The British & Irish Lions jersey is one of the most iconic and beloved designs in the world of sport, and cherished across the entire rugby world, but over the last 30 years, the shirt has changed and evolved in ways that the players on the legendary 1970s tours could never have imagined.
But which is the best?
Well, we’re going to tell you, ranking each of the Lions jerseys from 1993 all the way through to the brand new 2021 test jersey in order of greatest, from worst to best. We’ve chosen to start in 1993 because that was the first tour a manufacturer’s logo appeared on a design, and with respect to Umbro, Canterbury and all the other makers that produced identical red jerseys with white trim from 1950 onwards, we know that they were stunning and iconic, and including them here would seem a bit unfair.
Let’s dive in:
An oft-forgotten tour, and a rather forgettable jersey with it. the stripes going over the sleeves felt a bit too much, while the purple and green garishness of the NTL logo on the front was way over the top, and is without doubt the worst Lions sponsor ever.
2009: South Africa
For nearly 60 years the Lions jersey had been red with a white collar, but 2009 decided to follow the spirit of the age and simplify – the shirt was still nice, and was very popular with fans, but something about the shirt felt imbalanced.
2021: South Africa
Canterbury’s latest Lions test jersey is it’s most bold yet, with a lion’s head graphic on the shoulders, white/green and white/blue trim on the sleeves and cuffs, and a super low-profile collar. It’s also made of 45% recycled material, and features a 3D silicon crest. It’s not for the purists – but there’s always the classic jersey for them.
2005: New Zealand
It was a tour that nearly killed the Lions concept, but the 2005 Adidas jersey was hugely popular with fans, capturing some of the 97 vibe but with a more modern low-profile collar.
Adidas’ swansong as the Lions kit supplier was also one of their best – a clean, simple jersey with a modernised version of a classic collar meant the Lions looked great as they claimed a series win for the first time since 1997.
1993: New Zealand
Nike’s first and only effort of a Lions jersey is perhaps filling this slot because of its similarity the iconic design that had been worn unaltered by the Lions from 1950 until ’93, when it received the simple addition of a manufacturer’s logo for the first time. In every other way, a timeless classic.
2017: New Zealand
The Lions were back with Canterbury for the first time in decades for 2017, and they came back in style with a stunningly classy jersey, complete with an ultra-modern take on the classic collar. A shirt for the ages.
1997: South Africa
If the 1997 tour is what saved the Lions, then the ’97 jersey was equally important in making the Lions feel special and important again – bringing Adidas’ iconic stripes to a Lions shirt was one thing, but it’s the little details, such as the Lion on the right side of the collar, that made this shirt a true classic.