If we were to break down the phrase “against modern football”, the disappearance of the long sleeve football shirt surely features as a prominent chapter in the tragic, unfolding story of the death of the game that we know and love.
The proliferation of base layers (often in completely different shades to the shirt above!) has seemingly shoved aside the long sleeved kit, so much so that there are many kits which simply aren’t available to buy with long sleeves.
Should we say goodbye to the hope of owning any future classics in long sleeve, or are there causes for hope? Let’s explore the landscape together…
Long sleeve football shirts are rare
No, you’re not going crazy. Long sleeve football shirts simply aren’t as readily available as they used to be.
In what has been something of a gradual decline, several manufacturers have phased out the production of long sleeve football shirts altogether. Naturally most brands have been quiet about these changes, and we’ve largely been left with scraps of information on social media to figure out where our beloved long sleeves have disappeared to.
One recent example saw MLS discontinuing long sleeve versions of their kits for all teams ahead of the 2019 season. The switch was reportedly down to a lack of demand for long sleeve variants, and the move dealt a significant blow to the long sleeve movement at a confusing time, given the rapidly increasing popularity of shirts in general after 2018 (and to a lesser degree, the appeal of MLS in markets outside North America).
If you shop around, you’ll realise that MLS shirts aren’t the only kits that are virtually impossible to find in long sleeves, but thankfully that’s not where the story ends…
But, long sleeve football shirts aren’t extinct
Despite a number of high profile snubs, the long sleeve market hasn’t completely died out. If anything, it feels as if we’re beginning to turn a corner.
Last summer, a number of international players were spotted in long sleeve shirts. Interestingly, two of the most notable examples were found from players of teams who work with adidas (Leroy Sane and Sergio Ramos for Germany and Spain respectively), the same brand who had abandoned the cause in MLS just a year previous.
Momentum for the cause gathered pace as James Rodriguez signed for Everton, and promptly donned long sleeved versions of both the home and away kit in some of the first matches for his new employers.
In 2019 it looked as if long sleeve shirts were being shown the door entirely, but if anything we should now anticipate more clubs and brands realising the mistakes they made and running back into the long sleeve arms they had too soon abandoned.
Who still sells long sleeve football shirts?
It’s all well and good that players are opting for long sleeve shirts instead of base layers, but can you actually buy these versions?
As we hinted previously, availability will largely depend on what you’re looking for. Sometimes there’s significant inconsistency even within the same brand, so patience and research is the name of the game.
For example if you want to buy the Germany and Spain shirts pictured in the previous section, you’d only be able to achieve half your goal. adidas sell a long sleeve version of the Spain kit, but a long sleeve Germany is curiously absent from all retail sites at the time of writing.
Fans of James or Everton are in luck, as long sleeved variants of the Toffees kits are readily available at various places including the club store. If you support other hummel teams like Coventry or Middlesbrough though, you’re only able to buy short sleeve kits wherever you look.
For situations where a team does sell long sleeve shirts, your best bet is to look first at the official store or brand retail sites. If you spot what you’re looking for there you can then cast the net out further afield by checking other retailers, though be aware that some sites may only stock short sleeve kits even though long sleeves are available elsewhere. Stock levels are also considerably lower for long sleeves.
A brief note on retro remake shirts. Many remakes of classic kits are available in long sleeve, and indeed some designs (particularly anything pre 80s) will be exclusively available in long sleeve.
Are long sleeve football shirts more expensive?
Long sleeve shirts are typically more expensive than short sleeve shirts, but only just. In most cases you’ll pay between £5-£10 more for the extra bit of sleeve, though some retailers hike the price up as much as £20 more.
Because there are fewer long sleeve shirts available, you often need to act fast to snap up your favourite kit as a long sleeve, so be prepared to set aside more cash so you’re not disappointed come release day.
Are long sleeve football shirts more valuable for collectors?
Are long sleeve shirts actually worth more than short sleeve shirts? Do they retain their value ahead of their short sleeve counterparts?
Though shirt valuation is more akin to a dark art than a science, one general rule you can apply is that the rarer the shirt, the more valuable it is. As there are fewer long sleeve shirts in circulation, they will be more worth slightly more in comparison to a short sleeve shirt.
The price difference isn’t as stark as other factors like sizing, where an extra small or extra large shirt can be worth as much as half the value of a medium or large, but I would always be happy to pay a little bit more for a long sleeve version of a vintage or new kit.
Though I’d be hesitant to spend upwards of £10-£20 more for the privilege, you’re often left with no choice if the new shirts you’re after flies off the shelves quickly, or if the vintage kit you desire is hard to find.
Collectors Club is all about you, the shirt collector. No matter what sort of shirts we collect, we all face similar issues at various stages of the collection process, be it buying, washing or storing.
Hopefully this article has been helpful, and if there’s anything else you’d like us to cover then please leave a comment!