By Ethan Dean-Richards
I’ve never been that interested in kits – as good a way as any to start a piece about favourite kits. My own team, West Brom, wear striped shirts and frankly there is not much you can do with stripes – except maybe drop a big red house onto the front of them. But I do derive some strange pleasure from visualising one strip: Arsenal’s (home shirt) between 2002 and 2004.
It was this big: Thierry Henry celebrates for Arsenal in 2003
Of course there is a basic formula for Arsenal kits – red middles, white peripherals – and yes, 2002/04 did pretty much adhere to that formula. I make no claims to the contrary, but the clean, simple contrast of red and white always carries an air of class for me that’s enough to place any Arsenal kit high on my list of things that are aesthetically pleasing (alongside pretentious modern art etc).
Something though, did make the 2002/04 version particularly special.
All kits develop an inextricable link with the teams that play in them and we all remember that Arsenal team as A Bit Special, so by association, the design gets credit.
Yet the sleek, simple elegance of Arsenal’s white sleeves – no longer tainted with the blue lines running down them that had plagued previous efforts – combined with the sharp white shorts and socks – which somehow made Patrick Vieira appear more languid, possibly with the aid of the thin red stripes that ran down them – genuinely appeared to compliment their mercurial passing style.
Arsenal’s modern, sleek, slimming effort was a great kit because it – complete with fancy new badge – complimented the modern, sleek, er … slimming football they played during their vintage Wenger years.
You can still picture now Patrick Vieira in his prime, strolling imperiously along the Highbury turf, sliding a pass to Thierry Henry as he eases into fifth gear before slotting the ball into the net for another perfect goal. And a small part of that perfect image is the kit they’re wearing.
NB: I am not in love with Patrick Vieira and do not regularly fantasise about that Arsenal team. Repeat: do not.