Thierry Henry's retro Arsenal shirt plays to the crowd, but true kit connoisseurs will be appalled

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Thierry Henry's retro Arsenal shirt plays to the crowd, but true kit connoisseurs will be appalled - PREMIER LEAGUE
Thierry Henry's retro Arsenal shirt plays to the crowd, but true kit connoisseurs will be appalled - PREMIER LEAGUE

On Sunday the battle for Arsenal got shirty. Spotify net worth-haver Daniel Ek is keen on buying the club and Thierry Henry is apparently along for the ride.

Pictured in the posh seats for the north London derby, Ek wore the standard tech billionaire’s uniform, bland, casual-smart, somehow more expensive than your last car.

Henry, inevitably resplendent, wore a retro Arsenal shirt from 1992, a throwback to the glorious days of Wright, Morrow, Hillier, and finishing 10th in the league. As hardman corporate overtures go it was less Succession’s Logan Roy, more Romford’s Ray Parlour.

There is no need for Henry to win over Arsenal fans, but his outfit will do no harm given the current popularity of old football shirts, particularly from the 1990s.

This summer the most beloved England shirt seemed to be the early 90s sky blue Umbro third, worn once by the team for a Euros qualifier against Turkey and once by New Order’s Bernard Sumner in the video for World In Motion.

Every Premier League weekend is a shirt spotter’s delight at the moment. In the past few I’ve sighted Chelsea’s red and white Commodore diamond away from 1990-92, the yellow-green migraine of Norwich 1992-94 and, weirdest, a fan wearing Everton’s 1997-99 home shirt at Selhurst Park. In the home end. Against Spurs.

Everton fan in crowd at Palace - ACTION IMAGES
Everton fan in crowd at Palace - ACTION IMAGES

No idea.

The trend moves beyond football, a drastic turnaround from the actual 1990s when the idea of wearing a football shirt anywhere other than inside a stadium was the height of naffness.

There was a music festival in my neighbourhood last month and I enjoyed a sort of tragic personal fashion show as gaggles of The Young People sauntered down my road wearing retro remakes or current shirts indebted to the past. Bit creepy, I decided, after one in an unusual Ajax away spotted me excitedly gawping from behind the twitching curtains.

But Henry’s attempt to capture the polyester zeitgeist fell down on a crucial detail. His shirt was not an original, rather a modern reproduction of the Adidas shirt. The true heads will note a subtle difference. Where the collar on Henry’s remake meets below the (Tony) Adam’s apple, the two sides subtly overlap. The original came together in a neat point. These are the margins.

The most obvious giveaway is the lack of Adidas logo above the Arsenal emblem, the telltale sign that Puma-affiliated Nike-boot wearing Henry has either carefully removed it or, more likely, acquired one of the unbranded remakes available through the club.

Thierry Henry and Daniel Ek in the crowd at the Emirates Stadium - PREMIER LEAGUE
Thierry Henry and Daniel Ek in the crowd at the Emirates Stadium - PREMIER LEAGUE

Companies such as Score Draw have been producing faithful cover versions of cherished shirts for many years. Their website now is full of 90s jagged lines and functional sponsors (McEwan’s! Muller! Thistle Hotels!). In its mail order days the range was more heavy cotton, long sleeves and memories of muddy pitches.

A dedicated shirt collector accepts no imitations. Sites like Classic Football Shirts offer warehouses full of impeccably catalogued genuine replicas, if that is not a contradiction in terms. An early 90s Arsenal shirt will set you back north of £150, but what price the superior feeling when mixing with the proles on matchday who have bought un-logoed and infinitesimally fraudulent remakes?

In Henry’s defence, he is getting plenty out of his shirt. He was pictured in the same number when visiting Ashburton Grove for the North London derby in 2019. Sustainability fan Hector Bellerin would have approved.

Arsenal have been particularly active in mining their own past with old shirts. Adidas re-issued its 1990-92 range, complete with its logos, last year. The ‘bruised banana’ away sold out in minutes. Daniel Ek presumably missed out.

More officially-sanctioned limited edition re-issues will surely follow, but clearly nothing is topping the best retro shirt of all time. Perfect blue and white, delicious and sparingly-used red accent, correctly-sized hoops, Guinness on the front. Yes, the prize must go to Queens Park Rangers home 1983-85. Please, allow us to have this. The only trophy my club will ever win.

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