Arsenal’s ‘new rave zebra’ kit is so bad – someone should intervene


 The aggressively ugly release is a marked change for club which has a proud history of excellent away kits

Everyone is talking about the new Arsenal men’s away kit. This is great news for Adidas, until you hear what they are saying.

The traditionalists hate it, the kit cognoscenti are not convinced, nor, most worryingly for Adidas, are many younger fans. This seems a shame for a usually well-presented team with a proud away kit history. Charlie George in Wembley yellow, Dennis Bergkamp resplendent in gold and navy for Wenger’s first double and Andre Santos, in 2012/13’s proto-banter era, wearing the purple and black stripes of a suburban My Chemical Romance fan.

How will this kit be remembered? It is an aggressively ugly colour, the polka dot and wavey-lined patterning is obnoxious and no-one aspires to look like a new rave zebra. Perhaps it is in the lineage of kits which seem deliberately terrible, so bad they are good. Care to spend £80, or £110 for the body-shamingly tight “authentic” version, to test the theory?

Of course there is the usual spiel from Adidas and Arsenal which reaffirms the need for some sort of polyester guff ombudsman. “The design features fluid black lines inspired by the map of Islington,” we learn. Ah yes, Islington, the only place where maps use black lines to denote roads. These also represent “the journeys supporters make out of the club’s home borough for away days on the road.” Sure. Sure they do.

Then an inevitably excellent launch video which adds a radio theme. This is an excuse to wheel out musical Arsenal fans including Rapper AntsLive, DJs Sherelle and Scratcha DVA, the Islington Youth Choir, the bassist out of Wolf Alice and Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp. No, that last one is not a joke. No demographic itch has been unscratched.

As something of an afterthought the kit was then seen in an actual football match, against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night. Predictably it looks far better on professional footballers than the nice chap from the indie band. But how often will we see it in that context? Man Utd had a similar shade of luminescent green on their third shirt last year. They wore it twice in their opening four games then put it away before one final outing at Bournemouth in May. Wolves wore their away kit twice all season.

Aside from whether you despise or merely detest this new Arsenal shirt, the galling thing is the gap between the brilliance of its promotion and the abjectness of the product. Really that is the central conceit of advertising, that spending 80 quid will make you as cool as AntsLive, when actually you look like a tribute band version of a minor Spandau.

No great tragedy there, but it is the fans to whom kits really matter. They literally pay for the excesses of crass designs. Football’s independent regulator may have more urgent business like malevolent owners, ensuring Southend do not become an Essex Bury and gambling advertising persisting like Japanese Knotweed but there is a change it could make here with no clear downside.

Marc Overmars of Arsenal scores the winner against Manchester United during the FA Carling Premiership match at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. Arsenal won 1-0
The latest kit is a far cry from some of the club's former glories CREDIT: Allsport/Shaun Botterill

Force clubs to stick to two-year cycles for their kits. Alternate between home and away each year so there is still something new to sell, but give each kit a chance to make memories. Watch the designs improve when clubs and makers know that they are stuck with shirts for more than a handful of games.

Maybe given time this new strip could be another ‘bruised banana’, the fabled yellow and black 1991-93 kit which was reviled at the time but is now so beloved the Arsenal shop sells 42 products in the pattern. But the ‘traffic warden marble cake’ will have such little exposure we will never know. New kits are ever more shocking, but now leave as much lasting impression as Watford managers.

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