The Origin of Arsenal’s Red Shirts – A New Twist!

Who gave who a set of shirts?

One of the many mis-told stories in Arsenal’s history is that of the origin of their red shirts. The urban myth is that former Nottingham Forest player Fred Beardsley, who was one of Arsenal’s founders, wrote to his former club and asked them if they could help out his new fledgling club and they sent down a full set of shirts.

This story has subsequently been mythbusted with the help of easily accessible archives such as the British Newspaper Archive. The true story is that Beardsley suggested to his new team mates that they should adopt red shirts, probably because he already had one! This newspaper clipping from his obituary in the Kentish Independent on 16 June 1936 states this.

It was also confirmed by David Danskin who came up with the idea of forming what is now Arsenal FC. In an interview with the Coventry Evening Telegraph published in 25 April 1931, Danskin stated

So, there we have it from the man himself: the players bought their own red shirts, they weren’t given to them by Nottingham Forest.

But, we’ve recently discovered a new twist to this story.

In 1965 Nottingham Forest celebrated their centenary and arranged a game with Valencia on 28 September to commemorate this occasion. They wore a new kit specially made for the game which, according to the Leicester Daily Mercury was donated to them by…Arsenal!

This is confirmed in the minutes of a board meeting held by the Arsenal directors on 26 July 1965.

How about that. Not only did Nottingham Forest not give Arsenal a set of red shirts, but it was actually the other way round!

We would to thank Arsenal FC for allowing us to use this extract from their minute books.


Copies of our books Royal Arsenal – Champions of the South and Arsenal: The Complete Record 1886-2018 are still available from the publishers.