Obviously, this series is about notable occasions when teams changed shorts and/or socks.
Primarily, the reason for doing so is to avoid a clash with their opponents’ garments – see here for the previous examples – but, counterintuitively, there can be times when switching shorts to the same colour as the opposition can actually help to alleviate the ‘overall clash’. The Republic of Ireland against Mexico in the 1994 World Cup is a prime example, as is today’s feature.
To be fair, Sunderland wearing white shorts isn’t a completely unique occurrence. Before the recent craze for teams to change their whole kit whenever an opportunity arises (or even if it doesn’t), the Black Cats would change shorts (and socks, if necessary) at Tottenham Hotspur and in the Tyne-Wear derby away to Newcastle United.
While Sunderland had always, naturally, worn their away kit against Arsenal at Highbury, the 2005-06 season was different. As it was the Gunners’ last season at the stadium before moving, they wore a dark-red commemorative shirt (actually too dark, see The Arsenal Shirt book for more, or ask on Twitter).
Sunderland might well have opted to wear their away shirt had it not been black (annoyingly, with red and silver trim, meaning that they wore shorts and socks which were almost identical to the home sets, another bugbear of ours), as that could have proven troublesome, like Arsenal’s game with Sparta Prague in 2000.
With no third kit, it was decided that the home was the best choice, with the white change shorts and socks.
The black socks caused a clash with Arsenal’s redcurrant – Arsenal themselves wore a one-off white set at St James’ Park that season – but Sunderland in black shorts and white socks was felt to be troublesome, and it’s easy to understand why.
As a result, Sunderland wore white shorts too, the same as Arsenal, but the overall effect was to make the whole kit look whiter, ‘toning down’ the red stripes. Was it a successful look for Sunderland? God no, Arsenal’s 3-1 win was one of 29 defeats for the Mackems in the league that season and they were relegated with just 15 points, 23 from safety.