To say that 2016/17 was a successful one for Saracens is as big an understatement as you can imagine – double winners, back-to-back Premiership winners, unbeaten kings of Europe… not a bad year? They’ll be looking to continue to dominate in 2016/17, and they’ll be doing so kitted out by a brand new kit supplier…
Saracens’ signed up with Nike in 2010, and the company has been ever-present as Sarries have risen to the pinnacle of European rugby. With the US giant gradually pulling out of rugby however, the time was right for new blood, and BLK are a good fit you have to say.
The Australian brand’s rise mirrors Saracens’ in many ways, since they sprung forth from Kooga Australia back in 2011, BLK has rapidly expanded to have a sizeable presence in both hemispheres, including high-profile deals in test rugby, Super Rugby and – with Connacht, Ospreys and Toulouse – in the Top 14 and Pro 12.
The Premiership has been a notable exception to BLK’s rise to global prominence until now, but they’ve corrected that in emphatic fashion with the signing up of the best team in England, and indeed Europe.
But what about the shirts? Well, the home jersey sees Sarries return to the primarily black home jersey that typified the club’s pre-Nike era, with red taking very much a back seat. It also harks back to Saracens’ jerseys of yore with the prominent use of our old friend, subtle hoops.
Despite their defiantly modernist design philosophy, BLK are no strangers to exploiting the undeniable brilliance of hoops, though they’ve generally preferred to do so in a more subtle, understated way, and so it is here – the body of the jersey is handsome indeed with its tonal contrasting hoops and pinstripes, while still feeling very much a Sarries shirt.
A further modernist twist is added with the subtle red pinstripes across the cuffs and him, and across the shoulders on both sides, further enhanced by BLK’s new angular insert collar style.
Another subtle addition can be found on the right sleeve, where you’ll notice a large Saracens’ star sublimated into the fabric, giving another twist of Sarries-ness to the design.
This sleeve star is echoed on the red away jersey, but that’s about all that is repeated, as design feels very distinct and bespoke – always a welcome sight in this world of simple palette-swapped change shirt.
Instead of hoops here we have tonal pinstripes running from the shoulders down to just above the sponsor’s badge, married to a prominent Saracens’ club crest that takes up the bulk of the bottom half of the body.
The red is contrasted with some large black panels that runs up from the ribcage, under the arms and around the sleeves, which helps make it feel a little less over-red, but that’s all the black contrast we’ll find here, because BLK has opted to go upmarket elsewhere.
Yes, the red is also paired with gold on the jersey hem, and in single pinstripes across the front and back of the design – a colour that’s never appeared on a Sarries jersey before. We’re speculating here, but we wonder if this might be BLK’s way of saluting Sarries historically dominant 2015/16 season? After all, Saracens’ social media profiles have come over all gold recently…
If that is the case, we wouldn’t bet against next season’s kits having more splashes of the colour next year – they may not be loved by neutrals, but there’s nothing about the way they played in 2016 that indicates they’re likely to stop winning any time soon.
And with that in mind, it would have been rather disappointing if the best club in Europe were wearing some below average shirts given that they’re likely to dominate rugby fans’ TV screens for the foreseeable – but nothing could be further from the truth.
BLK’s first take on the Saracens’ jersey has shown that this is the ideal partnership of club and supplier – both are innovative, boundary pushing and refuse to be ignored, and on this evidence, they’ve both hit on a winning recipe, too.