THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DUTCH CELEBRATING MOROCCO

In just a few short days, the World Cup should be all that matters. The tournament has become a month long holiday of sorts in which all just seems right with our world. We obviously kid ourselves and I am glad to have come to grips with this reality thanks to the help of certain releases this past week which have reminded me that this is as much a time to look out into the world as it is an opportunity to also look into ourselves.

The first eye-opening release this past week came courtesy of Lack of Guidance. The Dutch brand should be familiar now to most of you. It began merely with the intent of delivering stellar design by reinterpreting some of soccer’s most recognizable logos, but has matured into a brand who wants its designs to now actually mean something. Their latest effort is one of their most significant to date as through it the brand is able to ask some real tough questions of its own homeland.

Reflective, evaluative, and self-critical, the project is premised on the simple fact that the World Cup is always a time where we see ourselves become cheerleaders of nations other than our own. While we usually have no affinity to these teams other than the players we admire, Lack of Guidance points to the irony that its own Dutch people do have ties to another nation which they will still not support. What is worse is that now they should have more reason to support this nation seeing that the Dutch themselves will not be taking part in the tournament.

The nation in question is none other than Morocco whose redesigned crest adorns the front of the brand’s retro style jersey. Interestingly, Morocco’s roster includes 7 Dutchmen of Moroccan descent whose names are inscribed on the shirt’s back. As a whole, the product functions as a call to action to show solidarity with a community often marginalized in Dutch society. For Lack of Guidance, there is obviously no better way to do this than through soccer.

 

While Lack of Guidance’s effort took a more subtle approach, Fokohaela’s offering is more provocative and in your face. Once again a discourse on a nation that will not be participating in this year’s World Cup, Fokohaela’s designs come on the heel’s of Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” a song which which mirrors some of the same issues seen here. The first design touches on the topic of police shootings of unarmed Black men. Its defining decorative feature is a recurring target image with the message of the Black Lives Matter movement of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” interspersed throughout.

The second design on the other hand is a commentary on America’s mass shootings. It reinterprets the American flag into bullet holes and blood drips yet still lays out a clearer message for all to see. The “Slave 2 Guns” statement across the back lays bare the troubling question of how a nation can prioritize the right to own a gun over the personal safety of its citizens.

The two jerseys are set against the backdrop of the World Cup, a time in which every nation is so determined to demonstrate the best of themselves. Fokohaela’s jerseys force us to step away from this fantasy and instead confront some serious and uncomfortable truths. The experience of wearing or just seeing this jersey on someone else can therefore be cathartic in a way as it is through being truthful and critical of our own reality that we can be our nation’s strongest fans or patriots. So let us be accepting of the image we as Americans are projecting to the world, however, let us not resign ourselves to the danger that this image always has to be so.

Fokohaela’s jerseys are available here. 25% of their proceeds will benefit the Black Lives Matter movement. Lack of Guidance’s shirt, however, is already sold out.

NIGERIA WC KIT: HAS THE HYPE BECOME A REAL STRUGGLE?

I have had a real problem ever since February. As many of you might remember, February was the time Nike chose to officially reveal Nigeria’s World Cup collection. In its entirety, the offering blew me away. I simply cannot remember feeling the same way about any other World Cup release in my lifetime.

The collection had that instant pull yet ironically Nike has kept us at a distance from it. When the collection was presented, I wrongly thought its release was imminent as in previous World Cup cycles where Nike has often used the month of March to release all of its federations’ kits. It was only after reading Nike’s press release on the collection itself that I became more concerned and puzzled. The press release did not make any mention of a specific release date even though Nike’s subsequent press releases on national team kits have. I would argue that release dates are the whole point of these press releases.

I, therefore, sought answers. Initially, I relied on social media and my usual go-to sources for new kit intel. I couldn’t find anything and to make matters worse, it seemed as if no one was willing to offer any answers either. I remember reaching out to Soccer.com a few months later. I had already prepared myself for the disappointment though as I have never had any success in getting real answers to my questions anytime I have reached out to them or any other customer service representative at other major soccer retailers. As expected, all Soccer.com could tell me was to stay tuned to their social media platforms.

