After the release of their stunning European jersey a few weeks ago, we’ve been eagerly anticipating the new Blues home and alternate shirt from long-time supplier Canterbury. The home shirt they’ve been wearing for the last two seasons wasn’t just nice, it wasn’t just gorgeous – it was an all-time, Hall Of Fame classic, that made fans of other teams momentarily contemplate abandoning their allegiances, just to wear that jersey. But now that shirt’s time has passed, can Canterbury create a new design to live up to it? Let’s find out…
In their 10-year existence, the Blues have fluctuated between which shade of blue to use as the primary colour – sometimes they’ve gone light, harking back to the Cardiff RFC days, and sometimes they’ve gone dark – hell, back in 2011 they just opted to make the light home and the dark the away so they wouldn’t have to choose!
Last year’s shirt split the two colours pretty evenly, of course (though the dark was still more prominent), but this year there’s no doubt that the Blues have reaffirmed that the darker shade is their primary colour, and they’ve done it in some style. It doesn’t have last season’s retro-classiness – this is something altogether more modern – but that’s no bad thing at all.
Cardiff is blessed with two shades of blue that look fantastic together, and the use of the subtle pinstripes on this year’s home shirt really elevates the shirt from something that could be a little dull and dour. Cardiff RFC is an important part of the history of the Blues – many fans will say that Cardiff RFC is the Blues, the only distinction is the name – and so it’s important that the grand old club’s sky blue colour is incorporated in a significant way.
Like other Canterbury shirts this year, the design makes use of the new 360° Loop neckline, and like some other Canterbury shirts this year, they’ve opted to make the neckline and sleeves a contrasting colour. When it’s worked, it’s really worked, and when it hasn’t, it’s looked, well… shit. Thankfully, we think this might be the best of the lot – the contrast between light and dark gives a really cool, raglan tshirt kinda vibe, and carefully sidesteps the training shirt vibe this design style can sometimes produce.
So, is this as good as last year’s? Well, look, that’s like asking if Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is as good as Revolver. You can’t judge something against what’s come before, especially when what’s come before was so historically good – on it’s own merits, this is a gorgeous, original shirt that does a really nice job of melding the modern and the traditional, and that’s all it needs to be!
The alternate shirt takes the basic theme of the home shirt and twists it a little, and in doing so makes a jersey that, whisper it, might be even nicer than the home! As with the Leinster alternate shirt this year, the away jersey has opted to dispense with the contrasting colour neckline, leaving it all plain white and allowing the small details to stand out. And stand out they do.
Whereas the home shirt sported a series of solid blue pinstripes, here there’s a lot more going on – we’ve got two dark blue pinstripes, separated by a teeny bit of white, and edged in sky blue. It’s quite reminiscent of an old Cardiff blues shirt from the early 2000s, and also of last season’s rarely seen Ireland alternate shirt. Oh, and it’s absolutely bloody gorgeous.
Now, we said that the pinstripes were pinstripes, but that’s not entirely true – take a closer look at the stripes themselves and you’ll notice they’re not actually solid at all. Nope instead the stripes comprise of hundreds of tiny little dark blue chevrons, outlined by sky blue. This hasn’t just been done for the hell of it, either – those chevrons have significance, as they’re supposed to reflect the oft-forgotten chevrons on the Cardiff Blues club crest.
It’s a nice touch, and interestingly, not the first time that Canterbury has used the chevron motif from the badge as design motif in a Blues shirt – back in 2010, the Blues home and away shirts had the three chevrons on the shoulders, and the ‘uglies’ style side panels had a ‘split chevron’ pattern on them, if you looked very closely. Chances are very few people made the connection then, and even fewer people will notice this, but it’s those clever, subtle little design choices that we love to see.
Canterbury and Cardiff have been together for a long time now, and in that time CCC has rarely let the Blues down on the shirt design front. We said rarely. While this year’s home shirt might not scale the heights of last year’s Sistine Chapel of a jersey, it’s still one of the nicest shirts we’ve seen so far this season. The pinstripe thing is a design motif Canterbury has used before, but it’s cool to see them do it in a way that feels fresh and different.
Compared to last year, or indeed any other year, however, the new alternate shirt is pretty hard to top. Cardiff have had some pretty great change shirts, and some pretty wretched ones too – but we think this one stands head and shoulders above anything else the region has had in its history. Alongside the wonderful #StayStrongForOws Euro shirt, Cardiff might have the best trio of shirts in European rugby this season…
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Good