With their return to Europe’s top table and a hugely controversial move to Coventry, 2014/15 was a year of massive change for the club now known as Wasps RFC. But the new season is a perfect time for a new start, and with the club now firmly established (and by all accounts doing very well) at the Ricoh Arena, what better way Wasps to signal their return to European rugby’s top table than landing a new blue chip kit supplier in the shape of Under Armour?
Under Armour have been involved in international rugby since 2008, when they signed up with Wales, and in the domestic game since they took on the Clermont Auvergne contract back in 2010. While the Maryland firm might be new on the scene, their rise to be one of the top three sportswear brands in the world has been meteoric, and they trail only Nike in the US, and are involved with some of the biggest athletes in the game. Despite this, like their main competitor, Nike, the brand has been very selective about their partnerships.
It’s a very big deal for Wasps to land such a prestigious supplier, then – they’re not only the first top flight club in the British Isles to sign up with UA, but only the second in Europe. But enough fluffing of Wasps commercial team, what about the bloody shirt? Well…
The first thing we noticed is that for reasons that are not entirely clear, the new Wasps gear uses an old template – the panel-based design is what Under Armour has been using on its shirts for some time now, and you can see it used on the old Wales shirts, Canada shirts and last season’s Clermont gear, too. Look at the new Wales gear, however, and you’ll see that the template has changed quite radically, and the stitched panel approach has been abandoned for a more clean look, and the collar’s been changed, too.
Shirt nerdery aside, however, he decision to go with a slightly older template doesn’t really have any bearing on whether it’s a nice shirt, however, and we think this has a lot going for it. For starters, while we’ve been a bit grumpy about Under Armour’s lack of variation and creativity in shirt design in the past, this really shows how clever use of colour can make things feel very different. The way he yellow breaks up the chest and shoulders is a pretty different look from what we’ve seen on other UA gear using this template.
That said, there is no getting away from the fact that, depending on the impressiveness or lack thereof of your pecs, the yellow does ever so slightly remind us of a bikini top… time to get working on those chest exercises, folks…
The away shirt keeps things pretty straightforward, swapping black for white for black, but adding a few flashes of black around the ribs and across the back of the shoulders. Revolutionary it ain’t, but it’s a nice looking shirt – even it if doesn’t quite reach the heights of last year’s stripey number from Kukri.
One thing the away shirt makes a little more overt is the interesting hatched pattern which runs throughout the white parts of the shirt (and the black bits on the home shirt) – it’s not instantly apparent from distance, but up close, the effect makes it feel like a functional, technical product as much as a stylish one, which is Under Armour’s speciality.
Also, if you find yourself at a loose end watching a pretty dull game, the pattern on the jersey would make excellent graph paper, so you could grab a pen and entertain yourself and your friends by becoming a walking embodiment of Opta’s latest possession, territory or turnover statistics. Probably.
If you’re looking at this shirt and wondering why you suddenly feel like going out and buying a luxury off-road vehicle, don’t worry, it’s all part of the plan. Yes, there’s no getting away from it, the new Wasps gear is positively covered in Land Rover sponsorship – including twice on the front! But that’s not all… look a little closer and you’ll see these shirts have Land Rover running through them… literally!
Grip material is pretty much de rigeur on modern rugby shirts, and we’ve seen various weird and wacky ways that teams have opted to represent it – in fact Under Armour were at the forefront of this with their dragon scale grip panels on the last few Wales shirts. We’re not sure, through all that, if we’ve ever seen any sponsor-branded grip material before, however, and that’s what we have here – look closely, and littered across the front of the jersey you’ll see dozens of tiny, semi-transparent Land Rover logos.
Is it a bit much? Well, maybe… like any other club, Wasps have gotta pay the bills, and compared to some clubs that have about 17 different clashing sponsors plastered over every spare inch of the jersey, this is actually pretty subtle and tasteful. Plus, you’d hope Land Rover know a thing or two about grip and traction and all that jazz, so maybe this branded grip surface will ensure that the ball is SUPER secure now? It won’t.
We really like both these shirts, it’s great to see a brand as big as Under Armour further expanding their reach in rugby, and it’s also nice to see new life being breathed back into a stale old template with a bit of creative colour use. That said, we’re still a little baffled as to why Wasps didn’t use the new template – Clermont have got it after all – in favour of a two-year-old one. Still, when the results look decent, we won’t labour the point – here’s hoping they go for something a bit more current next time, however.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Good