It was only a short while ago that I finally found something on Twitter. It was a response from Nike revealing that the release date for this collection would be June 1st. This tidbit of information should have provided some relief yet I still find myself being consumed by this subject still.

With the release now only a matter of days away, I find myself more concerned with the question of whether I’ll be able to get the kit at all. As I said before, Nigeria’s kit release is unlike any other. It seems everyone wants it whether it be the casual or more passionate fan. At the same time, Nike will not make things any easier. While in previous years fans had a few months to buy their favorite kits before a World Cup, the window for this is now severely limited to a few days. The decision is none other than a deliberate attempt from Nike to have us feed into the hype. Unfortunately, we have no other choice as I, like everyone else, wants to have this kit by the start of the tournament.

As much as a marketing move, the delayed release date is also a smart business decision. Nike has ensured that people will pay the suggested retail price for the Nigeria kit which was likely not the case for adidas’ World Cup home kits. Out now since November, many fans have surely capitalized on some sort of discount ranging from 15% on the adidas website to the 25% to 30% off discount some soccer retailers here in the US had around Christmas time. Fans now will be lucky if they get free shipping but of course, the real concern for me is not so much price, but whether Nike and its retailers will be able to adequately meet the demand considering it will indeed be high. Again, they have not left themselves much time for this as every fan will want to have their jersey by the start of the tournament two weeks later.

Now, some of you may have noticed that I have not expressed any concern on whether the kit will live up to its hype. Despite obviously having more than enough time to dwell on this possibility, I have no doubt that the Nigeria kit will be everything I imagine it to be in person. Before I worried that Nike would make the mistake of not offering the match version of this kit as it has done with its smaller federations. Here is perhaps where you might be better able to understand the craze I’ve been driven to as I have found myself closely examining press release photos just to verify that Nike will most likely offer match jerseys. Recent reports for the demand of the jersey should also confirm this.

Still, the wait for Nigeria’s jersey has not been easy. I know many people surely share my struggle so please comment below on how you feel about this jersey and how you have coped with its long-anticipated release.

Images via Nike.

IS ENGLAND’S WC ’90 ITALIA HOME KIT THE TEAM’S VERY BEST?

Italia 90 is an iconic World Cup. For England, it was a special one. A team full of Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Stuart Pearce and Paul Gascoigne. The Three Lions reached the semi-finals of this tournament, the furthest they have gone since their famous 1966 win.

It wasn’t just the players or the performances, especially from Gazza, that struck a chord with the world of football. It was the home and third kits. The home kit is an iconic one but the blue one is, in my opinion, the best ever England shirt.

Both shirts had a beautiful collar, one that wouldn’t look out of place on the fashionista’s of the world. As the culture has grown, shirts like the home and third kit have become more and more sought after due to their aesthetics. With the home shirt being the normal all white shirt featuring fantastic red numbers and the team lined up against the rest of the world looking slick.

It’s the blue shirt, for me, that is astounding. Featuring in, arguably, the best World Cup song ever by New Order ‘Three Lions,’ the blue third shirt is a grail of many. A shirt that can only be bought either in remake form or for $100+. The best place to find shirts, ClassicFootballShirts, only has one of these available for sale and it is listed for £249.99.

It’s rare but I can still dream of ever wearing such a good shirt. Despite the home and third being the best shirts that England have ever worn, a special mention to the away kit. A simple red version of the shirts, the kit is perfect for those who believe that red should be the home kit colour forever and always (or just for those that prefer the red version).

Conclusion: a trio of kits, all offering a cool aesthetic to the football fashion gurus out there, but only if you’re willing to part with a whole load of cash. I would if I could…

SCOUTING REPORT: LET’S TALK BARCELONA & PSG

Aren’t we tired of talking about Real Madrid and the Champions League finals? Finally, Liverpool gets some of the UCL spotlight that has been dominated by Los Blancos for the past three seasons. Being a Barcelona fan myself, this weekend’s final is not something I am looking forward to. Of course I want Liverpool to snatch it from Madrid, but considering my bad luck in sports this year, I have a feeling the boys in white are going to win it again and I’m going to avoid all soccer forums until the World Cup – I don’t like facing the truth. And being a bitter Barcelona fan, I want to steal the big spotlight from these two teams, especially Madrid, at least for the length of this article. For this week’s Scouting Report, I’ll be covering Nivelcrack’s most recent release of their half-zip pullovers inspired by the colors of Barcelona and PSG.

