What is it that makes pre-season so special? Is it eagerly awaiting the new summer signings from your favourite club? Could it be the friendlies? The countless gym videos from every single club? No, nothing so traditionally masculine. Fashion is the thing that carries us rugby fans through the barren summer, the anticipation that builds as we wait to see what the stars of the sport will be wearing for the next season or two. So here we are, ready to mercilessly judge the decisions of design professionals from behind a screen like any other true cross between a rugby fan and internet user.
Here we look at the best of the best of this summers releases, in no particular order and with no particular knowledge of fashion.
Wasps Home & Away:
While not as good as their recent anniversary kit (Show me a throwback kit that has ever looked bad, I dare you), Wasps get points here for actually making their shirts look like a fucking wasp. They teased us a few years ago with some black and yellow side panelling but now they finally have added some real sting to their design. For a team that unashamedly playing actual wasp buzzing noises when their players run out on to the pitch, it’s a shock its taken so long to make the leap into a full wasp look. We applaud them all the same.
Despite the slightly cartoonish look with the heavy black outlining, Canterbury have taken the idea that you can never go wrong with hoops and ran with it. It may not be the best shirt to be released this summer but it’s noteworthy for being the first South African club jersey that stands on its own with a good design rather than just being “okay for a South African club jersey I suppose”, which was the previous benchmark.
Scotland Home & Away:
Macron are yet to go wrong with a Scotland shirt in my opinion (Screw the haters, the last one was great) and this release is no exception. The home jersey is how a modern rugby shirt should look, hints of retro spliced with innovative design, the collar being the main example of that with the classic Scottish rugby purple running down the side. The away jersey escapes my usual criticism of being just a boring white colour swap because the arms, collar and hip triangles just look so cool.
Cardiff Blues Home:
Macron’s first Cardiff Blues effort is a fresh take on a previous fan favourite. The Blues colours lend themselves to hoops so well and it’s disappointing when they don’t do it. One of the best parts about this shirt is how well the main sponsor blends into the design, a big green Land Rover blob could have killed this jersey instantly. The only drawback is the strange design over the shoulders which makes players look like they’re about to start their first day of year 7.
Bristol Bears Away & European:
Shirts so simple it’s hard to say anything about them. They’re just really really nice. With all the hubbub over Bristol rebranding into Bristol Bears, it’s a pleasant surprise to see them release such understated designs.
Bordeaux Home, Away & European:
Look at these! Look at them! I know I said these would be in no particular order but god damn they are by far the best shirts to come out this season. No words I write can do justice, so all I can recommend is to just to keep looking at them.
The unforgivables. The what-were-they-thinkings. The “I guess I’m saving £60 on a new shirt this season”s.
Southern Kings Home & Away:
So bad it looks like a rejected Belgium shirt, and you know something rejected by Belgium must be awful. Not content with keeping it minimalist, whoever TK is just decided to put some circles of triangles on there to make it look… better? I don’t know.
Earlier this year, I saw someone from Adidas sneak on to a parked coach at night with a pair of scissors and started frantically cutting the fabric off all the seats. I had wondered what they were up to, that was until this Munster jersey was revealed. Perhaps the universal disgust of bus seats will keep would-be tacklers away.
Dragons Home & Away:
Just because a team has some relation to a dragon, it doesn’t mean you should put scales on the shirt. That’s really the opposite of what you should do. Unfortunately for kit designers, the scales of the fictional dragon appear similar to very real animals like mackerel. To be fair to VX3, it’s very hard to make the Dragons colour scheme work. To be unfair to VX3, these designs are a pile of shit.
Macron must have mistaken headlines around their previous Saints disaster for positive press as they seem to have doubled down this year. Maybe they’ve done it as a joke. It doesn’t make any sense. Why is it red and white? Why is the red so awkwardly placed? Why haven’t Northampton finished their contract with Toolstation and chosen literally any other sponsor?
So bad they’re good. The shirts so terribly designed that they just turn right back into being lovable.
Zebre and Benetton Home:
Zebre’s new shirt is so loud they had to make their logo blue to you can actually see it. Zebras are also very famously black and white, a fact which Errea have chosen to ignore with the greatest arrogance. Benetton, or the artist formerly known as Treviso, are owned by top fashion company United Colors of Benetton and so you would expect only the classiest of designs. Instead, they just put a giant picture of a lion on the front. No design flairs or anything like that, just a big green block and a washed out lion face. Bold.
Scarlets have taken some flak from fans and critics alike over their decision to have 18 sponsors on their kit this season, but under the veneer of capitalism lies an acceptable home shirt. The away shirt, however, is incomprehensible. The weird yellow collar is just the start. The images of fish, eagles, harps, dragons, bushes and some kind of horse-eel hybrid adorning the bottom of the shirt are so confusing that I can’t help but love everything about this shirt.
I love this shirt so much, it’s so stupid. From the two cocks facing each other to the weird miniature tie for a collar and the Dutch flag on the sleeve, this shirt exemplifies everything that we love so much about French rugby. It’s ugly, beautiful, nonsensical and it shouldn’t work but it all comes together and you end up wishing it was even more insane.