Hot off the back of lifting their first French title since 1990, Racing 92 have launched their 2016/17 home jersey, and while new clobber for the Top 14 champions would be a big deal regardless, but it also sees the return of France’s most iconic sportswear brand to rugby.
Yes, after a considerable absence, Le Coq Sportif will be seen on a rugby field once again. And with more than 130 years of history behind them, it’s no surprise that they’re doing it in wonderful retro style.
Rugby fans of a certain age will fondly remember Le Coq Sportif kitting out the France national team in the 80s, including their 1981 Grand Slam, but they have some history with Racing, too – LCS kitted out what was then Racing Club de Paris in the late 80s, so this is something of a reunion.
So after two decades away, what have Le Coq Sportif done with the Racing 92 shirt? Well, on the surface there’s nothing particularly radical going on here – indeed it’s very similar to Kappa shirt the club wore last season, but that’s hardly surprising. The Racing white and sky blue hoops are classic and iconic, and LCS would be mad to deviate too much there.
Before we carry on talking about this year’s shirt, however, a tip of the hat to Kappa. Not only did they do a fantastic PR job around the club’s last run-out in the brand for the Top 14 final, but we thought the way they congratulated LCS on social media when the new shirt launched was extremely classy – nice job, Kappa.
But as we were saying, while this shirt is similar to last year, there’s some key little differences, most notably a rather unique collar design, that’s edged in none-more-French Tricolore.
At first glance it almost looks like a classic, polo-style collar that rugby fans almost uniformly adore, but on closer inspection you’ll see that it’s a bit different than that. In fact it has more in common with a Peter Pan collar…
Rather than folding in the traditional sense, the collar is stitched and fitted into place, so it behaves like a ring-neck collar in practice, while giving that wonderfully old-school appearance, without the risk of anyone getting hold of it in the tackle – we’ve not seen anything like it on a rugby shirt before, and it looks superb.
Other than that, it’s pretty much business as usual as far as sports brand marketing goes – Le Coq Sportif have used the technological advancements they’ve made kitting out football and pro cycling teams to create a shirt made out of hi-tech fabrics with a specially tailored fit, low-friction seams to reduce chafing, and a silicone band around the base of the jersey to stop it riding up… stop us if you’ve heard all that before.
What that doesn’t say, however, is that it’s absolutely gorgeous – because of course it is. Racing have perhaps the most undeniably beautiful colour scheme in all of rugby, and it’s quite hard to get it wrong, really – adding an even more retro vibe to the mix has only made things even more appealing.
Some of you might be grumbling about the volume of sponsors on this shirt, and yes, they’re a bit excessive – but unlike so many club shirts, it really feels like these sponsors have been added to the jersey in a sensitive way. There are few gaudy, clashing colours here, everything look symmetrical and well ordered… the LCS designers have made the best of it.
Because let’s face it, Dan Carter ain’t playing in Paris for free, and they have to pay the bills somehow!