Gloucester had a season of highs and lows. Despite a large recruitment drive in the offseason, the club once again struggles to crack the top four in the Premiership, but that frustration was more than compensated for by the Cherry And Whites lifting the Challenge Cup by defeating Edinburgh in May. A new season always brings new optimism, but in Gloucester’s case it also brings a new kit supplier XBlades, who venture over from the rugby league for the first time – let’s see if what they’ve come up with is worthy of the club’s passionate fans.
Gloucester’s identity is tied up in the cherry and white hoops they ‘borrowed’ from Painswick RFC on the way to their first game in 1873, and the fans are zealous about the club sticking to the traditional look. In fact, when Gloucester have broken with that tradition, such as in 2003, fans have produced and sold their own unofficial hooped jerseys to wear instead – that’s pretty hardcore.
It’s unsurprising, then, that Doncaster-based rugby league specialists XBlades appear to have done their homework and created a shirt that it unabashedly and crowd-pleasingly traditional – at least on the surface.
We didn’t like last year’s Kooga Gloucester shirt – to put it mildly – it was a busy, tacky ugly mess of a thing, and we weren’t afraid to say so. Apparently Gloucester didn’t appreciate our candour, as they blocked us on Twitter shortly after our review was posted, but clearly they were listening, as this shirt avoids practically every mistake that was made on the 13/15 shirt.
Rather than try to diminish the beautiful, classic hoops with weird panels and such, the new design has them proudly running from the top of the shirt to the bottom, even onto the sleeves – an old-school touch that we really enjoy. What’s more, rather than leave them looking and feeling a little anemic as last year’s did, by accenting the hoops with a midnight blue pinstripe –something the club started doing in the 90s but hasn’t for a while – it makes the whole thing much more striking and creates a clear contrast.
We were very critical of the huge amount of sponsorship on last year’s shirt, and in truth, this jersey doesn’t make that any better. There’s still far too much on the back, and we really don’t understand why you need THREE Olbas logos on there, but with the hoops pleasingly (and unusually for a modern shirt) going all the way around, it makes some of those sponsors stand out less, and makes it feel a touch less cluttered.
Some people have grumbled about the size of new sponsor Mitsubishi’s logo on the front, and the box it’s in, but we’d argue that when you have a red and white logo on a red and white shirt, concessions have to be made for visibility somehow – it’s unfortunate, but a reality of the modern game.
The away shirt takes the hooped template of the home shirt and swaps it around, emphasising the black with the white, complemented with some really lovely red pinstriping. If anything, we like this shirt even more than the home – the monochromatic nature of the black and white hoops really let’s the red highlights stand out, creating a shirt that feels classic in the best kind of way.
As XBlades is a new manufacturer to rugby union, we felt like we should mention that their ‘test’ or ‘pro’-style replicas are made of a slightly unusual fabric compared to many others you might have seen before…
The shirt is covered in tiny breathable holes, a lot like you’d see on American football or hockey jerseys. It’s probably a good thing for the players, as there’s nothing like hundreds of tiny holes in a jersey to keep you cool when you’re running around a rugby pitch for 80 minutes, but there’s no doubt it gives the jerseys a slightly different look to what you might be used to seeing on a rugby shirt.
It might niggle the traditionalists to have a jersey made of such an unusual and unconventional material, but if that’s the case, don’t buy the test jersey! And anyway, Gloucester have their own range of lovely licensed retro Superdry Rugby shirts, so if you’re a real fan of the classic look, we’d suggest you look there anyway!
We were, to put it politely, unimpressed with Kooga’s final take on the Gloucester jersey, and as a relatively new brand coming over from the 13-man code, fans and observers alike weren’t exactly holding out much hope for the 15/16 versions, especially after the Sevens/Under 20s kit was revealed in advance of the main shirts earlier in the summer…
But they needn’t have worried – Jason Robinson’s firm clearly knows how to keep Gloucester fans happy, by mixing classic styling with modern designs to create a shirt that’s comfortably the best thing the Westcountry club has worn in half a decade. Nice.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Good