Arsenal plan to drop white sleeves from their shirts – again

There is a story going around that Arsenal are going to come out with another special home shirt, in the same way that they did for the last season at Highbury.

This time it is to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the start of the club in December 1886 as Dial Square.

The story goes that Nike are involved in the project to play a season (or at least one game) in dark red shirts with no separate sleeve colour.

The idea is that the maroon shirts for the last year at Highbury were a great success, and that probably is the driving force.

But, as one who has devoted a lot of time in the last few years, to unravelling the issue of Arsenal’s early history, I have some doubts about this.  For example, I have never been able to find any reliable evidence that the colour of shirts for the final season at Highbury were in fact a valid reproduction of the shirts worn in 1913.

Likewise although it is often said that the white sleeves were introduced by  Herbert Chapman in 1925, the photos of the teams coming onto the pitch for the 1930 cup final show Arsenal playing in a kit where the sleeves are the same colour as the shirt.  Which is why I tend to doubt a lot of things that are said about the colour of the kit.

So quite how anyone is dead certain what the exact colour of shirts in 1886 were, I am not sure.  To the best of my knowledge there was no colour photography in 1886, and painters were very liberal with their interpretation of what they were given to paint.

Further, the Dial Square matches and even the Royal Arsenal matches, were not properly reported most of the time, and the popular “Illustrated Press” (as newspapers were called once they started running photos) was certainly not fully established until into the 20th century.

But the Tiny Totts did roll out a  shirt to celebrate 125 years of not doing very much in 2007 (sky blue and white, I am told), so I guess the thinking is, if the Totts got away with it, maybe we should.   I am not sure I quite like that reasoning.

Of course my knowledge might be wrong here, and I don’t claim a complete insight into the early years by any means.  My research has been centred around 1910 (see below), so if you know something I don’t (which is not difficult) please do write in and correct me.

My work on Arsenal in 1910 is recorded in Making the Arsenal, and there is now an extract from the book on

You can buy Making the Arsenal at or here

  • Read what The Online Gooner said about MAKING THE ARSENAL here
  • Read what Arsenal World said about the book here
  • Read what Arsenal Independent Supporters Assn said about Making the Arsenal here
  • Read what A Cultured Left Foot said about Making the Arsenal here
  • Read a review of the Untold Arsenal (our reports on Arsenal day by day in the 21st century)  here

I think that’s enough reading.

(c) Tony Attwood 2010

9 Replies to “Arsenal plan to drop white sleeves from their shirts – again”

  1. I liked the red current shirt and would’ve like us to have kept it as the 3rd strip, whilst retaining the originality of the red and white and the yellow and blue kit for both home and away.

  2. I like the Home kit we have now. The 89′ yellow homage that we wore last year is my favorite away kit ever, but my judgement might be a bit impaired because that’s the kit we wore when Arshavin banged in 4 at Anfield. For the third kit I really liked the white shirt with maroon trim and striped socks, but it looks too much like our version of the Scum kit. So sticking with the white pinstripes from this year ain’t a bad idea.

  3. Over sixty years an Arsenal supporter and I can only ever see them in red shirts with white sleeves but wait….changing the shirt means the`must haves` will be queing up to grab the latest in Gooner fashion and that`s more cash in the til. Gee!I`m a sentimental old fool.

  4. BW: There’s two things that worry me about the historical kits site.

    First, if you take it to be valid, then we were all conned by the maroon shirt for the last year at Highbury because they don’t show that at all.

    Second, we might ask, where is the evidence? The site does not state where the information comes from. A lot of this is just handed on from one writer to another, but it is impossible to find the source.

    So either we think that site is wrong because there is no maroon, or else we think it is right, and we were done in the last year at Highbury.

  5. Firstly the white sleeves.

    No idea why you should think that they came into being in 1925 – I’ve never seen anyone think that before as the story of them coming into being in 1933 is pretty well known to be honest. Maybe you’re confusing Chapman’s arrival (1925) with the kits change (1933)?

    As for the maroon – I agree with you. I did some research at the time and there is absolutely no evidence for us playing in that colour when we went to Highbury. Cigarette cards of the day show us in a deep red colour and whilst any colour photo’s tend to have been hand tinted they also show the deep red colour. However there are a couple of postcards around (1906) which do show a maroonish kit much like the one used for the last season at Highbury.

    So where did the story come from? Well when we played Sparta Prague in the late ’90s one of their directors mentioned that they had based their kit colour on the Arsenal kit after playing us in 1909(?). That one anecdote is where the whole thing comes from.

  6. I think that the historical kits website is a great starting point and to be fair, they ask for updates and corrections which this society could work on in respect to liaising with the club. Also, there is a gap in the away kits section between 1908 and 1918 which is right up the history’s societies street. The society could help improve this website so there is a definative display of our kits.

    On another issue I was watching Fleetwoosd on the telly at the weekend and was amazed they wear red with white sleeves , play at Highbury and have a player called Viera. Apparantly there is no link with our club which is even more amazing!!!

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