Something I touched on recently in The Second Best Titled Blog Article Ever™ (I'm, naturally, also responsible for the best) that deserves expanding on is the yin to the rise of the baselayer's glorious yang - the demise of long-sleeved football shirts.

As wrapped up as I've been in celebrating the - as yet not entirely tapped - possibilities of undergarments, I've perhaps negected to pay true tribute to the mainstay of football through the ages, which is now seriously under threat.

The long-sleeved shirt was, in what we'll call 'my day', the standard form of football shirt in every level below professional.  Coupled with a size label with at least one X, it meant cuffs to grip onto on a wet Sunday morning and, due to its roomy shielding of puny forearms, one less complex to deal with on the pitch.  As well as the only option in early nineties l'Olympique de Marseille shirts, it also provided the most sought after replica for Liverpool and Celtic - a thirst that was rarely quenched.

Things have changed.  Continental (please forgive the retro phraseology) long-sleeved shirts are as tricky to locate as their UK cousins and teamwear is now regularly available and acquired in short-sleeved variations.  In the Premier League, where once players would be the envy of the fan by having options when it came to sleeve length, it now appears that less is more (it's what one does with it that counts) and relative dinosaurs such as the finally declining David Beckham represent the luddites wearing their hearts below the elbow.

This seems more calculated than simple organic progress.  I asserted that fans do wear baselayers but perhaps I'm playing directly into the hands of the club(shop)s and manufacturers by feeling this way.  If the club-specific baselayers being alluded to by Everton and Hull City are the way forward then the sums are quite simple; if a short-sleeved shirt retails at £50 and a baselayer at £25 then this combined purchase - markup allowing - trumps a long-sleeved shirt's potential £60 - especially if the club shop consistently 'runs out' of the last item.

But what cannot be replaced is the satisfying - often, literally, seamless - continuity of a full length sleeve.  Which may be why that appears to be consigned to the dustbin of history.  adidas stripes have long been broken on the sleeve (elaborating on the reasons for that decision may be an article for the future) and this season's Manchester City away shirt, in long-sleeved form, is little more than the short-sleeved version with black extensions tacked on beneath the hem.  Yes, the upper part actually flaps over the lower section.  Remind anyone of anything?

The new France away kit was unveiled almost inferring a necessity for it to be worn with a baselayer, despite the exaggerated cuffs which once signaled the break between fabric and skin.  Its Gaultier-inspired predecessor was so seldom obtainable in long-sleeved that it provided a cruel false dawn for Gallic onion, baguette and bicycle sellers heralding a seemingly inevitable boost in revenue; perhaps its use of hoops sitting uneasily with a plain undershirt signed its death warrant.  Equally it seems improbable that the next Arsenal shirt, if leaked images are to be believed, will relocate its substantial cuffs between the versions.  The future seems to be a world of long-sleeved shirts, should they survive, being almost indistinguishable from a short-sleeve/baselayer combination.

I'm still to be challenged on the theory that Manchester United do not have long-sleeved Home and Away shirts this season - certainly in player issue form - and what the big boys do the rest generally follow.  I have no problem with myths about long-sleeved shirts keeping us warm being exploded and the cliché of scoffing at a footballer combining gloves with short sleeves is ignorant in the extreme, but, as much as I love the baselayer and relish its future, the long-sleeved football shirt and the timeless design it encompasses will undoubtedly be missed, should it indeed prove to be doomed.


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