The arrival of a new All Blacks jersey guarantees two things – firstly, there’ll be lots of excitement in the wider rugby world; and secondly, there’ll be wags stretching the very boundaries of what comedy of capable of by observing that, yes indeed, that it’s fundamentally a plain black jersey.
As we’ve elaborated before, such is the thankless job of the All Blacks jersey designer – doomed to have their creations offhandedly dismissed by the world’s least original comedians, despite producing what may well be the most technologically advanced and rigorously engineered sports jersey on the planet.
Because don’t be under any illusions, while the shirt might seem like a casual observer to be just a plain black shirt – it’s the ALL BLACKS, what do you expect, really? – closer inspection reveals an obsessive attention to detail and a compromise-free approach to athletic performance.
As you may or may not know, Adidas’s deal with the All Blacks means that the world champions get first dibs on all of the German giant’s most cutting edge technology, and they basically act as the test subjects for all the newest inventions and ideas that the design team in the firm’s Herzogenaurach HQ come up with.
And for the 2018/20 All Blacks jersey, that cutting edge technology begins with the very fabric of the design. In what Adidas claims is a first for the rugby world, the shirt has been created using seamless woven technology.
We’ll be honest, we’ve got no idea what this means – they could be using pixie dust to hold the damn thing together for all we know – but in practice it allows the jersey to dispense with all the heavy stitched seams that your traditional rugby requires to hold everything together, making the design a whopping 25% lighter.
The new process is also fully automated, which is either brilliant or terrifying depending on your point of view (we’re sure that plenty of you are counting down the days until rugby shirt reviewing becomes a fully machine-operated process), but the offshoot is that Adidas claims the lack of human error makes for better fit and build than ever.
From a purely visual point of view, the most notable difference between the 2016/18 shirt is the collar. When Leinster revealed their new Adidas jerseys in August, we surmised that the new collar design was an early preview of what we’d see on the new All Blacks shirts…
How silly of us – if Adidas was going to create a brand new collar for Leinster did we honestly think they wouldn’t have something even newer for their biggest client?
The low-profile design used here uses a raw elastic fit for better performance and durability, and also sits a little lower than normal in order to make it harder for opponents to grab onto.
The biggest talking point about the collar however is its colour – white was always the traditional All Blacks collar colour, but since Adidas took over in 1999 it has come and gone, most recently in 2014.
The other details are fairly minimal, but still worth drawing attention to. All the jersey logos have the same rubberised effect that we’ve seen on the last few All Blacks jerseys, but this time they’re more substantial to give a 3D effect.
The ‘raw elastic’ treatment is carried over to the sleeve cuffs, which are designed to fit snugly but comfortably in order to maximise comfort and flexibility while making it harder for opponents to grab.
Elsewhere, the jersey fabric has a pattern that seems to be an evolution of the ‘triaxle’ material used on the 2016/18 jersey, with a fit cut designed to push the design closer to what Adidas describes as a ‘second skin’ for players of all shapes and sizes.
At its core, the All Blacks jersey is always going to be fundamentally true to what the design has to be. But the devil is in the details, and as ever Adidas has demonstrated a commitment to technological innovation in the field of rugby shirt design that goes deeper than anyone else, while still producing a cool looking garment.