Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shirt Legend: Arsenal (home)


It's time now for our fourth Shirt Legend which focuses on Arsenal's home shirts since 1969.

For those of you unfamiliar with what this is all about, we simply show you pictures of all the shirts worn by a particular team over the last forty or so years and ask you to vote for the one you like best. You can also leave us your comments and thoughts too, and we strongly urge you to do so.

So let's take a look at Arsenal's home shirts since the end of the Sixties, starting with Shirt A - a shirt which The Gunners wore right through the Seventies and right up until 1982, remarkably. Even though seemingly every other British club were snapping up shiny pinstriped offerings by the start of the Eighties, Arsenal were reluctant to part company with their simple round-necked shirt which was only altered latterly by a sponsor name (JVC) and Umbro's diamond logo.

By 1982, however, the need to sell football merchandise to the general public proved too strong for the traditional Gunners and a replacement was made (Shirt B) which looked altogether more up-to-date. With a silkier fabric, a smart red v-neck collar and a touch of navy blue piping across the shoulders, Arsenal finally looked the part in their more modern-looking attire.

Shirt C came along in 1984 and looked like a more modern interpretation of Shirt A. With a new white stylised collar and some white piping across the shoulders, there was also the addition of subtle white pinstripes for those with a keen eye for detail. Shirt D saw Adidas taking over from Umbro as new kit supplier in 1986 and with it came a change back to a v-neck collar along with the obligatory three stripes down the sleeves.

Two years later, Adidas extended the white sleeves to go all the way across the shoulders on Shirt E, while Shirt F changed the collar back again to the round format in 1990.

By the time 1992 came around, Adidas were ready to switch to a full-scale redesign rather than making minor tweaks hither and yon. The result, Shirt G, featured bold white sleeves with thick red and navy blue markings plus a broad v-neck collar to boot.

There was another change of manufacturer in 1994 when Arsenal called upon the services of Nike. Their first design for the North London club (Shirt H) was a little controversial in that the traditional white sleeves were reduced to little more than white panels taking up the top half of the arm area. Less controversially, the shirt also featured the introduction of a small 'flappy' collar plus a restyled club badge.

Shirt I from 1996 saw a return to the full white sleeves that everyone associates with Arsenal along with a simple if rather odd looking collar. There was also a shadow pattern featuring The Gunners' badge from the 1930's woven into the chest area (not that you'll be able to see it from our picture).

Moving onto 1998's Shirt J, Nike decided to add white sides to the white sleeves in creating a design which was slightly Ajax-esque, visually speaking. Navy blue lines were used to add further styling to the shirt which some Arsenal traditionalists may not have favoured too much but which looked very smart all the same.

Come 2000, there was a slight reworking of the 'navy blue line' motif on Shirt K. Now it appeared across the shoulders and down the sleeves while the white side panels were taken out altogether. With an all-red collar and new sponsor name (JVC replaced by Dreamcast after 18 long years), the shirt retained much of its predecessor's familiar styling.

Two years on and Shirt L appeared with a pared down design devoid of any navy blue decoration. With prominent white sleeves, a return to the old-fashioned round neck collar, a new club badge and another new sponsor (O2), there was much to differentiate it from the shirts worn since 1998.

For one season only in 2004-05, Shirt M was worn as a more sophisticated version of Shirt L. Here, the three-quarter white sleeves met the body of the shirt with a curvy flourish and yellow piping was used for the first time to add interest to the chest area. As a final touch, the badge appeared in the middle of the shirt for the first time, rather than on the right.

The reason Shirt M only appeared for one season was because Arsenal wanted to commemorate their final season at Highbury in 2005-06. To do so, Nike modelled Shirt N using the same colour worn by Arsenal in their first season at Highbury in 1913 - not red, but redcurrant.

The styling was simple but very appealing, although it no doubt polarised many Gunners fans on the 'white sleeves' issue. For those who disliked this special one-colour one-off, there was always the thought that this wouldn't be a permanent change to the sacred Arsenal shirt.

In 2006, Nike returned to old values with a reminder of what we'd missed during the brief redcurrant hiatus. Back came a straightforward 'red with white sleeves' design (Shirt O) but this time featuring a gold stripe down either side of the body flanking the new 'Fly Emirates' sponsor name.

Then finally, we arrive at 2008 with Shirt P which proves conclusively that there's always a designer somewhere that can't help tinkering with those traditional white sleeves. This time, Nike opted for a broad white stripe bordered by thinner redcurrant ones along the shoulders and arms, not to mention the sides of the shirt too.

A simple plain v-neck collar was the finishing touch to another sleek, modern design that looked a million miles away from the one worn between 1969 and 1982, but is it necessarily a change for the better? Are you one of the many football fans that prefer the uncomplicated styles of yesteryear or are the new designs a reflection of progress in the modern age?

Here's where you get the chance to tell us. Simply select your favourite shirt using the input form below and hit the Vote button. Once that's done, you can leave us a comment back here on the Arsenal Shirt Legend post or sit back and watch everyone else's votes pile in.

Either way, we're indebted to your for taking part just as we're indebted (as ever) to our friends at True Colours, Football Shirt Culture and EPL Talk for publicising our online poll. Without them, this exercise in nostalgic waffling wouldn't be anywhere near the success it has been in recent times, so thanks to all concerned!

So now then, without further ado, it's time for you to cast your vote...

Which Arsenal home shirt worn since 1969 do you like best?
Shirt A
Shirt B
Shirt C
Shirt D
Shirt E
Shirt F
Shirt G
Shirt H
Shirt I
Shirt J
Shirt K
Shirt L
Shirt M
Shirt N
Shirt O
Shirt P
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Other Shirt Legends:


andy said...

love this article!!

the current home shirt has redcurrant stripes along the white stripe, not navy.

shirt m from 04-05 is by far my favorite.

Chris O said...

Thanks Andy!

Also thank you for pointing out my error about Shirt P. I've corrected the article to show the details you mentioned.

I'm obviously more colour-blind than I thought... :-)

Seb said...

it can only be shirt A - the classics are by far the best.


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