Overall Design: The design of the two pieces are simple and clean. No graphics are integrated, but the main colors of each club were used to show the inspiration behind each piece. The colors of FC Barcelona are blue and red, which is also why they are known as the Blaugrana meaning blue and deep red in Catalan. The colors of PSG are blue, red, and white, hence the name of the piece is “Tricolor” after the three signature colors of the Parisian club. This is a contrast from the rest of Nivelcrack’s SS18 collection as most pieces from that collection were graphic-heavy. The structure of the pullover featuring the half-zip up to the neck is also a great look in my opinion, where it definitely has its roots in soccer.

Score: 4/5

Functionality: These pullovers are made from 100% polyester and yes you certainly can play on the pitch with these, and I actually recommend it as I’ve done so myself! The quality on these is up there with other tracksuits and tops from other major sporting apparel companies. The reason why tracksuits and athletic tops like these became a fashion trend was not just for its looks, but also how comfortable and practical they were for daily wear. When I first laid my hands on them, they felt rich and thick, but also light enough to not drag you down when you wear them.

Score: 5/5

Uniqueness: When you think of this criteria, you’re looking for something that is different from what’s out there right now in the market. Being a Barcelona fan and maybe from a biased perspective, I had a very positive first impression when I first saw the “Blaugrana” pullover. Not because anything in the design was out of this world, nor because it was something I haven’t seen before, but because it perfectly captured how I would want to represent my club without having to boast about the actual crest of the football club. It had just enough of the Barcelona DNA (shout-out Xavi) for me to want to wear it.

Score: 4/5

Details: The details of both pullovers are in their colors, but not much else. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the point of this release was to have the colors be the focus of the overall design, and I think Nivelcrack played their cards right with this one. This is the only way for us to talk about Barcelona and PSG during this time of the month, and I want to thank these two pieces for giving me an opportunity to snatch some of the spotlight from the Madridistas of what would soon be a terrible weekend for me.

Score: 3/5

You can now purchase the Blaugrana and Tricolore Half-zip Pullovers from RBC for US customers or Nivelcrack.

NEW ZEALAND, AN EARLY FINALIST FOR KIT OF THE YEAR

This past week gave us easily another candidate for kit of the year. Making the rounds through social media and receiving more than a welcomed reception, New Zealand’s new away kit is a simple thing of beauty that makes us forget this nation did not even qualify for the World Cup.

Before getting into the specifics of what makes this kit so exceptional, I must simply say that we should not be surprised that New Zealand has such a world class look. If anything, I have come to expect the best from New Zealand as its away jerseys of the past few years, including most notably its 2012 and 2016 away looks, prove that this nation should always be looked at as a top contender in a soccer-style sense.

New Zealand’s 2012 away kit featured above.

The interesting thing about this year’s look is that it recycles the same inspiration as all these past kits, yet still manages to offer something new. New Zealand’s most recognizable symbol, the fern, is again the main decorative detail though in this case it is reserved specifically to the sleeves of Nike’s new Vapor template. Rather than opting for an abstract or subtle print typically seen on many soccer kits, Nike highlights this fern inspiration to maximum effect by presenting a photo-realistic rendering that more effectively captures the mystique and power of this symbol.

More than just a great design, New Zealand’s away kit notably confirms that the criticism from many fans against Nike may be unwarranted now. While Nike’s Euro 2016 offering bolstered claims of Nike’s lazy design efforts, its 2018 kits show Nike can still flex some serious design talent when given the opportunity. I mention opportunity as I have noted that the most interesting or unique designs to come out of Nike come from its less high profile federations such as Slovenia, Slovakia, Australia, and obviously Nigeria. Meanwhile, the higher profile federations such as the Netherlands and France have been extremely conservative at least with their home looks. Though I understand the need to maintain a consistent and recognizable look, New Zealand’s away jersey proves that a bit of provoking design is necessary to make something unique and worth buying.

