The rise of base layers and the disappearance of the long sleeved shirt

The rise of base layers and the disappearance of the long sleeved shirt

There’s been a clear trend in football, long sleeved shirts are dying out.

To be honest it happened years ago. If you were to look at Chelsea’s title winning side under Mourinho in 2004/05 you would see a healthy mix of long and short sleeves, even in the summer months.



Fast forward six years, however, and the Manchester United side that took part in the 2011/12 campaign contractually weren't even allowed long sleeves. It was short sleeves or short sleeves and a Nike brand base layer and that was it.



Over the subsequent years a number of other major clubs and their manufacturers followed suit and now only a small number of clubs even carry long sleeved options on the club store. 

So why has this happened?

As always, marketing plays a major role.

The rise in popularity of Under Armour’s base layer technology in US sports drove the likes of Nike and Adidas to take action and start producing their own versions. While they had already lost considerable ground to Under Armour in US sports they saw the opportunity to get ahead in the international market and chose Manchester United and more specifically Wayne Rooney, to launch the style in Europe during the 2007/08 season.



Then there is the other, somewhat controversial, answer. Base layers are just better than long sleeves.

Even in temperatures of 30+ it is not uncommon for players to be seen in the modern iterations of the base layer. They are so effective at wicking sweat away from the body that they are often favourable to wearing nothing underneath the players often sweat drenched shirts. In colder temperatures too they are more effective at keeping the wearer warm than most modern long sleeved shirts. 



Lastly, manufacturers also make the claim that the tight base layers also offer support to the core and back. It’s not much, but in the ultra competitive world of top level football, every little advantage helps. 



That's not to say that the long sleeve is completely dead. Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe are both fond of wearing the traditional style while on international duty while the likes of Leroy Sane and Sergio Ramos frequently opting for long sleeved options mean that when it comes to the most marketable athletes in the sport, the long sleeve is very much still clinging on. 


Words by Andy Gallagher

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