After several seasons with Irish manufacturer O’Neills, Harlequins have signed up with Adidas, joining an elite group of Northern Hemisphere teams who are supplied by the German sportswear giant. Naturally, there’s been a lot of excitement and anticipation for the new gear from Quins fans, but that’s not the most important thing. No, the most important thing is what we think of it, obviously, so get on with it…
We should get this out of the way first, by means of an apology to Quins fans. While nobody can deny the heritage and distinctiveness of the Harlequins jersey, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s… well… let’s be honest here – it’s just fuck ugly. Red, black, pale blue, green, brown and light grey (which always looks a bit washed out and almost beige to us). That’s not a coherent colour palette, those are the crayons a creepy five-year-old child uses to draw those vaguely troubling pictures that get him referred to a child psychologist.
Anyway, for a given value of good that a Quins shirt can be (and that is grading on a fairly generous curve), this is a pretty decent effort on the face of it. It’s a pretty inoffensive front of the shirt, with the Quins quarters not doing anything particularly out there, though new sponsor DHL’s logo does clash rather horribly. We’re not mad-keen on the sublimated harlequin pattern that’s strewn haphazardly across the front of the jersey either – the front of a Quins shirt is busy enough, without Adidas giving us flashbacks of booting up Windows 95…
The rear of the jersey, however, is where things start to get much more polarising. As you’d expect by now, Adidas’s standard ‘shoulder scarf’ panelling is in full effect here, and they’ve taken the pretty bold decision to make it stand out even more by making it green and white. For us, it’s just a bit much – there’s so many colours going on here anyway, such a big block of solid colour around the shoulders really makes things look haphazard.
And what’s with all the black? Rather than continue the quarters down the rear of the shirt for some reason, they’ve opted to cut it off half way up the back and make the rest of it black. Someone on Twitter christened this effect ‘the bum apron’ and we’re honestly struggling to think why you’d try to intentionally make the shirt look so incoherently designed.
Ironically, on the face of things, the away shirt is actually more palatable to us than the home. For one, the light grey actually looks grey here to us, no beige, as it does on the home shirt, an eternal plus let’s face it, but also, despite the intentionally messy nature of the design, it actually feels a lot more coherent.
We really like the way the designer has used large swathes of black to give an impressionistic take on the harlequin pattern, while keeping the overload of colours to a minimum. It’s not going to be a shirt for everyone, admittedly, but it’s bold, modern, and has a little bit of that Stade-esque madness that we can’t help but appreciate.
The back of the jersey is as simplistic as the front is busy. Again, we’ve got a bold, contrasting colour for the shoulder scarf, but this time we don’t think the red feels like it’s too much, in fact when paired with its red shorts, we think it ties the whole thing in pretty nicely.
So, two shirts very much at opposite ends of the traditional/modern scale, and yet two shirts that work in very different ways. We appreciate the way the home shirt tries to make the best of the Quins design to create something palatable, but it feels over-designed and over-complicated in places, and it kinda ruins it.
The away shirt couldn’t be more over-complicated if it tried, and yet somehow we think it really works. That said, it’s inherent busyness is going to alienate as many fans as it will attract.
All in all, this is a decent first go of things for Adidas. It almost feels like they’re trying to strike a balance between Stade-esque madness and Munster-esque traditionalism with these shirts, and have ended up with a bit of a mess of the two, but there’s some real promise here.