I simply wish Nike showed some more confidence in its work. A standout design such as New Zealand’s, therefore, deserves the authentic/match treatment rather than the mere replica offering that will be made available to fans. As a fan, I always want to have the real thing. Besides, I don’t think it would have been too much of an expense or risk for Nike to at least offer a limited batch of the authentic/match version of this kit. This is definitely something Nike might choose to explore through its Jersey Shop as I definitely feel that a demand for standout kits such as this, even at a slightly higher price point, more than exists.

For now, replica jerseys will suffice so make sure to hit up nike.com to get the New Zealand away jersey.

Images via Nike.

KITS FOR DAYS: OUR PICKS & PASSES ON RECENT KIT DROPS

With most of our attention in the next few weeks shifting to the World Cup, some of the biggest clubs are adamant that we don’t forget about them. This past week provided us with a bevy of kit releases so it is only natural that I feel the need to share my thoughts on some of the hits and misses, which I might either pick up or pass up in the hopes of one day being able to say “I got kits for days.”

MANCHESTER UNITED

I’ve started the recap off with one of the strongest showings of the week courtesy of Manchester United. The color choice from adidas is one of the best they’ve put out since taking over from Nike. The shades of blue are the perfect touch of modern for a jersey that is ironically historically inspired by United’s 1968 European Cup victory. The biggest win for this jersey specifically, however, is how more palatable it has made the usually off-putting Chevrolet sponsor logo.


MANCHESTER CITY

From a strong showing, we move on to a release that leaves us wanting a little more. In typical fashion, Manchester City is afraid to rock its boat when it comes to its home kit. Its jersey is essentially another simple design with only one feature working for it. That is, of course, the button collar previously seen on the France home jersey which adds just a nice touch of class to an otherwise less than unique design.


ROMA

Roma has been as conservative as Manchester City with its home look. This year, however, seems to be the exception as Roma present a chainmail print jersey inspired by Roman gladiators. This is a look I can definitely vibe with considering it makes me think of one of my favorite movies. That being said, this alone is not enough to sell me on the design. Funnily enough, I wish Roma had won some competition this year such as the Coppa Italia or the league, as an additional badge or some sort of additional sleeve detail would make this shirt slightly more interesting.


CHELSEA

Chelsea’s jersey is another design that I consider a step in the right direction despite the fact that it does not completely win me over. While I like Nike’s modern touch on a classic soccer look through its unique take on the jersey’s red and white horizontal stripes, I still keep thinking the best accent color for a Chelsea jersey should always be gold. Those who remember Chelsea’s 2005 Umbro design or even its 2008 adidas home jersey will know exactly what I am talking about.


PSG

PSG is a team I have come to hold high expectations. Their new home jersey, however, is not as innovative as I would have hoped as PSG has merely integrated the sleeve detail of Nike’s Vapor template into the central band of its signature and traditional look. Do not get me wrong though, as I still consider this a solid look. Recent years have taught me to hold on to my money until I have seen all PSG has to offer as either the team’s away or more likely third jersey will be sure to blow me away.


BAYERN MUNICH

It is only right that I finish off this recap with one of the best reveals of this week. This honor goes to Bayern Munich who presented a design that continues with the retro aesthetic we have already seen from adidas. In this design, what needs to be stressed is the fact that Bayern has not recycled some old design, but instead presents a print that is uniquely theirs through an abstract take on the diamonds of the Bavarian flag and the M’s of Bayern’s well known “Mia San Mia” phrase. Just short of perfect, this jersey lacks simply a navy collar which might have provided a better balance for the navy sleeve cuffs.


Yes, I am critical even of the best designs. You probably are too so make sure to comment below and share your own thoughts on the jerseys presented this past week that you’ll be looking to add to your own collection.

OP-ED: CONCEPT KITS ARE THE FUTURE

Concept kits are wonderful things; an aspect of soccer culture where an artist can express their dreams of designing some of the biggest clubs’ kits. But what if these weren’t just dreams? What if brands realized the sheer talent some of these people have for designing kits?

adidas and Nike, obviously, run the kit game with iconic shirts from past years and some delightful new releases. However, in recent years, we have seen the increasingly annoying use of templates. A lazy approach to designing kits. Simply copy and paste the shirt, changing the colors to suit teams (see Nike’s 2016 releases). What if, for once, brands looked to a concept artist or two to create – or even just aid the creation – of kits? A certain increase in originality will be noticed, but also kits that have unique aesthetics and a feel about them that links them to fans and clubs alike.

