So, it’s all come down to this. After three days and 30 shirts – not to mention four months of in-depth reviews of every shirt around – we’ve reached the end of The Great Rugby World Cup 2015 Shirt Countdown. Yup, with just 10 shirts left, by the time you reach the bottom of this page, you’ll know what we think is the best shirt on display this year. It’s okay to be excited.
Before we get into it though, let’s not forget that this is the Top 10 – the higher we’ve got up this list, the harder it’s got, because there have been some truly beautiful shirt designs at this torunament. Some of them didn’t even make it into the Top 10, which speaks to how highly we rate every shirt in this final countdown – everyone’s a winner. Actually, everyone isn’t – there can be only one!
This shirt just squeaks into the Top 10 ahead of its red and white brother purely on the basis of the colour. Again, we love the curved hoop design from Canterbury, but it’s the use of the dark and light shades of blue here that really sets this apart from the herd. A worthy testament to Canterbury’s long relationship with the JRFU.
The alternate shirt might have been a bit of a dog, but we’ve got no such complaints about the beautifully retro home design. On the face of it, it’s a plain green shirt with white piping on the collar, but this simplicity lets all of the subtlety sublimated details to stand out, not least the very retro, very 70s hatched chevron motif on the chest.
There are plenty out there who would see this shirt at the top of our table, and we understand why – every angle of the design seemingly offers more tasteful, clever details that reflect Samoan art and culture, while at the same time not looking cluttered or tacky in any way. It’s a fantastic achievement and a welcome return for BLK to Manu.
The home shirt may have been marked down a little bit for its monotone nature, but the alternate has no such problems – the blue of the lovely proper collar and on the bottom of the jersey stops this from looking too t-shirty, and against the white, the SRU’s tartan stands out proudly. A welcome return to the white alternate after a regrettable red dalliance.
In the half a dozen or so different variations on this list we’ve made over the last few weeks, this shirt has often been ranked higher than this, and it almost pains us to see it so low, but tough calls have to be made somewhere. Make no mistake, however – this is an absolutely beautiful shirt, with one of the coolest and most original designs in the tournament. From the puma spots to the electric blue accents, it’s got it all.
A plain white shirt it might be, but like the Ireland top, Canterbury’s work with this RWC design is all about the details – and what details they are. From the ribbed sleeves and V-shaped grip surface on the chest, to the old-school number box on the back, and of course, the unbelievably awesome 3D injection-moulded rose, this is a shirt that’s classic from afar, but reveals a wealth of detail and interest up close. Just what a modern rugby shirt should be.
Okay, this is going to piss some people off, and we know it, but the longer we’ve gone on, the more sure we’ve been that this design isn’t just good, it’s one of the nicest shirts of the World Cup. Some people will not be able to get past the gold and oxblood trim, and that’s fine – it’s not traditional and if it’s a step too far, we understand your concerns. However, the more we see it, the more we’ve been taken in by its charms – the three colours work well together, there’s a wonderful retro-modern feel to the design, and what’s more, when you read our review you’ll see it’s a jersey with a real message behind it. Hammy as that may be, it’s won us over.
The job of an All Blacks shirt designer is a tough one – it’s perhaps THE most iconic sports jersey in the world, and one that tolerates very little in the way of variation from fans or players. It’s quite a feat then, for Adidas to have created a shirt that not only looks and feels like a classic All Blacks design, but with the chevron pattern around the shoulders it also pays tribute to the 115th anniversary of the Originals team that toured the UK in 1905. You can never accuse Adidas designs of being retro, but this is a great example of how a classic look can be made to feel totally modern.
While the home shirt is a thing of beauty in itself, the alternate uses the same design with some clever colour-swapping to create a shirt that not only feels different, but better, too. The accenting of the wonderfully detailed sleeve and shoulder areas with blue gives this shirt a less broody, vibe than the home shirt, and it combines with the sublimated pattern on the body of the shirt to stop it feeling in any way plain or t-shirty. It feels more fun, less serious, and generally better. It’s so hard to do busy, intricate, detailed patterns on a rugby shirt in this sort of scale – more often than not it’s a mess. But this absolutely nails it – it’s one of the most memorable, most unique shirts, not just of this World Cup, but in recent years full stop.
If we did a lot of editing of of the rankings over the course of planning and writing this Countdown, the one position we didn’t have to think too hard about was Number 1. From the moment the Argentina home shirt was first revealed, the reaction to it has been borderline-fanatical on social media, and it’s not hard to see why. We talk a lot about how the best shirts, particularly in the international sphere, meld the classic visual elements that are part of a country’s identity and heritage with modern styling and this might be the supreme example of the art form.
Argentina shed the traditional vertical hoops for the polarising diagonal versions when the signed up with Nike, but the return to the classic style here is done in such brilliant simplicity, we have to wonder why they ever went away. There’s no detail here that feels superfluous or unnecessary, and similarly no part that feels too plain or boring – it balances the modern and traditional in a universally loved way that very few shirts manage.
And when we say universally loved, we mean it. When the shirt was first released, Nike and the UAR were originally only offering the Argentina World Cup replicas for sale in South America. But such was the wellspring of love for this shirt online from rugby fans across the world, Nike and the UAR eventually relented, allowing the shirt to be sold through various global retailers, including our friends at WorldRugbyShop.
A shirt that’s so gorgeous, so beautiful and so damn universally adored that it changes the mind of a national rugby union and the world’s largest sportswear brand? A worthy winner, we’re sure you’ll agree.
So there you have it! The Great Rugby World Cup 2015 Shirt Countdown is complete, and Argentina have emerged on top. Picking the order was incredibly difficult at times, and we changed our mind on many, many occasions over the course of putting it all together, so do tell us whether you agree, disagree, or are incandescently angry – either in the comments below, or on Twitter or Facebook. With the tournament starting tomorrow, this seems like as good a time as any to thank all of you who’ve read our many, many shirt reviews over the last few months, and here’s to a Rugby World Cup that’s just as good as the shirts we’ve seen here over the last few days!