Jumpers for Goalposts…No! Jumpers for Chapman’s Iconic Kit Design


Jumpers for Chapman’s Iconic Kit Design


By Mark Andrews (@RoyalArsenalMRA) and Andy Kelly (@Gooner_AK)

Recently, Andy and myself had a long chat with Patrick Barclay about Arsenal stories for his impending and eagerly awaited new book on the greatest manager of all time: Herbert Chapman.

One of the topics we discussed was the change of the shirt design from red to red with white sleeves, and below we highlight our recent findings where the shirt was not as expected, or indeed close, to what is worn nowadays.   

The Arsenal kit of red football shirts and white sleeves first appeared in 1933 when then manager Herbert Chapman devised the design.

The first set of red shirts with white sleeves, were actually white shirts with a red sleeveless pullover on top!

Arsenal’s iconic design was initially an away shirt with a 55% woollen red jumper over it, as can be seen here in a report of the new kit. It is instructive that both the papers called it a “costume” and not a kit, and the Nottingham Evening Post referred to it as a three piece suit of “white shirt, red pullover and white shorts”.  

 Nottingham Evening Post: Saturday 4 March 1933Nottingham Evening Post Sat 4 March 1933

Daily Mirror: Saturday 4 March 1933 1933-03-04 Daily Mirror - Arsenal's new colours

Chapman went straight to the Viyella manufacturer for the order. Viyella was made of 55% merino wool and 45 % cotton, which had been developed by Hollins & Company, spinners and hosiers whose main offices were in Nottingham. It was a branded fabric blend first woven in 1893, and registered as a trademark in 1894 in England

The new design had been previously approved on 20 February 1933 by the Football League in one of their regular management committee meetings.

Daily Mirror: Tuesday 21 February 19331933-02-21 Daily Mirror - Arsenal's new colours approved by the FL

However, they did not wear them in their very next game against Derby, but waited until the Liverpool home game on 4 March 1933.

Nottingham Evening Post: Wednesday 22 February 1933Nottingham Evening Post Weds 22 February 1933

They must have been uncomfortable. In the first four games with the new design Arsenal drew one and lost three, finally winning against Aston Villa on April Fool’s Day. It seems the change almost derailed the title challenge but all was good in the end.

Derby Daily Telegraph Tuesday 4 April 1933Derby Daily Telegraph Tuesday 4 April 1933

Neither the reason nor the timing for the kit introduction is entirely clear, but Tom Whittaker’s Arsenal story on pages 100-101  has this useful section on the matter:

Herbert ChapmanTom Whittaker's Arsenal Story Pages 100 - 101


So there you have it, the modest beginning to what has become the most iconic football shirt there is.


The books by the site authors:

Offer: buy 2 for £20 at publishers site


11 Replies to “Jumpers for Goalposts…No! Jumpers for Chapman’s Iconic Kit Design”

  1. arsenal jersey now is the best in england all the time know jersey in the hole world beautiful than arsenal jersey i love all the jersey arsenal producer produce all the time cudos to them.red and white jersey producer are the best for all time.

  2. arsenal board should please gave arsene wenger money to spend and to pa salary wage of £200,000k a week wage so that arsenal can atract goog player.we need players like fellaini,rooney and wanyama.with all these players to join with our players to win plenty trophy for the club.board member should leave wenger a lone to deal with transfer and the board should not interfair in wenger’s job.if the board did not interfair in wenger’s job arsene will do a good job for us.board should gave him the money to invest in arsenal team and clear away all the deadwood in like of (bendtner,chamach,park yu young,giroud,djourou,diaby)all these pleyer sould be release to find place for new signing.

  3. To add a little bit more. Tom Whittaker in his book says that when the shirts eventually became a single item they would have to remove the sleeves when they washed them to prevent the red running into them. What a job that must have been to unstich the sleeves of 10 shirts after every game and then sew them back on after they’d been washed.

  4. Back then the only time the public saw professional football on the cinema newsreel. The film of course was in black and white.

    This made it difficult to identify teams. Red and blue were seen as different shades of black.

    Then came Arsenal ‘the team with white sleeves’ Life was easy for everyone.

    A good explanation for the change but is it fact or fiction?

  5. It’s interesting that the Daily Mirror article of Tuesday 21 February 1933 mentions the change as being to the collar and cuffs but not the sleeves themselves.

  6. Jamie,

    Very Good Spot.

    Either they should have said sleeves, or Herbert took afew liberties with the original FL ruling and white cuffs became the full sleeves!

    I suspect it was the former.

  7. Chapman was very keen to try and create a club for London that would replicate the history and status of England’s most famous and celebrated club, the league creators, Aston Villa F.C. Villa were the first club to adopt a body/sleeves design at turn of the twentieth century and many clubs adopted Villa’s colour and kit design in tribute.

    When Chapman changed Arsenal’s colours to a body/sleeve design it is on record that he was inspired by the iconic Villa jersey.

  8. From the historical Kits website:

    “In 1894, Villa adopted the iconic woolen jersey with a distinctive contrasting neck band as their regular first choice, which John Lerwill has discovered, were designed by Ollie Whateley, who was Villa’s third England international and a graphic artist by trade. This style would be copied by many English clubs.”

  9. Arsenal shirt she is beautifil thing. She is Red and some white. The Arsenal football club can join with there rivals to create new team which challenges the Chelsea and the United team of Manchester

  10. Macca,

    “When Chapman changed Arsenal’s colours to a body/sleeve design it is on record that he was inspired by the iconic Villa jersey.” Do you have that record?


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