Through the Twittersphere we have all been exposed to a beautiful concept kit here and there. The good ones always cause a stir amongst the community, with many fans frantically sharing and expressing their views which are mainly positive.

A designer by the name of Emilio Sansolini is a perfect representative for this design community. Such talent is within this collection of artists that brands are missing a huge opportunity not reaching out to them. A few examples below of the stupendous work that Sansolini creates. Various kits that, as fans, we’d all love to see the players wear, especially following Nike’s disastrous collar idea this year. All of them feature a unique design, providing a slick aesthetic and overall… being beautiful.

But he isn’t the only one. I stumbled across Lukas Danyi when browsing the concept equivalent to heaven on Pinterest. A designer providing incredible art surrounding some of the biggest clubs on the globe. A guy who states in his Twitter bio “I hope to get a job as a football kit designer.” Well, Lukas, you deserve it. You understand kits and what makes them beautiful things.

Despite the recognition these guys – and many more fantastic artists – are gathering being mainly from fans on social media, steps have been made in the right direction. AS Roma, the Champions League semi-final club, have recognized various artists, including the two aforementioned. Via their Twitter, they’ve shone a huge light onto some magnificent kit designs. A big step in the right direction for getting designers higher in the food chain regarding kit design. If more clubs/brands/people in a position like reach out to those that deserve it due to their sheer creative brilliance, then we could see more interesting kits. And this is something we need. Especially with this emergence of the ‘template.’ Viva la revolution!

Many more designers are out there. To name a few: Jack Hazzard, Angelo Trofa, and Carlo Libri.

These people are the future. A wave of designers have crashed upon the culture’s shores and aren’t going away anytime soon. I ask, no, I urge all designers to carry on creating and keep dreaming about your kits being worn by superstars. It’ll happen…it has to. You are the culture, you are the future and I salute you.

UMBRO & EVERTON: DIAMONDS ARE EVERYONE’S BEST FRIEND

The reveal of a new kit for any team is always a contentious subject among its fans. In recent years, it seems like brands have become way too comfortable with the fact that they can never please everyone so much so that they will pump out kits that fit their brand more rather than the team they outfit. This week, however, Umbro and Everton give us hope in seeing a complete shift in kit creation which transfers creative and branding power to the people most connected to the club itself.

I follow a number of sites devoted solely to soccer kits. When I read people’s comments, the running theme always seems to be how disconnected some brands are from the teams they sponsor. It is easy to see how this can happen. For one, a designer might not be fully knowledgeable about the team they are designing for. At the same time, a designer is also bogged down by the whims and desires of execs from both team and sponsor. Why these people have such overwhelming influence over a team’s most powerful branding element seems ridiculous to me now that I really think about it. It is more than obvious that the people most in tune with a club’s brand are its fans, therefore, it is their creative input that brands should be actively seeking and showcasing.

Umbro and Everton have done exactly that. Brainstorming with fans over a 15 month period, the two present a kit that can really be considered truly Everton, as well as one of the upcoming season’s premier kits.

The fan input and the difference it has made is more than apparent. In past years, Everton’s kits have been problematic for a couple of reasons. First, Umbro chose templates that were probably not the best choice. While that could be overlooked, the biggest problem that I always saw was the accent colors that Umbro used for the signature blue Everton home jersey. This year’s kit simplifies things for the better. Keeping things white and blue, which are rightly the only Everton colors, Umbro gives us a retro-inspired design that looks to be a win-win for both sides.

Umbro seems to finally get over the identity crisis that I saw in its recent Everton kits. Ironically, it is the fans and not the execs in the team’s front office that remind the brand exactly why Everton chose Umbro in the distant past, and why it has chosen it again for the team’s near future. The design is a perfect balance of both brands. While the retro diamond taped sleeves might get all the attention, I think something can be said for the stylish collar as well as the heathered fabric which makes a simple blue jersey that much more interesting.

