For Arsenal’s last season at Highbury, the Club’s home since 1913, the players will wear, for home matches, a special commemorative strip.
The shirt, redcurrant in colour, matches the shade of the team’s strip in the Club’s first season at Highbury. Adorned with gold lettering and the Club crest the shirt is accompanied by white shorts and redcurrant socks.
In addition, the strip is manufactured, despite its authentic look, from the latest ‘breathable’ lightweight sports fabric.
The away strip for 2005/06 consists of yellow shirts, black shorts and black socks with the 2004/05 all-blue change strip becoming the third kit. Once the Club completes the move to Emirates Stadium for the beginning of the 2006/07 season, the players will revert to wearing the famous Arsenal red and white strip, the origins of which tell a great story.
In 1895, two years before the Club became professional, a small group of Nottingham Forest players, Fred Beardsley, Bill Parr and Charlie Bates, joined Dial Square FC, (the Club’s first name) and brought their old red kit along with them. Working to a tight budget, the Club decided the most inexpensive way of acquiring a strip was to kit out the team in the same colour as the ex-Forest players.
This original kit was a dark red, with long sleeves, a collar and three buttons down the front. The shirt was worn with white knee length shorts and heavy woollen socks with blue and white hoops. The goalkeeper wore the same attire apart from the shirt - which was a hand knitted cream woollen polo neck jumper. It was this dark red kit that the team wore during their first season at Highbury in 1913/14.
Beardsley, Parr and Bates’ generosity in providing shirts and inspiring the Club to play in red encouraged several other teams to follow Arsenal’s lead. One of the most famous examples is Sparta Prague whose president, Dr Petric, visited London in 1906. He returned home to Czechoslovakia after having watched Woolwich Arsenal and was so inspired by the kit that he demanded his team play in the same colours. Today, Sparta Prague continue to play in the same dark red kit, not disimilar to Arsenal’s 2005/06 redcurrant.
It was the arrival of manager Herbert Chapman in 1925 that launched the Arsenal kit as we know it today. Depending on which source you believe, 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. Either way the ‘look’ inspired the manager to create a new strip combining a red shirt with white collar and sleeves.
It also incorporated the Club badge, which was positioned on the left-hand side of the shirt. In the 1950s a second kit was developed to combat a clash of colours with opposing home teams with similar kits. And in 1960, the Club moved away from the woven rugby shirt style to a new knitted cotton jersey in around 1960.
The Club’s famous cannon graphic appeared on the shirt for the first time in the early 1970s. It was this shirt that Arsenal won their first famous ‘double’, both the League Championship and the FA Cup in the 1970/71 season. In the late 1970s, the shirt featured a kit manufacturers logo for the first time, in this case ‘Umbro’.
And in 1982 ‘JVC’ became the Club’s first shirt sponsor, which in turn made way for ‘SEGA’ in 1999. From the beginning of the 2002/03 season telecommunications company O2 took over as shirt sponsors and from the 2006/07 season this will change to Fly Emirates in a deal which lasts eight years.