Arsenal: the dark shorts chronicles

      12 Comments on Arsenal: the dark shorts chronicles

On Friday, Andy Kelly broke the news on Twitter that Arsenal would wear red shorts in today’s Premier League game with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.

In recent times, the Gunners have taken to wearing change kits in almost every away game, bar those against London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, but both the blue away kit and dark grey third kit were considered to clash with West Brom’s navy and white home strip.

When the teams met at the Emirates in September, both wore first-choice shirts and white shorts with West Brom in navy change socks, but Simon Shakeshaft, co-author of The Arsenal Shirt, told us that the Premier League mandated Arsenal to come up with alternative shorts to increase differentiation.

Only once since the 1982-83 season have Arsenal worn red and white shirts with anything other than white shorts, but since Puma took over as kit suppliers, red shorts have been available to use (also info from Shakey). In fact, in 2014-15, the UEFA website displayed the Arsenal kit as having red shorts:


Today’s kit, which will look something like the image below, will represent the first time since the 1977-78 season that Arsenal will have taken to the field in red shorts.


One has to go all the way back to the 1970-71 double season for the first instance of Arsenal wearing change shorts. It was for a league cup game at Ipswich Town in September of that season, though when they went to Portman Road in the league a month later, they were in their usual kit.

However, the red shorts proved useful on Boxing Day that season. Southampton were the visitors to Highbury on a snowy day and it was felt that Arsenal removing some of the white from their kit was prudent.


In 1975, the Football League introduced a rule that said competing teams must have different coloured shorts (a similar rule regarding socks came in in 1969-70).

It meant that Arsenal’s red shorts returned for games at teams like Everton, Leicester City, QPR and West Brom, as well as a home league cup tie against an all-white Blackpool.

A variation with white stripes down the side appeared and it was these which were used at Loftus Road in April 1978.


After that, though, the club decided it was better to wear a full change kit rather than compromising the classic Arsenal look, and in the 1978 FA Cup final against Ipswich, yellow and blue were worn. It was the same against West Ham in the 1980 decider – the Hammers were the ‘home’ team but opted to wear all-white, meaning Arsenal could have worn red shorts but again went with the change kit.

And that was how it was until the end of the 1991-92 season, with yellow and blue worn at teams with white shorts – including at Tottenham in 1985-86 – with the exception of 1982-83.

That season, Umbro gave Arsenal a green and navy change kit – it meant the club used four different goalkeeper shirts during the campaign – and some referees classed it as being too close to blue.

So it was that in two games away to Everton, the away shorts were paired with the home shirt. In the league cup in November, the away socks appeared too, while the home set were used in the league in March.



(Arsenal also played Everton in the Atari Soccer Sixes in January of that season, but both were allowed to wear white shorts.)

When the Premier League began in 1992-93, it removed the shorts-clash rule, so Arsenal were able to wear red and white in more away games. In 2013-14, though, they were again forced into an unusual kit-change for a Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce.

The Turkish club wear yellow and blue striped shirts with white shorts and socks. UEFA are quite strict on shorts clashes nowadays and, ordinarily, Arsenal would wear a change kit but their new yellow and blue away kit was obviously unsuitable while the 2012-13 purple and black effort, retained as a third but not worn that season, clashed with the dark blue backs on the Fener shirts.

So it was that navy training shorts had numbers applied and were used as Arsenal won 3-0.Arsenal-2013-2014-Nike-home-kit-navy-shorts-Fenerbahce-01


12 comments on “Arsenal: the dark shorts chronicles

      1. Jon

        I’m now having to rename “doing an Arsenal” whenever a team wears their away kit just because the shorts clash to “doing a Swansea”.

        On a related note, if the Premier League had asked Arsenal to wear red shorts for differentiation, then how come they didn’t have a word in Everton’s ear for that really awful clash of colours on Boxing Day? It was a pretty poor one to be honest, almost as bad as De Gea’s choice of kit against Southampton yesterday.

      2. Jon

        oh and yes, Steve Claridge… what I refer to as a “mezzanine floor” footballer, i.e. too good for second tier (Championship) but never good enough for top tier (Premier League)… a centre-forward equivalent of Nigel Pearson.

        And still has the same hairdo as he had in 1996. Saddo.

  1. fateck

    Absolutely incredible. First time in almost 40 years they’ve worn red shorts with the home shirt and only second time since 82-83 they’ve worn anything but white shorts with the classic home top? Almost reeks of integrity.

    1. steven gould

      Very interesting. So what kit did Arsenal wear in the League Cup replay away to Blackpool in 1977-78 the second replay at home to Blackpool again. And what kit was worn away to Swansea in 1982-83
      I did a scrapbook in those years but couldn’t always get a newspaper picture of the march

      1. denishurley

        I’ve asked Simon Shakeshaft for you Steven, hopefully he’ll know!

        I’d imagine the green/blue away was worn at Swansea but good question on Blackpool – I’d thought the game at Luton in 1975 was the last time before 1998 v Lens they had to find a third kit when the away was yellow.

      2. Shakey

        Steven, according to my records, the League Cup games were actually in the 3rd Round of 1976/77 season, and on both occasions, i have Arsenal in red shorts, but for the replay in long sleeve shirts and second replay in short sleeves. Both replays were actually at Highbury.
        For the game against Swansea in 82/83 i’ve got Arsenal in their home strip but missing the record of what sleeve length was worn, which means i haven’t seen photographic evidence. The game in 82/83 was November and both games either side of it the team wore long sleeves so….. one thing you can never do in this game is assume anything!
        Its worth noting that yellow away was worn there in league in 81/82 and i believe in the 80/81 League Cup 2nd Rd 1st Leg. Does you scrapbook agree with this info? And if this is correct, then i’m going to have to seriously revisit this because Denis is probably correct with his green/navy away kit being worn…..

  2. Franno

    In 1991 I seem to remember we changed our shorts away to Sunderland. Did we were our away yellow shirt with home white shorts or is my mind and years of alcohol abuse playing tricks om me?

      1. Jon

        Arsenal would often wear the white home shorts with the away shirts when playing teams in dark shorts, such as Sunderland or Southampton. It was only from 91/92 when they had my favourite Arsenal away kit (*cough*) – the bruised banana, that they had bespoke alternative shorts, in yellow.

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