Arsenal shirts then and now

Football kits sure aren’t what they used to be…

Arsenal shirts then and now

“The yellow shirt has such psychological blood split on it, it has become to signify a battle honour”

A decent football shirt these days is probably as rare as a player playing for the pure and simple love of it, and the badge adorning it, just above the heart. As a kid, growing up, I all too easily accepted we had both, in abundance and took it for granted we always would.

My first game was Arsenal v Leicester City in 1973, a 2-0 defeat: my abiding memory of the day though was the classical beauty of the Arsenal shirt. Of course my bedroom walls were covered in pictures of it and the players who wore it, but to see it in the flesh was a revelation; photos didn’t do justice to the blood red, nor the thin white band around the top of the sock, which some players chose to fold under – Ray Kennedy for one, then later Brian Talbot, Alan Sunderland, and Kenny Sansom. I wanted to do this too in the back garden but it felt slightly sacrilegious. The yellow away shirt was perhaps even more revered by me on the grounds that for all the big games I experienced during those formative years of youth it was the yellow and blue kit we wore: the cup finals of 1971, 1978, 1979, and 1980. Of course it was the good old yellow in which the Bermondsey boy, Paul Vaessen sent me mental with joy listening on a transistor in my bedroom: “Vaessen at the far post, he’s done it, Arsenal have scored in Turin”; a joy which turned to despair three weeks later in the same shirt in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup: that shirt has such psychological blood split on it, it has become to signify a battle honour – a regimental flag blown to ribbons upon some Elysian field of war.

The first big game I attended coincided with another outing for the yellow and blue kit: Arsenal v Orient in the 1978 Cup semi-final, a cracking day out. I’d worried for weeks over the threat posed by Orient striker Peter Kitchen: but on the day big Willie Young had him in his pocket and on the underground after the game the carriages rocked to the strains of, “Peter Kitchen walks on water, everybody knows that dog s**t floats”. Although we only wore it for one season, that particular yellow and blue was my favourite, the one with the massive cannon in the middle of the chest, where nowadays the awful scribble of sponsors’ names besiege football’s heritage and dignity.

I liked these little innovations: the big cannon, and then in the next season the addition of the AFC in three separate circles beneath the gun part of the cannon, plus the badge appearing on the shorts too. Growing up I’d been quietly envious of Leeds United’s sock tassels upon which the players’ number was printed presumably for anyone not able to read the enormous number on the back of the shirt!

By the eighties we had begun to become accustomed to sponsors, and although I loathe them, I admit I became reconciled to the JVC legend, in time I accepted it as part of the shirt. I was a bit taken aback by the green and blue away shirt in 1982/83, causing as it did a hiatus for the yellow shirt, but again in time I’ve oddly grown to be very fond of this shirt, but at the time was delighted we reverted back to yellow and blue, especially in time for the centenary season.

Since then we’ve had some revolting shirts: the bruised banana whilst since becoming a retro classic I thought frankly hideous at the time and beneath the dignity of the club. The yellow and blue number worn at Anfield ‘that night’ was a shirt fit for champions though: as a kid I’d always thought that the away kit should look like the home shirt but in yellow and blue: fitting that such a special night occurred in just such a design.

One of my few letters to the club was prompted by news in the mid-1990s that the new home shirt had ditched the white sleeves, as it happened white appeared but merely as a thinnish band down the outside of the sleeve – it was no wonder it turned out to be an awful season – don’t mess with the gods of Arsenal past.

Nowadays I await with trepidation the release of the several new kit designs which appear each year: first, second, third kits, cup kits, endless fodder for the ceaseless appetite of commercialism.

Highbury has gone, the badge has gone, the once iconic Arsenal kits have gone, is there anything left of my Arsenal? And why don’t goalkeepers wear green shirts and retain the rest of the kit worn by the outfield players anymore?

Perhaps life is too short to worry about such things? Okay, see you at the club shop to buy the new shirt in June!

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  1. John F

    Mar 22, 2019, 20:10 #113471

    R/K that is exactly how I visualize Rocky and for me Liam Brady in the red shirt scoring that peach of a goal in the 5-0 defeat of that lot down the road at the Lane of pain.

  2. Radfordkennedy

    Mar 22, 2019, 17:02 #113470

    It's funny how you can visualise certain players in the different kits...Rocky in the Adidas yellow..big Tone in that chevron one with his head bandaged and as you say Frank in the famous red shirt.That plain yellow one I spoke of will always remind me of Raddy running half the length of Anfield to score

  3. Don Howe

    Mar 22, 2019, 15:53 #113469

    If Frank McLintock and George Armstrong wore it, then it's good enough for Ever.

