Since their controversial move to Coventry 18 months ago, Wasps have gone from strength to strength both on the field and off it. They reached semi-finals in Europe and the Premiership last season, they’re signing some of the most exciting players in the world and of course, last year they became the first UK club to sign with US sports giant, Under Armour.
We were really taken with UA’s first crack at the Wasps recipe last season, but just like Dai Young’s team will want to go one step further than last year on the field, the pressure is on Under Armour to up their game on the shirt front, too.
When we chat to Wasps fans about their kit, a common refrain is that they want the seniors to follow in the footsteps of the academy boys and bring back the ever-popular black and yellow hoops inspired by the club’s namesake… and Under Armour have listened, well, sort of…
Yes, the most striking aspect of this shirt is also proving to be the most controversial – the radical black and gold alternating striped panels that run up the sides of the jersey and around the shoulders, back and front.
The response to this unconventional motif has been mixed over on social media, to say the least, but we’re actually rather taken with it – people are often quick to dismiss Under Armour’s designs as being cookie-cutter jobs, but with these stripes standing out almost like police caution tape, you can’t say that this feels like any other design UA has done recently.
And that’s interesting because, as is the case with many brands but particularly Under Armour, the basic template used here is nigh-on identical to the one currently in use by Wales, Canada and Clermont Auvergne. Proof that it doesn’t take much to add a bit of variety to a template.
The alternate shirt flips the script with white subbing in for black, and keeping those all important black-and-gold stripey panels running up the front and back. Interestingly, though, it’s not a straight palette swap.
Under Armour’s current template uses a philosophy the company calls ‘Function Panels’ – namely, the jersey is made up of a panels made up of various different types of technical fabrics, meaning that the shirt can stretch and allow freedom of movement in some areas, while staying strong and durable in others.
Why should we care about that? Well these myriad different panels offer a wide variety of different pattern combinations that can create quite different looking jerseys – as evidenced by the away shirt, which opts to black out the top of the sleeves, underarms and, most strikingly, all across the back of the shoulders. There’s obviously a lot of similarity between the home and away, but it feels a lot more thoughtful than the normal Ctrl+Shift+Swap school of away jerseys.
Under Armour has a reputation for doing interesting things with the grip material on its jerseys – from dragon scales, to maple leaves to Land Rover logos on last year’s Wasps shirt, and this year is no different.
It’s the club’s 150th anniversary this year, and while many other teams have made a big song and dance about such a massive milestone, Wasps have opted for something a bit more understated – yes, every one of those little grippy things is a ‘150’, rendered in superhero abs formation. No doubt that’ll please James Haskell.
Kit suppliers must often feel like they can’t win – you do something that’s safe and crowd-pleasing and some people say it’s boring, you try something a bit outside the box and others will say it’s too much.
We like to think we sit in the middle when it comes to these sort of things, and as a result we really appreciate these new Wasps kits. They’re trying something a little bit out of the ordinary and boundary-pushing while still maintaining the essence of what fans would associate with a classic Wasps shirt.