Thursday, October 9, 2014

Best of the Strange Kits: Arsenal Away 91-93

Here for your viewing (dis)pleasure is the Arsenal 91-93 away shirt. This is the infamous "bruised banana" shirt. No great imagination required to see why that name stuck. On the pitch, it was the days of David Seaman, Ian Wright, and George Graham's "boring boring Arsenal." This is a truly ugly, ugly football shirt. If nothing else, one has to say that it was a ballsy shirt for a club of Arsenal's magnitude. The early 90's was a period of brash experimentation for most kit manufacturers, who implemented wild, vividly colorful, geometric designs on their kits to make them stand out. It seemed like the most liberties were taken with away kits. I think any rational human being can agree that this Arsenal shirt is truly dreadful. But the question is...why do I love it so???

For starters, there's the nostalgia factor. This kit was used in an era during which I was in my adolescent years, when I first started following club football deeply. My initial exposure to football was through the World Cup. Once I found out about club football and the rich traditions of all these global clubs, I just got more and more hooked on the game and the culture of the game. I remember thinking how cool it was that the north Londoners were simply called "Arsenal" in a league full of F.C.s, Uniteds, and Citys. So I gravitated towards them as I first immersed myself in the English league. Perhaps that is one reason I am partial to the shirt.

Another factor for me is that I have always believed that the away shirt is the right place for experimentation. Most clubs have iconic home shirts, and the vast majority of these designs are quite simple(see Liverpool, Real Madrid to name a couple). And that's the way most of us supporters like it. You don't mess with icons. But the away shirt(save for one glorious club) is another matter entirely. Why not have a little fun?

At the time, there were no blogs, no Bleacher Report to put this shirt in a "Top 10 worst kits" article. In fact, football kits were barely covered at all by the media save for the occasional snide remark by a commentator during a match, and I was not exposed to much live football at the time. So instead of having "tastemakers" influence my opinion, I was just left to my own sensibilities when assessing this or any other kit. And I must say, something about this kit appealed to me. Perhaps it was the "so ugly it's beautiful" frame of mind that also comes into play when looking at ugly dogs like pugs or a Jackson Pollock, for example. Or maybe I just liked the way the yellow pops when contrasted with the red and navy blue. One qualifier: this kit looked completely different and did not work for me at all when paired with the yellow change shorts. It is truly extraordinary to me how such a slight change could alter the whole look so.

This shirt is also a historical footnote for Arsenal as it is the first away shirt the club wore in the the Premier League. That was in the inaugural season of 92-93(notice also how the kit had a life cycle of two seasons). Nowadays, unanimous consensus seems to be that this is one of the worst if not the worst Arsenal shirt of all time. However, according to John Brewin, author of True Colors: Football Kits from 1980 to the Present Day, this shirt "became a major fashion must-have in early 90's London." So somebody must have liked it along with me!

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