  4. Radfordkennedy

    Mar 22, 2019, 13:11 #113468

    Don't Howe. ...yeah I've heard that story about that lunatic ' Boy' Brownings wife choosing the colour of the Para's beret, maroon was part of the colours of his horse racing silks would you believe. ....yeah 70/71 home shirt everyday for me and I did like the away yellow without the blue trim of the same period....I must admit I did like that health and safety hi viz dayglo yellow n blue a while ago

  5. Don Howe

    Mar 22, 2019, 12:36 #113467

    I've got some supplementary comments. (1) I absolutely agree that cr*p kits don't help the team play. Red is a peripheral vision marker. If your teammates are on your radar subliminally then the small margins are in your favour. Ditto yellow. Mancs, Liverpule. The Arse. 51 Championships between them since 1876. Accident? Top team playing in Blue? Chelsea ? Averton? (2) If we all hate the kits then why are they producing stuff we hate? They would sell more with good design - or perhaps I'm very old fashioned.

  6. 1971 Gooner

    Mar 22, 2019, 11:56 #113466

    My favourite kit was the 1971 Cup Final kit: simple, elegant, classic. Least favourite kit was the 2012/13 monstrosity with the horrible blue ring round the arm; or indeed any kit that had Denilson in it. I did think that the final season at Highbury with the vintage kit was a nice touch.

  7. itsRonagain2

    Mar 22, 2019, 10:07 #113465

    it is all about opinions Don as you say but i dont think anybody expects kit designs NEVER to change. All thats expected is a good and stylish kit design and one that befits the Club. Arsenal have failed to do that for many years but so have many clubs. Rarely do i hear other teams fans say very much positive about their teams kit.

  8. The Man From UNCLE

    Mar 21, 2019, 21:53 #113464

    Personally I thought the 2003-04 away kit was classy, the best away kit since the numerous changes from 1980 onwards. Shoot me down in flames I actually quite like this season's mint strip, but that 82/83 one was awful remember that adage "blue and green should never be seen unless there's something in between". I might be wrong but regarding goalkeepers, FIFA were looking at their jerseys back in the 1980's, there was a school of thought that a dark colour would blend in better with the surroundings making the GK harder to see, and that bright colours would encourage strikers to shoot on sight. Obviously the latter choice won out. Does anyone remember Yugoslavia's goalie in the 1990 world cup, he wouldn't have looked out of place at your local rave.

  9. John F

    Mar 21, 2019, 20:49 #113463

    If it is the true kit Mbg it does look good .I have a theory that if the shirt is awful like that pink one ,it has a physiological affect on the team and they play crap.Slur Alex blamed the grey Man Utd kit for an away defeat at Southampton .The best ever and I have one in my Wardrobe is the 1971 cup final Yellow and blue shirt.

  10. Don Howe

    Mar 21, 2019, 18:26 #113462

    What I can never understand is what the club are doing when they negotiate these deals. I can only assume that they regard their remit as being to deliver a vaguely red and white first team kit to keep the plebs happy and then they get more money for having a pink kit with cold shoulders and pressed chrysanthemums because it looks cool to the good design amputees who produce their dross for the kit companies. All of us old farts would like the 1971 home and away kit as standard EVERY season with third and fourth kits as useless and weird as they like so long as they are only actually used in the North Circular Relegation League Cup. But life isn't like that. People like the revolting shirts just as some like Jeremy Corbyn, Coronation Street, Mickey Flanagan, Gerard Manley Hopkins, W.B Yeats and Pru Leith. It's all about opinions. Who is to say what is good and what is bad when it comes to taste and design? Daphne Du Maurier was a safe pair of hands when she walked into Liberty's or wherever and chose the Red Berets for the parachute regiment. Ditto Herbert Chapman when he added white sleeves.

  11. mbg

    Mar 21, 2019, 18:15 #113461

    Have to say i like the new (leaked) Adidas kit if that is the true likeness, definitley the best since we've moved to the Emirates. Loved the yellow chevron (not many did)still have it unfortunately it hasn't fitted for a long time.

  12. itsRonagain2

    Mar 21, 2019, 17:10 #113460

    Ditto Tony. Arsenal have had some seriously appalling kits since they moved to that stadium. I always think Liverpools kits are worse though. Best kit this Season - Wolves - by a country mile. It looks quite retro though even they have yellowed up their lovely old gold.

  13. TonyEvans

    Mar 21, 2019, 12:15 #113459

    Assume the photo is from the 79 cup final - those iconic yellow and blue shirts will always be my favourite. The awful kits we have to endure looking at these days is just another example of the gulf (chasm) that has opened up between the club and the fans. Rampant commercialism rules now and us fans can either like it or lump it.