I really hope Everton fans will speak with their pockets for this kit. It is their pockets, after all, that will make the most convincing argument for kit sponsors to look more and more towards substantial and consistent fan input. My pocket is already spoken for so you can be sure that I’ll be adding this kit to my own collection. Let me know what you think of this kit and where you stand on Everton’s fan’s input in the creative process.

Via Umbro.

IS THE POLO STYLE COLLAR IN SOCCER DYING?

The polo style collar in soccer jerseys has been utilized less and less in recent years. When I got into soccer in the mid-’90s, it seemed like almost every other team’s jersey had one. Now, nearly twenty years later, I can only name Arsenal off the top of my head as the only major team whose jersey has a polo collar this season.

More glaring, however, is the fact that not one team at this year’s World Cup will wear a jersey with this collar. I ask myself then why such a classic soccer look has experienced such a steady decline?

I know part of the reason is simply performance. The big brands prioritize the input of their top athletes and it is no secret to anyone that some of these athletes have described the polo collar as bothersome. Another explanation also comes directly from the consumer these brands are now targeting. Marketing now specifically to a youthful consumer who prioritizes both the modern and the cool, the big brands seem to mistakenly think the polo collar no longer makes the cut.

This past week’s Nike Netherlands kit release may just be that happy accident which enlightens the big brands to use the polo collar more often. I first came across news of this kit release through Instagram and I remember being immediately drawn to the black polo collar which one of the models was sporting. Wrongly thinking the collar was part of the jersey as opposed to simply part of an undershirt Nike’s stylists had layered it with, I was taken back to memories of the 1998 Netherlands World Cup squad.

Though I was quick to realize my mistake, I couldn’t help but think how big of a missed opportunity this was for Nike. The Netherlands, unlike the majority of Nike’s national teams this year, has one of the most “templatey” looks of all. There are no visible unique decorative details to this kit specifically as Nike has banked on the iconic orange of the Netherlands to speak most vividly. While I do not necessarily find this design direction problematic, I do suspect that both Nike designers and executives of the Dutch Football Federation realize now how much more special the new Dutch kit could have been with the simple inclusion of this black collar.

Even though no one is beating Nike’s effort with the Nigeria home kit, I would have easily put the Dutch kit right behind it had it included this black collar. Considering the Netherlands will not participate in this year’s World Cup, a stellar kit might have been all the team needed to at least remain a topic of conversation amongst fans. I concede that the current kit is not exactly forgettable; its only problem is that it is simply just not memorable enough.

The funny thing is that despite its shortcomings, I still contemplate the idea of buying this kit. I have thought about wearing it in a similar way to the model or just making an alteration to the jersey in which a black collar is actually part of it. At the same time, I have gone on to think about the practicality of detachable collars in soccer jerseys. In the Dutch case, a detachable collar might be first and foremost a way to appease the more traditional fans. If seen, however, as a canvas for expression, the same medium can also satisfy the more creative leanings of its younger or newer consumers. In this way, a detachable collar should not be considered something that dilutes a brand, but rather enhances it.

For all these reasons, I am heavily pro polo collar. Make sure to let me know in the comments below where you stand on this issue and whether you see the polo collar making a comeback.

THE DUTCH DO IT AGAIN WITH THEIR NIKE 2018 KIT

Adding to the recent release of new kits debuting in the World Cup, the Netherlands is a bright spot in the laundry list of hits and misses. Though the men will not be partaking in international play this summer, their newest kit by Nike certainly doesn’t reflect a poor performance.

The Dutch are sticking to the traditional and easily recognizable bright orange colorway with black accents and all white shorts. The sleeves and crest are by far the highlight, with a sleeve pattern that mimics speed, and a lioness crest emblazoned with KNVB or the Royal Netherlands Football Association. Simply put, the kit is fierce.

The away version is just as eye-catching, paying homage to the 1988 change colors with a baby blue base and royal blue geometric pattern to create movement. The colorway chosen is fresh and unique with socks for each kit matching the color of the jersey top worn.

Last but not least, both kits feature a crown stamped inside the back collar, an orange crown on the away kits, and an all-black for the home. Although it won’t be seen during matches, it’s a cheeky addition that adds to the flare of some already tasteful style choices for the Dutch.

The top is available for purchase tomorrow, April 26th, at Nike’s online store, and will debut in their friendly against Slovakia on May 31st.