Amongst all the World Cup excitement at the moment, it’s easy to forget that yes, domestic rugby will still be very much happening in the Northern Hemisphere this September, and that means in addition to all the gorgeous new World Cup shirts we’ve been enjoying, there’s also a whole crop of domestic shirts to get to grips with – it’s Shirt-a-palooza! The first Premiership to take the lid off their new gear for 2015/16 are Harlequins, who are entering the second year with Adidas. Let shirting commence!
Last year’s Quins shirts were a mixed bag – we appreciated Adidas’ attempts to balance the traditional and iconic Quins shirt design with some more modern twists, but it was a look that really polarised. There was an awful lot of black used in the sleeves and on the back, and a lot of green too, as part of the Adidas ‘stripe scarf’ – a design thing that hit as often as it missed across the various Adidas designs it was used on. And then there was the weird Windows 95-esque squares on the body of the jersey…
This year, almost all of the gripes we had with last year’s design have been removed – there’s no black anywhere but the collar (the shorts are all-black as usual however), the stripe scarf has been replaced with the much less intrusive over-the-shoulder stripes that we saw on this year’s France and Italy shirts, and Windows 95 has been banished to the recycle bin where it belongs. Instead, what we have is a much cleaner, more classic-looking design.
Indeed, ‘classic’ is clearly a word that’s been used around the Adidas design team when putting this shirt together. According to the press bumph, Adidas sought the input of a range of Harlequins playing legends and club officials, while also examining and studying a range of old shirts from throughout the club’s long history. The result is a design that emphasises the part of the Quins colour scheme that we’re least fond of – the rather dull grey and brown bottom quarters.
We say quarters, and well… that’s not strictly true is it? In reality it’s more of an 80-20 split, and this fact has drawn some ire from Quins fans upon its initial reveal. After all, the quartered shirt is often referred to as a ‘harlequin’ style design in rugby circles and beyond, so arguably that look is as much part of Harlequins identity as the five colours, yes? Well… not quite – the design team say that the new ‘raised’ quarters are actually a nod to the shirts worn by the club in the 1950s and 60s.
It might offend some fans’ sense of what a Quins shirt should look like, but we happen to think it really works, and is a much more coherent, clean and classy design than last year. Nice.
If we were a little luke warm about the home shirt last season, we had no such reservations about the alternate design. It was bold, modern and pretty damn risky, but we thought the impressionistic take on a harlequin pattern was a really cool, unique design that made the most of the huge Quins colour palette.
This season continues the theme of using full colour scheme of the home shirt to create something bold and modern on what’s otherwise a pretty plain white shirt. The PR spiel for it says that the pattern is an “exciting, free flowing graphic… inspired by the traditional playing style of the club and particularly the current crop of players.” We’d say that it looks more like the curtains from a Holiday Inn we stayed in at some point in the late 1990s, but perhaps that’s why we’re reviewing shirts and not marketing them…
Regardless of whether the design says ‘free-flowing rugby’ or ‘free-flowing curtains’ to you in isolation, we think it does look really cool in the context of the shirt, and it’s been used carefully enough that it doesn’t completely overwhelm some other nice design touches here.
For starters, we love the way the Adidas stripes on either shoulder have been coloured blue on the left and red on the right, matching the coloured quarters on the home shirt – it’s a clever little nod, but the sort of thing we love to see. We’re also glad to see the new Adidas open-neck collar used here. Not only does it look cool and distinctive, it will enable marquee summer signing Jamie Roberts to get his Desperate Dan-esque jaw through the collar without causing irreparable damage to himself or the garment…
If last year’s effort by Adidas could be filed under ‘good first try but plenty to work on’, then these new shirts show that Adidas’ designers were very conscious of fan feedback, and have sought to refine the recipe while still creating something new and a little bit different. The ‘raised quarters’ might anger the real traditionalists, but we’ve got no such complaints.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD