20 February 1933: Arsenal given permission to have white collars and sleeves

By Tony Attwood

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On this day the Management Committee of the Football League announced that it had given Arsenal FC “permission” to wear shirts including “white collars and cuffs.”

That may seem strange, but such was the stranglehold that the Management Committee retained over all matters, permission was indeed necessary for everything.  Any club defying the Committee risked being kicked out of the League.

However just having permission from the Committee was not enough, because having gained permission to use a new shirt design, the club then had to get the shirts made and it wasn’t until 4 March 1933 that the club actually appeared in the new shirts.

In these days, what we now call the kit was called a “costume” or a “three piece suit” as one of the papers reported it as being.  The new design was, it is said, created by Herbert Chapman, as part of his constant desire to make Arsenal different from every other club.  The first set of “costumes” were made in a factory in Nottingham and reported in the Daily Mirror on 4 March 1933.

Indeed the fact that the story made the national press reveals just how unusual it was in those days for a club to change its colours or indeed its kit design at all.

Unfortunately, the change of design did not bring Arsenal much luck on the pitch as in the first four matches wearing the new style the club lost three and drew one match.

Tom Whittaker, writing about the change years later said that Chapman always held the view that half the battle of winning was to be well-dressed, although it is not quite clear why having white sleeves makes one more well-dressed than having red sleeves.

He also states that the idea for different coloured sleeves from the shirt came to Chapman after he was told about the idea of different coloured sleeves from the shirt being put to the chairman of Chelsea, who rejected the notion immediately.  Chapman however saw the possibilities and took it up.

If you are interested there is a lot more about the Arsenal defeat to Walsall, and what happened after, on the Arsenal History Society website.

For thoughts on Arsenal today please see Untold Arsenal

The Arsenal History Society is part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association – a body which gives positive support to the club, and has regular meetings with directors and senior officials of the club to represent the views of its members to the club.  You can read more about AISA on its website.

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