Things haven’t gone to plan for Toulouse since Guy Noves shipped off to take charge of Les Bleus. The most successful team in European history failed to get out of their Champions Cup pool, and a promising start to the Top 14 season ended in a quarter-final loss to eventual champions Racing 92. The aristocrats of French rugby will be looking to get back to where they feel they belong in 2017, and they’ll be doing it in three new BLK shirts…
This is the third year of BLK’s groundbreaking partnership with Toulouse, and while the Aussie brand’s previous two efforts have both been perfectly nice, one glance at the 2016/17 home shirt shows that they’ve really hit their stride this season.
There’s something of the old-school about the striking, retro double red and white stripe across the front of the shirt – a feature that’s accentuated by the subtle pinstripes that run down the front of the jersey, giving a subtle hooped effect that BLK is clearly really into this season.
This red and white racing stripe is repeated across the back of the shoulders, and combined with the striking red insert of the new-style BLK collar, and subtle three-colour piping around the sleeves, it all hangs together very well indeed.
BLK don’t do ‘retro’, but this might be the most old-school shirt the company has produced in recent years – the racing stripes give the shirt a real 70s vibe, but of course, offset by the pinstripes, the collar and all the other modern touches that make it typically BLK.
If the home design is a bit retro, the away and third shirts are definitely, unapologetically not. Toulouse have used the rugby league-style chevron on shirts in the past, and BLK have used it themselves on training gear in the last few years, but this is something much more modern.
It’s not even a chevron, technically – the top quarter of the shirt is a red V-shaped block edged by black and white stripes bottom and top, respectively, while the whole thing is run through with a sublimated tonal chevron pattern that runs through both coloured and white sections of the design.
Round the back, we have a black section that runs from the top of the collarbone down to just along the shoulderblade line, again finished by a very handsome thick red stripe.
Again we have the tri-colour sleeve cuffs, though they pop much more on this shirt than they do on either of the others, giving the merest of retro touches to what is an unapologetically modern design.
The third shirt swaps white for red and jumbles all the colours around as a result, but other than that it’s identical in its overall design… and what a striking design it is – all sharp angles and large, bold splashes of colour. They provide real contrast to the subtle, restrained vibe of the home shirt.
It’s got something of the robot/superhero vibe you have to say – there’s something about the sharp Vs of the chevron pattern that give a chestplate/armour vibe, certainly when paired up with the brutalist angles of the new BLK collar.
With their tie up with Champions of everything Saracens meaning the young brand now has a significant presence in every top-flight league in the world, it’s tempting to say that BLK has come of age this season – certainly that seems to be the case from a design point of view.
As the name suggests, the firm’s designers have never been afraid to go ‘Beyond Limits Known’ in terms of bold designs, but what they’re showing here is that they can deal in subtle and outrageous designs with equal proficiency, even at the same time with the same club. That’s no mean feat, and certainly for that stunning home shirt, worthy of a Gold Award.