.  It was in the season 1895-1896 second division Woolwich Arsenal FC played in red and blue stripes with blue shorts.

Indeed the matter was put to him very forcibly in the fourth question of the Q and A session as one AISA member said,

I’ve been an Arsenal fan since 1968 and to me, Arsenal play in red shirts and white sleeves at home and yellow and blue away. How do the club justify blue hoops in the home kit and a purple away shirt?

Tom Fox, an American who has only been at the club a few years, actually showed a greater knowledge of Arsenal shirts than the fan when he replied, “In fairness, the blue part of the home shirt has been there through history. I can’t say I was around at the time, but I looked through images of every single Arsenal home shirt when we were sanctioning the design of the new home shirt and there was a five or six year period where a blue trim appeared on the shirt every year. Our job in marketing is to maximise the revenue so that we can fund our football club against teams with unlimited resources.”

In fact what Tom could also have said was that from 1933 to 1960 Arsenal also played in blue and white socks – and if ever an era is to be marked out as classic Arsenal it must be the 1930s when that was the case.

The trouble with defining club colours is that they always change and can become confusing.  From the earliest of days, Royal Arsenal (the original club) was known colloquially as “The Reds”, even though from the moment they joined the Football League in 1893 the red was very dark and was regularly mixed with blue shorts.

(Incidentally the team in the days before the first world war were never called The Gunners.  It was their fans who were The Gunners, and the team who were The Reds” – which made their choice of shirt colour even more odd).

As for blue, the first blue appeared in 1889 while the club was still playing at the Manor Ground in Plumstead.

Back at the AISA meeting Tom Fox went on to say, “We liaise with our kit supplier and we can’t limit the design scope too much otherwise it’s too difficult to come up with a new design. But we do set some ground rules.

“For the home shirt, we say it has to be a red shirt with white sleeves. But beyond that, the supplier needs scope with the design, also so that they can sell the shirt in China, the U.S. etc. We’ve done a two year home shirt this year and we’re the only club in the world to do that.

“We understand the connection with yellow and blue. It will come back, but other fans of other ages in different parts of the world will want something different. For instance, we’re told the purple and black kit is selling well with younger kids because it goes with current fashion. We need to ask ourselves what the away kit is and allow ourselves to take a few more risks. The simple answer is that we need to sell as many as possible and we would disadvantage ourselves by not changing it. If it’s not sufficiently different to the last shirt, it won’t sell.

“The home shirt will stay more traditional, but with the away shirt we’ll take more risks and it will change. The yellow will reappear from time to time, but we need to do something different. We try to limit the disruption where we can and that applies to the home shirt too.”

The first truly red (rather than maroon) shirt appeared when the club was elected to the first division in 1919, as football resumed after the war.  That kit had white shorts, with blue socks.  The kit gradually got darker until March 1933 (interestingly part way through a season!) when the white sleeves appeared (legend has it, at Herbert Chapman’s insistence, but there is no real record of this).  What is more generally forgotten is that as the white sleeves came in, at the very same moment the socks changed from white with red trim to blue and white!

In another blow to the version of history popularised by our fan from the 1960s, the fact is that between 1965 and 1967 the red sleeves vanished all together and the club played in an all red top.  As for the blue socks, the last time we saw them was in a curious blue and white stripped edition for the 1992/3 season.

I am grateful to JD Sports for their information that helped me put this article together.  Their football shirts site is here: www.jdsports.co.uk/men/mens-clothing/football-shirts/ and their boots site is here: www.jdsports.co.uk/men/mens-footwear/football-boots/

 

 

 

12 comments to Arsenal to play in red and blue stripped shirts with blue shorts?

  • Kingston

    Have a look at the links below for definitive list of kits since inception of the club.

    http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/Arsenal/Arsenal.htm
    http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/Arsenal/Arsenal-change-kits.html

  • WalterBroeckx

    Shirts getting darker in the season??? Wrong soap I would say 😉

    I agree about the home shirt: they can be changed in a minimal way at times but I don’t think that the board would ever allow us to change them to anything else than red with some white in the sleeves.

