Leicester Tigers are, without any exaggeration, genuine royalty in English rugby terms – whether you’re a fan of the team or not (probably not, let’s face it) you have to respect both the consistency of their on field excellence (domestically, at least) and the sheer number of rabid fans they pack into Welford Road every other weekend.
Given this large and passionate fanbase then, there’s no doubt that the Tigers kit launch is one of the most important of the season – they’re doubtless going to sell a lot of shirts, and if they get it wrong, chances are, the club and Canterbury are going to hear all about it from Angry Internet Man.
Asides from their unfortunate tiger-print dalliance a few years back, Leicester fans have rarely had anything to complain about – last season’s kit was a masterclass of simple, clean and classy design, and this year’s offering, while substantially less spartan, is another winner.
The classic green, white and red hoops might be a little busy for a modern kit to really work with, but we like how the design here has taken that vibe and echoed it in the pinstripes across the front, along with a more unconventional light green addition.
It’s a welcome bit of detail as well, as the shirt would look pretty spartan on the front without some kind of pattern on the fabric. Canterbury started experimenting with moving its logo onto the shoulder last season, as evidenced by the rarely-seen England alternate shirt, but this is a step further.
By moving their logo to the shoulder, they’re free to move the badge to the centre of the jersey without things looking cluttered. While it’s quite a big change for Canterbury shirts, and most modern shirts in general, we have to say, we really like it – there’s a pleasingly retro, 1970s vibe to the jersey that we think really works.
As with all other Canterbury designs this year, the back of the jersey is different, this time replicating the Leinster European jersey by opting for a pattern-free version of the primary colour. While we think it’ll look better with a number on the back, as it is, we can’t help but feel like maybe it’s a little too bare at the moment – unlike the Leinster shirt, the pattern is unobtrusive enough that it could go all the way around.
Another feature that’s borrowed from this year’s England crop, in this case the home shirt, is the contrasting, exaggerated sleeve cuffs. Again, we’re not massively enamoured with it, as it just feels like there’s a bit too much red in play, particularly from the front, but it’s no deal-breaker. Now, onto the alternate shirt…
Do you need a minute? It’s okay if you do. Just take it all in and we’ll come back to you when you’re ready…
Okay? We good? Good.
So… er… yeah. If your first reaction when you saw this shirt rhymed with ‘clucking bell’ or indeed, perhaps ‘goalie clucking spit’, well, we can’t say we blame you. This shirt is about as eye-assaulting loud and striking as we’ve seen Canterbury do in some time, and when you go this bold, there’s very little doubt that it will be perched on the absolute knife edge of love and hate for the majority of fans.
The first thing that’s probably got you rubbing (or perhaps more accurately, shielding) your eyes, is the colour. Now, we should preface this by saying that in the various other photos we’ve seen with different lighting used, it doesn’t appear to be quite as day-glo in the flesh as it does in the product shots we’ve got here. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s quite inescapably orange, however – ‘Cherry Tomato’ is what Canterbury are calling it but er… yeah, no, us neither.
That’s not the whole story, of course, as the orange is set off by the bars of contrasting half-black, half-white uneven diagonal stripes, and the large black sleeve cuffs. It’s quite the package, and will probably have the traditionalists turning away in disgust.
And yet… we actually really love it. Like, really…
Okay, first things first – we really like orange. We think it’s an absolute travesty that orange, particularly bright, striking shades of it, are criminally underused in UK sport. It’s very common in the US, and we think it looks fantastic, particularly when paired up with a strongly contrasting colour, such as dark blue or black.
Another thing about orange, black and white, is that they’re the colours of an animal… an animal that may or may not provide the nickname for a certain Leicester-based rugby team.
And that’s when things, for us at least, get really cool. We love it when manufacturers really think about designs, and look into the history of a rugby club to deliver a shirt that doesn’t just look cool, but has a concept behind it that actually means something. In this case, inspiration for this kit goes all the way back to around 1885, when the Leicester rugby team played in an orange and brown kit. This led a journalist from the Leicester Daily Post to nickname them the ‘Tigers’ for the first time, and it stuck…
Obviously Canterbury decided that brown and orange was a little bit much for modern eyes to swallow – and frankly, good on ’em for that – but we love the fact that a rugby shirt can tell a story about the history of a grand old rugby club.
So two shirts that are at the opposite ends of the scale in terms of their eye-grabbing natures, and yet two shirts that both work really well. We love the understated classiness of the home shirt, and we really dig the bonkers nature of the alternate, too – especially with its clever nod to history. There are many ways to skin a Tigers shirt, it seems, and Canterbury’s designers certainly know what they’re doing.