The Rugby World Cup is just 100 days away, and with that comes a veritable cornucopia of new shirts from every nation and supplier you could possibly want. ASICS seems to be wanting to steal a march on everyone else, releasing the Springboks shirt last week, and now following up with the World Cup offering for Australia.
ASICS have been the ARU’s supplier since last season, and in that time they’ve produced a pretty uneventful, traditional-looking Wallabies shirt, and some decidedly more eventful ones for the Aussie 7s. They provided a pretty good appraisal of the Japanese sportswear giant’s shirt design ethos – they can go conservative and conventional, or they can really come at it from outside the box.
While the Bok shirt kept things pretty classic-looking, eyebrow-raising yellow sleeves aside, the Wallabies design has certainly caused a bit of a stir with a design that breaks sharply with a decade or so of pretty plain shirts.
While the green and gold has been a lot more gold and not a lot of green in recent years, this new shirt firmly redresses the balance, with a pretty wild shoulder motif consisting of a selection of thin green strips, with cut-out yellow Southern Cross constellation.
After so many years of pretty much plain, such a bold design left-turn has got people pretty het up, particularly on social media, and on some level we can understand some of their concerns. We don’t love the way that the stripes peter out halfway down the sleeve – we can’t help but think people would like it a lot more if the whole shoulder was green and stripy as opposed to just a section.
That said, we’re going to fly in the face of a lot of online vitriol here and say we actually quite like the shoulder bit. It’s got something of the gladiator’s shoulder armour about it from a distance, though perhaps we’re kidding ourselves there.
Regardless, there’s a retro-ness to the shoulder that we quite like – not retro in the sense that we usually mean, the classic shirts of the 60s and 70s, but more of a throwback to some of the more out-there shirts of the 1990s. And say what you like about the 90s being a high-watermark of shirt design (or not), it wasn’t too bad a time for Australia and Rugby World Cups, was it? So maybe it’s a good omen.
The other critique we’ve seen levelled at this new shirt relates to the colour. Over the last five years or so, the ‘gold’ in ‘green and gold’ has been in flux somewhat, varying in shades and hues, almost looking yellow at times.
Now, this is not a good thing. A team’s colours, particularly in test rugby, are sacrosanct – they have history, weight, importance. They’re intwined with the very fabric of a nation’s psyche. Messing with the gold of a Wallabies jersey is no more acceptable than making an All Blacks shirt dark grey, Wales’ a dirty pink, or England’s cream. The very idea of it grinds our gears.
But colour is a funny old thing, and lighting, particularly in a studio environment, can have a big impact on how that colour looks in photographs. For example, in our review of last year’s Australia shirt, we grumbled that the shade of gold seemed a little washed out. But in the flesh, under natural light, it looked as gold as any Wallaby shirt before it. There’s been some grumbling that the new shirt is too yellow but from the images we’ve got here, it looks pretty gold to us, but we’ll reserve judgement on the colour until we see it on the field.
There’s no doubt that this is a polarising design for ASICS, and it’s not one that everyone’s going to appreciate. With any new shirt, you’re going to get some negative reaction, as change isn’t always palatable, but after more than five years of very, very plain Australia shirts, such a bold design decision was always going to magnify that.
While we’re perhaps not as keen on this as we are with the new Springboks shirt, in a tournament where we’ll probably see a parade of very plain, very safe designs from plenty of other teams out there, we like that this is a bit of a break from the norm.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD (IF IT’S GOLD)