This summer’s Rio Olympics is a very special one for rugby union. For the first time since the 1920s our sport will be once again featured in the Summer Games. Rugby sevens’ Olympic introduction is notable for many reasons of course, but one of the biggest stories is the presence of a Great Britain team in the line-up.
We’re used to seeing Britain and Ireland join together in the 15s of course, but a Great Britain rugby team competing as one at the Olympic Games is a hugely exciting first. Even more exciting, from our point of view at least, is the creation of these first ever Team GB rugby shirts as part of Adidas’ multi-sport range for the Rio 2016.
As with the London 2012 kit, the gear for Rio has been designed by noted fashion designer Stella McCartney (Paul McCartney’s second best achievement of the 1970s – after Live And Let Die, obviously). And it must be said that McCartney’s take on a rugby shirt is hardly a conventional one…
That said, the base of the jerseys are actually pretty straightforward – plain red (primary) and blue (alternate) shirts with a granddad-style collar, which are pretty much identical in basic template to all the other Adidas jerseys we’ve seen this season.
Also like several other Adidas shirts we’ve seen this year, there’s a large contrasting pattern that dominates the bottom three quarters of the design. While the designs for other teams have kept this motif rather subtle however, this is a whole different gravy.
A key component of all the Team GB kit for Rio 2016 is a brand new coat of arms, commissioned by Adidas for the Great Britain Olympic and Paralympic teams to use. You can find out all about the meaning of the coat of arms here if you like but we’re less bothered about that than the way it’s been used here.
The silhouette of the coat of arms set against a stylised Union Jack background is hugely striking and memorable, and we think it gives the shirts a bit of a patriotic twist without it being too on the nose.
It’s clearly polarising opinion, as any unabashedly modern does, but when you mix the design talents of a high-end fashion designer and perhaps the most daringly modern supplier in rugby, what did people expect?
We think it’s all the better for it, too. If McCartney had created some clean, retro-looking designs, it might have pleased fans more from the outset, but they would hardly have been memorable.
This is rugby’s first appearance at the Olympics in nearly a century, and Team GB’s first ever Olympic rugby shirt – conventional they might not be, but there’s little chance that we’ll be forgetting them any time soon either.