The history of the Arsenal kit begins in 1886. Queen Victoria is still occupying the throne and professional football is in its infancy. The first football studs are just arriving on the market and we’re still 78 years away from the first Match of the Day.
The beautiful game is very different from how we know it today. But it’s also a time of change for football and a period of colossal importance for the English game.
And that includes the birth of one of its most successful clubs…
Arsenal Kit History: Forest Kit Out Dial Square
The history of the Arsenal strip began when three Nottingham Forest players – Fred Beardsley, Bill Parr and Charlie Bates – joined Dial Square FC, a team of employees from the Royal Arsenal armaments factory in Woolwich, Kent*.
Dial Square were struggling for cash, so Beardsley contacted his former club and asked for a donation. Forest duly obliged, sending a full set of kits to the newly formed side.
Dial Square Red-y to Go
That first-ever kit comprised of a dark red, long-sleeved shirt, white shorts and blue and white-hooped socks. It had a smart collar and three buttons on its front.
The goalie wore the same on his bottom half but with a cream hand-knitted woolen polo-neck jumper. Good luck getting the mud out of that.
In 1891, the side turned professional and climbed to the top division by 1904. However, financial issues hit and, in 1913, the club had to move to a new home – Highbury, north London.
With the move came a new name, Arsenal FC. Plus a local rivalry with one Tottenham Hotspur.
A legend arrives
In 1925, Arsenal acquired a new manager, Herbert Chapman. The Yorkshireman was a pioneer of the game on and off the field. He created the WM formation (a 3-2-2-3 system) and backed influential footballing movements, including the introduction of floodlights and numbered shirts.
He was also the man behind Arsenal’s modern look. According to Arsenal.com: “Chapman either noticed someone at the ground wearing a red sleeveless sweater over a white shirt or played golf with famous cartoonist of the day Tom Webster who wore something similar.”
Whatever the reason, the former Spurs player was the man behind Arsenal’s iconic red base with white sleeves.
Changes roll in
From that point on, Arsenal stuck to their guns, making only minor changes to Chapman’s kit design. At the beginning of the 1970s, came the addition of their cannon logo. And by the end of the decade, Umbro became their first manufacturer’s logo.
In 1982, JVC became their first shirt sponsor, followed by SEGA, O2, and Fly Emirates.
Finally, in 2002, Arsenal looked to appeal to a broader, more international market, adopting the clean, modern-looking club crest that the players wear today.
Where to Buy Retro and Classic Arsenal Kits
To find the very best retro and classic Arsenal kits, head to FutbolMarkt. There you’ll find an ever-growing collection of Arsenal kits, signed items and memorabilia. You can also sell your old memorabilia and even discuss the latest football news. It’s where real football fans congregate.
Main photo credit: Wikicommons/Ronnie Macdonald
*Now south east London.