Gloucester enjoyed a thoroughly satisfactory European season in 2014/15. They lifted the Challenge Cup trophy back in May, and while they might prefer not to, having lost the playoff to earn a place in the Champions Cup this season, they’ll be back defending their title this year wearing a brand new European jersey from new supplier XBlades.
When we looked at the new Gloucester home and away shirts a few months back, we were rather taken with the fan-pleasing retro-ness of the hooped designs. They kept things clean and classy, while at the same time feeling modern and different. It was a welcome and striking change from a few seasons of pretty underwhelming designs from Kooga.
Sadly, XBlades appears to have splashed all their good ideas out on those hoop-tastic home and away shirts, because we’re not sure what’s supposed to be going on with this European jersey, but it’s a bit of a mess.
Black and red isn’t a bad idea for a shirt – it’s one of the nicest, most instantly appealing colour combinations around, and it’s widely used because of that – and on a purely colour basis, this is pretty nice. But the design just baffles us.
The stripes down the front would be pretty cool, if a bit unusual for rugby, if they just ran down the front of the shirt in a vertical sense, but instead they cut down in a vaguely V-shaped manner, but with the middle one being much thinner than the others. We understand that V-shaped patterns are slimming, but it just looks weird here, like someone’s not been paying attention when they’ve been drawing the lines…
Then there’s the sponsor box. Many fans were none too happy with the way the large box containing the main sponsor infringed on the design of the home and alternate shirts. We understood their annoyance there, but we thought it was okay on the whole.
Here, however, it cuts into the design so much more because of the narrow nature of those front two stripes. What we REALLY can’t understand, though, is the middle stripe – it stops a few centimetres above the other two stripes, why? It’s not the worst thing we’ve ever seen, but if the pattern is supposed to be three continuous stripes running down the front of the jersey, why stop one early?
It breaks the effect and makes the front of the jersey look like some weird robot face. And not in a good way.
Round the back, there’s less sponsor interference in the path of the three stripes, although that’s not saying much. We don’t like to moan about sponsors ruining shirts because they’re an unavoidable necessity of modern rugby, but Gloucester do seem to go overboard compared to other clubs, and often their shirts suffer as a result.
If you’re going to have half a dozen different sponsors on you shirt, then we honestly think you can’t do something too unconventional with the overall design. You keep it clean and classic, as with the home and away designs, then you can get away with it, just about.
Here though, a slightly weird design that might have not looked too bad on a clean shirt has been rendered ugly and disjointed by the sheer amount of branding here. It’s not the fault of the designer, really, but that doesn’t change the fact that what we have here is a really unsatisfactory jersey.