On New Year’s Eve last year, Arsenal wore red shorts with their home shirts for the first time in four decades and we posted an article looking at the rare instances when they had swapped their white sets for darker colours.
Between wearing navy shorts with red and white shirts in 1982-83 and doing likewise in 2013-14, the only changes to the default home kit were below the knee as alternative socks were sometimes used.
That 31-year period obviously encompasses the time that Arsenal were with adidas, 1986-94. When the navy away shorts clashed with a home team, the white home set would be used but in 1991 special yellow alternatives were produced. It seemed that there was no home equivalent, but a comment by Peter Rapley in this piece on the Gunners’ three-stripe kits caught our eye.
Did you all know that there were also red shorts from the 1990-92 seasons? With a big white stripe on the side and the three adidas stripes inside the white stripe. In other words, the reverse of the home shorts.
This is not an April Fool, but they were never worn by the first team in a competitive game. I have proof – I own a pair.
The April Fool reference is to this piece, and, in a lot of instances, that would have been taken with a grain of salt – our expectation would be that someone was duped by a plain red set of adidas shorts with the Arsenal crest lazily applied, or perhaps a job had been done on a Liverpool set so as to have the matching white panel with three red stripes inside.
However, Peter is not the kind to be fooled and he doesn’t exaggerate on descriptions as you can see from his extensive Arsenal collection – if he doesn’t know what something is, he’ll say so rather than optimistically applying an explanation which is then taken as mistaken gospel by others.
He knows his history, too – about six years ago, we had had heard that Arsenal wore plain white third shirts against Luton in March 1975 but were hitting a brick wall in finding evidence. At the time same time, Peter was on the same quest and he trawled newspaper archives to come up with the goods:
Back to those red shorts – obviously, blessed are those who believe without seeing but we still had to ask Peter if he could provide the pictorial evidence, which he did.
They were an eBay purchase some time back. I was the only bidder. I was not sure they were 100% genuine when I bought them, but there is no faking that embroidered crest!
That is all I know, other than them never being worn in a first team game.
The fact that the crest is white, as it was on the home shirt, rather than red like on the normal shorts, also adds to the credibility. One oddity is that the adidas stripes are red and trimmed in navy, as on the 1986-88 and 1988-90 home kits, rather than navy trimmed in red, as on the 1990-92 home shirt.
Simon Shakeshaft, co-author of The Arsenal Shirt, says that the practice of Arsenal opting to wear a full away kit when a shorts clash arose was down to kitman Tony Donnelly feeling that red shorts ‘wasn’t Arsenal’, so presumably that’s why these weren’t seen.
For the record, this is how they might have looked at Goodison Park, Maine Road and elsewhere.