How do you help perhaps the greatest team in the history of international rugby get even better? Adidas’s answer is to give them a shirt that’s more technologically advanced than ever before – and that aim is at the core of the brand new All Blacks jersey…
Yes, okay, let’s get this out of the way ‘it’s just another plain black jersey with a silver fern’ – the calling card of the criminally unoriginal and tedious. Yes, of course it’s a plain black jersey – given that the All Black jersey is the most iconic in rugby and one of the most iconic sports jerseys in the world full stop, they’re not going to mess with it.
With the All Blacks, the really clever stuff is what’s going on when you take a closer look. As part of their longstanding deal with Adidas, New Zealand gets first dibs on all the most cutting edge tech that the R&D deam at the world’s second largest sportswear brand comes up with, so in a very real way, each new All Blacks jersey is a little window into advancements and changes that will filter down to other teams (and other sports) – and this is no exception.
And that starts with the material used. Adidas’ design team has gone on record as saying that creating a rugby jersey is the most demanding challenge that they face – simply put, no other sports uniform has to blend durability, flexibility and breathability to quite the same level, and as such it requires some pretty heavy-duty material to last the distance.
Building on the ‘Woven Carbon’ material used on the previous All Blacks jersey, the new fabric is created using the suitably space-age-sounding ‘digital weaving’ process – something that’s unsurprisingly claimed to give unrivalled strength and stretchiness, while reducing the likelihood of ripping, improving the fit, and ensuring that the jerseys are harder for would-be tacklers to grip. Like the All Blacks need any more help in that department…
So far, so irrelevant to anyone who isn’t a connoisseur of exotic textile manufacturing processes, right? Well, in addition to being strong like ox (so strong that Adidas claims “hundreds of needles” were broken in the production of the team’s kit) the new digital weaving technique has enabled the fabric to incorporate the eye-catching new pattern dubbed the ‘triaxle’.
The triaxle graphic is more than just a cool looking thing – as with most things Adidas do rugby-wise, there’s a concept behind the execution. In this case, the triaxle was created from the frond (that’s the leaf, to save your Google time) of the iconic silver fern.
The triaxle, so says Adidas, is also one of the strongest structures in all of nature, so by literally embedding this into the fabric of the jersey, we’re reminded of the strength and resilience of the team wearing it – as if any of us need further reminding after the last 12 months!
The other big change from jerseys past is the collar – a drastic departure from the strub-style design that debuted on the 2014 All Blacks jersey and has been the Adidas standard issue ever since. Unsurprisingly given Adidas’s track record, this change is more about performance than fashion…
You may have noticed that modern rugby players are getting rather massive in the neck/shoulders department… Adidas has noticed this too, and reasoned that the modern player needs a collar that’s comfortable no matter how hench your trapeziuses are. The solution is a brand new ribbed, adaptive design designed to sit much tighter to the collarbone, which conventiently also makes it harder for the opposition to grip.
Most importantly, we think it looks great – in fact the whole jersey really is a thing of beauty, particularly up close, and we’re happy to see the fern and sponsor logos return to the more traditional white from the gunmetal of the previous iteration.
To some this might be ‘just another plain black shirt’ – and in the most reductive terms they’re right, we suppose. But test match jerseys are often so iconic and tied up with history that most of the innovation and variation comes in the details.
Adidas understands that this goes double for the All Blacks jersey, and once again they’ve created a design that from a distance appears as classic and traditional as anything they’ve worn in their long, proud history. Up close however, it’s packed with a level of detail and innovation that leaves us in no doubt that this is the most cutting edge rugby shirt on the planet.