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16th Jul 2019

The return of the bruised banana – how adidas brought the Arsenal classic back to life

25 years on, adidas have revived the iconic bruised banana shirt for Arsenal's away kit ahead of the 2019/20 season, this is how it happened

25 years on, it’s back

Since its inception in 1991, the legend of Arsenal’s ‘bruised banana’ jersey has grown year after year. Its unique pattern and scarcity mean authentic originals go for over £300 on eBay. Music festivals are littered with remakes. By any definition of the term, it is a classic.

And now, after months of waiting, fake leaks, rumoured concepts and speculation, it is back. After 25 years apart, adidas have marked their reunion with Arsenal by unveiling a contemporary version of the yellow and navy jersey, much to the delight of the club’s fanbase.

Designing a kit, and such a culturally significant one at that, is not as straight forward a process as you might imagine. Using the original kit from the late 1980s as a starting point, adidas took inspiration from around London, the Emirates, the club museum and their own archives.

In a dimly lit room at adidas’ headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, designer James Webb is talking us through the journey of how the bruised banana v.2 came to be.

After the blurring of the lines between sportswear and streetwear in recent years, the whole process revolved around the ethos of “creating jerseys that can be worn at any given time, on and off the pitch. It’s about how we use the history to create the future.”

“It’s a real deep dive into the club’s history to find all the layered, textured stories and how then we can start the design process when it comes to creating the first season [for adidas] after 25 years.”

As much as many Arsenal fans might have wanted a jersey almost identical to the original bruised banana, as adidas created for several nations ahead of the 2018 World Cup, adidas were not so keen. “It’s very much about a contemporary take on this jersey, how we can give this jersey its own life,” Webb explains.

“So while we looked back at the history of the club, we also looked at our own archives and our own history. This particular graphic is now known as the bruised banana because of Arsenal. It was actually called the Italia. These little stories we find out for ourselves as well.”

“This crest sits on the royal Arsenal gatehouse. It has a lightning bolt which is already synonymous with Arsenal and that predetermined which direction we wanted to take it for the graphic. So, the graphic was rotated 45 degrees from the original.”

Taking influence from that crest, adidas incorporated a lightning bolt pattern into the contemporary take on the bruised banana, giving this jersey its own unique style. Make no mistake, this shirt will become a classic of its own in years to come.

With the shape of the ‘graphic’ decided, all that was left for the boffins at adidas to finalise was the contrast of the colours.

Regulations set by UEFA and FIFA, as well as the club’s sponsors’ wishes, limited how they might go about this.

“The big talking point would be the contrast between this jersey and the old. It’s something we were unfortunately quite limited towards because of FIFA and UEFA regulations and also respecting the club sponsors,” Webb says.

“The initial idea was to ramp it up as loud as possible,” he continues.

“But the regulations mean we have to measure between the dark and light. So if it was more predominantly blue, it would be a hard mix between whether it was a light kit or a dark kit. For us it was very important to have this yellow story.”

Arsenal are still facing a plethora of longstanding issues on and off the pitch, from a reportedly minuscule transfer budget to discontent among fans with the running of the club at board level. But they can now take some solace in the fact that they will at least take home the best dressed award come the end of next season, if nothing else.