    I don’t care that much about the away kit to be honest. We only use it when we are forced to change our colours. But people have told me also the new away shirt is very much in line with the fashion. But that is something I don’t know anything about as my daughter would tell you if she would be on here 🙂

  • Andy Kelly

    Except… that the historical kits site isn’t entirely accurate.

    There is no evidence to show that Arsenal played in red and blue stripes in 1895-96, Arsenal played in their home kit in the 1952 FA Cup Final, the “away” kit for the 1953 FA Cup game against Blackpool fails to mention that the game was played at home.

  • nicky

    I suppose all football clubs have to have kit changes every year, because sales to kids and the younger supporter, make money and clubs are now big business rather than purely sporting entities.
    But I wish I could get rid of the feeling that parents are being rooked year after year as their kids demand the latest kits so as to keep up with the trend and their peers.

  • Matt Clarke

    Thanks for the explanations – what Mr Fox says makes the purple easier to accept.

    For me, I never liked yellow in our kit – I am a fan of GOLD and blue.

    And…I always liked the blue ring-striped (yes, it is one ‘p’) socks.

    @Nicky – it’s good to sympathise with those parents, but they should learn to say No! and install some character in their chillies – that’s what I did for mine 😉

  • nicky

    @Matt Clarke,
    Point taken but being oldfashioned and a bit of a dreamer, I would like to think that one day all clubs would have a permanent home and away kit…fullstop.

  • createstrain

    im glad they take this stance, my only wish would be a darker shade of red, with the cannon alone without the shield thing, with a more subtle sponsor if any.

    havent brought a shirt since 2008 but that away number is the best i’ve seen for a while and will definitely be getting one. hope they try to top it next year. i kinda wish they would start from our first ever kit working their way through history modernising each one. im sure thats never been done either.

    and to end i wanna just say afc regarding kits have actually pissed me off big time. why?
    i’ll tell you bloody why…

    they teased us with them asia tour kits but say they wanna make profit?!! heres an idea…release those numbers for sale and watch how they fly off the shelves.

    get to it foxy.

  • @ nicky, 5.44pm

    “But I wish I could get rid of the feeling that parents are being rooked…”

    “fact”, nicky, not “feeling”.

  • FinnGooner

    I understand clubs will to change the look of away shirt to sell them as we’ll as slight changes in home shirt. If they would stay same no-one would buy them every year. Then where old club get that money? Only way for Arsenal to have permanent home and away shirt with no or small sponsor text is having sugar daddy who pays everything (even more than ManC and Chelski get).

    If parents buy new kit for their kids every year because kid demands well maybe it would be time for parents to be that and tell kids you can’t always get what you want or if kid is old enough tell kid to save his/her allowance to pay some of it (40-50%). I buy shirt (for myself) every couple years and I don’t feel ripped off.

  • Ugandan Goon

    @Tony,
    thank you for that little nugget,i especially liked the way, like an emirates hotdog (doesn’t sound right, pork in the gulf),you have wrapped Mr. Fox’s sausage in your historic bun.
    I wonder if there is a recording, even a transcript of the meeting with Mr. Fox, i could take a gawk at?
    I know i am mad, should see someone about it, maybe later.

  • colario

    It made sense in the 30s for the home shirt to have white sleeves. In those days people got their visual news at the cinema. Films were in black and white as was the newsreels of course. When Arsenal were shown it was easy to identify Arsenal to the audience by the newsreel commentator. In mono it is difficult to distinguish between red and blue and other colours. But white is easy to see so the commentator would simply say ‘Arsenal are the team in white sleeves’

    The design has been copied are round the world. A small team that has made it into the Champions League this season is Braga, who play in the Portuguese League. They play in red shirts with white sleeves and white shorts and are known in Portugal as ‘The Arsenalists’

  • @Andy Kelly – I have the Official History of Arsenal 1886-1998 by Martin Tyler and Phil Soar, and early on there is a picture of one of the club’s first internationals, goalkeeper Caesar Llewllyn Jenkins, wearing the red and light-blue stripes (in those days goalkeepers wore the same as outfielders).