As one of the final teams to reveal their Rugby World Cup shirts, Wales had to do it in some style, and indeed they did though this afternoon, with the first glimpse anyone having of the new design being when the Wales players stripped off their anthem jackets to take the field against Ireland this afternoon. A cool idea, to be sure, but… is it any good?
Under Armour have never been afraid to shake things up as far as Wales are concerned. They swapped white shorts for unprecedented red last time out, and while the white shorts are back this year, there’s another radical colour change here – gold! Gold has never featured in a Wales kit before, but here it’s been given a pretty remarkable level of prominence, being used across the sleeve cuffs and around the shoulders as the secondary colour, basically.
While Wales rugby shirts have never seen gold used in the home shirt before, Wales footballs shirts of a bygone age most definitely have used yellow in the past, and perhaps it’s that, combined with the very retro nature of the stripes around the collar have caused people to draw the 1970s football shirt comparisons… as well a couple of uh, somewhat less kind comparisons.
So why gold? Well, the WRU’s PR spiel for the new jersey is keen to emphasise the thought and detail that’s gone into the creation of the new shirt, which is always nice to see, and as you’d expect, they’re keen explain the inclusion of a hitherto never-seen colour. Indeed, apparently the colour is ‘Welsh Gold’, which is ‘inspired by the highly prized rarity once found in Welsh mines’.
Welsh gold is precious and rare, even by gold standards, that’s why the British royal family have had their wedding rings made out of the stuff for the last 90-odd years, and that’s key to its inclusion here. The WRU’s designers are trying to remind the players that their time with this shirt precious and rare, just like Welsh gold, and that they should make the most of every moment. It may be a little hammy and cheesy, but we think it’s a nice touch, and gives much more context for the colour’s inclusion.
Also, while many people have understandably complained that gold is nothing to do with Wales or the Welsh Rugby Union, you should probably take a look at that famous three feathers, and the gold crown they sit in – small it might be, but it’s still part of the crest, and has been for generations…
But gold isn’t the only colour that’s been added to the Welsh jersey this time around, because alongside the gold shoulder and sleeve hoops, the collar and across the backs of the shoulders, we have a darker, more moody shade of red used, that the WRU is branding ‘Oxblood’. Why Oxblood? Well, once again the WRU has a pretty involved reason behind this, and again it’s actually pretty cool.
You see, apparently, in ye olden times, ox blood, yes actual blood from a cow, was added to the lime mortar that was used to bind the masonry of structures in Wales, as superstition dictated that this would imbue the building with extra strength and stability. The process was used impressive structures such as the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Llangollen canal, and clearly the thought here is that the inclusion of Oxblood across the shoulders of the Welsh players will serve to strengthen them on the pitch.
That’s bollocks of course, it won’t actually do anything of the sort, but it’s a poetic brand of bollocks that’s entirely appropriate for a land of poetry and song. Maybe it’s the romantic in us, but we have to say we rather like the justification, even if we’re not super keen on the execution. We’ve seen two-tone red from another shirt at this World Cup, and that’s not an association they want on either side of the Severn Bridge.
When we first posted this review, in the hours after the game, we were rather lukewarm on the shirt as a whole. While there’s no denying that on pure design terms it’s pretty darn nice, and is probably the most pleasingly retro design that Under Armour has produced in their seven years as the WRU’s kit supplier, the new colours are a big stumbling block for some.
Wales rugby shirts have traditionally been red, with varying degrees of white, green and occasionally black as a secondary colour. There’s a lot to work with there, and the decision to move away from what was already a pretty broad palette is a bold move, and it was always going to ruffle a few feathers.
We’ve often said that teams generally play things safe with World Cup shirts, because the huge spotlight on the sport during the tournament brings in a many casual fans who don’t want to see or buy some garish, out-there design. This isn’t that, it’s a beautiful design, but anything outside the norm is too much for many.
While we weren’t initially too keen, it’s remarkable how quickly this shirt has grown on us. As ever, understanding the motivation and thinking behind what are some very polarising and risky changes to the norm really helps you to appreciate it more.
For the traditionalists, it’s still a step too far, but the rest of us can hopefully appreciate what is a very good looking, totally original Wales shirt design.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Good (but it’s too bold for some)