by Mark Andrews
Now that the wait is over and the quite revolting new purple and black striped away kit is revealed, and given that we are only days away from the publication of the publication of the definitive book on the early years of Arsenal as a professional club, I thought it would be a good time to briefly review away kits in particular from a historical perspective.
The new away kit is possibly the most ahistorical offering since the green and blue monstrosity of the Woodcock era.
Most believe the low point in away kits was the bizarre bruised banana shirt of the early 90’s. I concur that it was the worst Arsenal away shirt of all time but at least that had a semblance of historical validity merging the very historically accurate blue with the yellow in an acid house cacophony.
Building on our work in the aforementioned “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football”, we know that the original away kit was white – usually with blue shorts, while in 1908 – 1910 an all blue shirt and shorts combination was used. We also know that the Reserves played a home game against West Ham on 1st January 1910 in blue shirts.
The club returned to white as an away shirt in 1911, and the Reds v Blues public practice matches were played in August 1908, 1909 and 1910. All other seasons (both before and after that period) were played as red v whites.
It is possible that the blue colour was tried as an effort to save money and produce blue shirts for both the goalie and the away kit. As at the start of the 1909/10 season the Arsenal goalkeeper, Hugh MacDonald was noted by a member of the home crowd to be wearing for the first time a distinctive blue shirt. The exact phrase from the crowd was used according to the Kentish Independent reporter: “what’s ‘e playin’ in blue for? …rotten I calls it”.
This was due to the FA decree that as of the start of that season goalkeepers had to wear distinctive clothing, so that the official could see them in a scrum of players. At first the rules stipulated that these be red (not much use to Woolwich Arsenal) or blue, and within a few years green was permitted as a third colour for the goalkeeper.
The away kit was generally white or blue until the late 1960s when yellow as an away colour was used in 1969. It had previously been seen as the Arsenal colour in the FA Cup final in the 1950 season.
The recent 2008 away kit of white with dark red/burgundy trimming was arguably the most accurate away kit ever produced in historical terms. It is my favourite, though the 2005 yellow and blue variant of the 1979 kit runs it close as it brings back memories of the last minute Alan Sunderland goal, and this was the kit worn when we last won a trophy.
So as we bemoaned last year’s blue kit, it was at least of a traditional colour. However this year we have another awful away kit which is neither traditional or aesthetically pleasing.
The new book Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football, is published on 20th July, 2012, and is available directly from the publishers. For more details on the book please following this link