Nike practically invented the modern rugby shirt back in 2003, and while the US sports giant doesn’t produce quite as many shirts as it used to do, the ones they do are some of the most striking and lovely modern designs around. But rugby fans don’t always like modern and bold… sometimes we like a bit of retro, but Nike wouldn’t really be interested in that any more, would they?
Well, yes, clearly they would! This year, Argentina celebrates 50 years as a touring team, when in 1965, the national side toured South Africa, beating the Junior Springboks and earning a nickname from a local journalist – Pumas.
To mark this historic watershed moment for Argentinian rugby, Los Pumas will wear this stunning commemorative jersey for their Rugby Championship match this weekend against the Springboks in South Africa, and again for their home match against the the men in green on 15 August.
Let’s not mince our words here – this might be one of the most stunningly beautiful shirts we’ve seen in a good long time, and it’s further proof that despite their reduced output, Nike are one of the finest rugby shirt designers in the world today.
The new shirt is modelled on the shirt worn on that famous 1965 tour, and what’s remarkable here is quite how far Nike has gone to replicate the retro look here. It’s reminiscent of the much-loved Nike RFU Centenary shirt England wore back in 2010 in the lengths the US brand has gone to make this feel old…
For starters, we’ve got proper old-school long sleeves, retro-style hoops, and a truly glorious old-school collar with a proper, no-messing around button-up placket.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a special blue and white ‘1965’ UAR badge, that just looks old… like, it looks a bit shit, old. In this age of 3D injection-moulded badges and computer-controlled stitching, this badge looks rough, hand-sewn… it’s almost certainly not, but we love the attention to detail.
The reason this shirt looks so wonderfully authentic is as much about what isn’t here as is, too. For starters, there’s no main sponsor on the front of the shirt – taking it off instantly makes a shirt feel old-school – but Nike has gone one step further and opted to remove the swoosh, too, leaving the front of the jersey completely unblemished, just as it would have been.
We say unblemished, but, well, this shirt is being used in a test match against one of the finest teams in World Rugby, so there are a few concessions to modernity, but crucially they don’t ruin the vibe.
It’s skin-tight for starters, of course, and made of super duper modern fabrics. There’s also the unavoidable grippy material, for ball security, but we’re glad they’ve moved it to the ribcage from the chest, as it was on the World Cup shirts, in order to minimise its intrusion.
Cards on the table here – bold, modern rugby shirts are great, and we understand the financial reality that makes sponsorship a necessity. However, a shirt like this reminds you of what a beautiful, simple, wonderful thing a classic, clean, retro design can be.
Argentina might only be wearing this for two tests, but let’s cherish it while we can – a fitting tribute for the Pumas 50th anniversary, and a timely reminder for rugby shirt fans of the beauty of the traditional rugby shirt.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: SO DAMN GOOD