It’s a sad fact of life that, no matter how voluminous your rugby shirt collection, you can’t actually wear replica rugby shirts in all situations. Thank goodness then, for Stash ‘N’ Grab – Rugby Shirt Watch’s guide to the coolest and most interesting new off-field rugby gear, that will let you flaunt your love for the sport in any scenario.
At an event in London today, the British And Irish Lions announced that after five tours and 13 years, the touring side would have a new kit supplier: UK-based rugby specialists Canterbury. And while it will probably be a year before see the design the players will be wearing when they head to New Zealand in 2017, they did have something very special to sate our rugby shirt hunger – a limited edition jersey commemorating the 1959 Lions tour. Just 1,959 of them will be available (geddit?) that you definitely want to add to your collection…
First of all, let’s just get this out of the way – this is a stunning, stunning rugby shirt. In fact, it’s one of the most unabashedly gorgeous officially licensed designs we’ve seen in forever. 100% cotton, long-sleeved, proper collar, and no unnecessary details or ornamentation – in the collective heads of rugby fans of a certain age, when we think ‘rugby shirt’ this is pretty much exactly what we’re picturing. It’s magnificent.
But why the 1959 Lions? Well, while the monster 35-match tour of Australia and New Zealand is notable for the Lions losing just six games all tour (including a 2-0 series win over Australia and a 3-1 defeat to the All Blacks), it was also notable for another, much less well known reason – the 1959 tour was also the first time the Lions wore a shirt made by Canterbury.
With the Lions now back with Canterbury, then, it’s a very appropriate gesture for the famous New Zealand band to mark it with a shirt that’s an almost exact replica of the original design, albeit one tweaked slightly for modern sensibilities.
If you look at the image above, you’ll see the old and new shirts side by side, the original 1959 number. Asides from a very subtle red-on-red CCC logo on the right breast, it’s pretty much identical to the original, with just some small tweaks in the size of the sleeve cuffs, collar and placket to make it a bit more fashionable to 2015 sensibilities.
As an aside, the shirt above, which was loaned to Canterbury by the World Rugby Museum in Twickenham, is a rather good example of why on-field rugby shirts aren’t made of cotton any more – look at the state on the thing! Anyway…
As with any clean, retro jersey, the real enjoyment is in the subtle details, and this really does come alive when you get up close. Beyond the inherent quality of the garment (as you’d expect for 80 quid!) there’s a care and attention here that really does make this feel special.
Just look at the details on the Lions badge – while modern computer-controlled stitching gives club and national badges an incredible level of detail, this really looks and feels like it was stitched by hand – the slightly wonky nature of the words on the three feathers, the rudimentary nature of the rose… it feels like something your Granny would have stitched if you asked her to knock up a Lions badge for you, in the best possible way.
When it was announced last year that Adidas would not be returning as the kit supplier for the Lions in 2017, we were sad, but at the same time we secretly hoped that Canterbury would be the ones who would take on the mantle. One thing the grand old rugby brand has shown time and again is that it understands the heritage and traditions of the game, and uses that to inform its modern creations, and with an institution with the history of the Lions, that’s a perfect fit.
By announcing their partnership with the Lions with a shirt like this, it shows that this appreciation of their shared heritage is going to play a big part in the on-field gear, and that has to be a good thing. Indeed, this shirt is actually the first part of Canterbury’s new ‘Since 1888’ range – a premium collection of off-field clothing dedicated to combining the rich history of both Canterbury and the Lions. Keep an eye on Rugby Shirt Watch to learn more about the Since 1888 range as it’s launched.
No, £80 isn’t cheap for a rugby shirt, but the price isn’t too different to the similarly all-cotton Superdry World Legends shirts we looked at a few months back. And don’t forget, if you order one of these shirts, you’ll be in a privileged group of less than 2000 rugby die-hards, who also happen to own one of the most beautiful officially licensed rugby shirts around…