Ulster Rugby have unveiled their latest kits for the new season, and while we’ve slated the Northern Irish province for their conservatism in previous shirts, for 50 per cent of their offering this year, we certainly can’t accuse them of not trying something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary…
Last season, we grumbled that it felt as though Kukri was barely trying when it came to the Ulster home shirt, and while this is at least an appreciably different design from the previous season (unlike the 2013 model), it’s still hardly a great leap forward. No reinvention of the wheel here then, but have the good people at Kukri at least bothered to stick a few Spokey Dokeys in there to liven things up? Well… we think so.
There’s an appreciable reduction in the amount of red in use here – gone are the slightly dated shoulder panels, replaced with a red-black line that hugs the sleeve cuff before jutting out into the shoulder, and then down to frame the flanks of the shirt on both sides. It’s subtle, and makes the kit feel a little more grown up. We’re also glad to see the horrible old BT logo that used to blight the shoulders replaced with a smaller and more tasteful BT Sport logo instead. Definite improvement.
The home shirt might be a little bit on the conservative side then, but the alternate shirt? Well… just look at it. Purple, blue, red… it’s as bold as the home shirt is staid… and we love it.
Let’s get the colours and basic design out of the way first. Purple is a colour that has a fairly chequered past in shirt terms – mainly as a result of some extremely regrettable England alternate shirts over the years. But here, combined with the red and the blue, we think it’s striking and brilliant.
Shirts with modern takes on hoops are all the rage at the moment – take a look at last season’s Saracens kits, for example, or the current Leinster Euro and Highlanders alternate jerseys – and we think this is another very successful implementation of the concept. The single red stripe that breaks up the top of the jersey is striking, and a nice way to remind everyone that this is indeed an Ulster kit.
Another new feature on this jersey is the collar, which Kukri has christened its ‘Bridge’ collar design. Unlike the NZ-style collar that the home shirt and most other Kukri shirts have used up until now. It’s another thing that we think makes this shirt a far more appealing jersey than other Kukri designs we’ve seen – some people aren’t too keen on football-style collars on rugby shirts, and to be honest, anyone who says they don’t prefer a rugby shirt with a proper collar is mentally ill… however, if we have to have a non-proper collar, we prefer something like this, which with its subtle V neck and half-collar combo, at least looks a proper rugby shirt.
Two shirts at opposite ends of the scale then – one completely conservative, and one incredibly eye-catching. And yet in their own ways, they both work. Yes, we’re a little bored with the lack of evolution in the home shirt, but it’s a classy, traditional and recognisable design, so maybe it’s a case of ‘if it ain’t broke…’. The alternate shirt on the other hand, is properly striking, and it absolutely nails the balance between taste and boundary-pushing – it’s one of our favourite shirts of the year so far, and we never thought we’d be saying that about an Ulster shirt…
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD