When I was a boy I liked nothing more than to sprawl out on the floor of my bedroom with a ruler, a protractor, a compass, a pencil, a pad of graph paper and my imagination and draw two things- the mansion I would someday live in and the cars that would be in said mansion’s garage. Drawing mansions was easy- floor plans are meant to be two-dimensional and, generally speaking, made up of straight lines and right angles. The only real challenge was which of the boxes I had drawn would contain the “Lego room” and which would contain the “Nerf Basketball Court.” Drawing cars was a little more challenging given that my childhood had not included courses on engineering, aerodynamics, or even the knowledge that perspective or something called a “compound curve” existed. As a result, most of my automotive output resembled very derivative and very poorly executed versions of Lamborghini Countachs and Lotus Esprits. In short, they were a hodgepodge of wedges with perfectly round wheels.
As the years went by I became self-aware enough to know what the problem was- I didn’t know what I was doing! The problem wasn’t that I was stupid (though I was certainly “ignorant”) or that I lacked creativity, the problem was that I did not understand what I needed to conceptually in order to successfully execute my ideas. I didn’t understand proportion, I didn’t understand materials science (I don’t understand it now, but I do know that cars can’t come to sharp points at the front!), and I didn’t understand that less is sometimes, very truly, more. You can bet that if any of my car drawings still existed and I were to show them to you the first reaction you would have would be, “Why are there so many…spoilers?” This reaction would, of course, expose you as somebody who knows nothing about cool cars. If you did you would know that the only thing better than a spoiler is two spoilers- stacked on top of each other.
Which brings us to today’s issue. In theory, I can think of nothing better than a club saying to its supporters, “We’d like you to design our new third shirt.” What could be better than this?! It’s “football democracy” at its best- a shirt by the people, for the people, and of the people. There’s only one problem, in practice, the people are stupid…or at least ignorant. The submissions will range from adorable crayon drawings made by little kids who sometimes write a letter backwards to professional-looking templates made by out of work graphic designers (who, you will realize, are out of work for a reason). Rest assured, however, that the people’s intentions are unimpeachable. No supporter is going to design and submit a proposal that they think will look anything less than “awesome” on the pitch. They will think about their favorite kits of the past, they will think of their favorite colors, they will think of their favorite symbols of the club, they will think of the future, they will think of everything, and then they will put it all one one shirt, and that shirt will be terrible- and black.
Believe me, I understand everything that went into this L.A. Galaxy third shirt. There’s the desire to recall the colors of the clubs original shirt (which reflected the colors of the flag of Los Angeles- red, green, and yellow), there’s the desire to include the colors of the Mexican flag (red, green, and white) to pay tribute to the city’s ethnic heritage, and there’s the desire to recall the L.A. Raiders because they wear black and were once a thing in L.A.- or black just looks better…or sells more shirts…whatever. They even went with the color-matched club crest (which I like, by the way). The problem is that when you add all of these elements- plus the stars above the crest, the American flag, the league patch, the Adidas wordmark, and the sponsor’s wordmark, it’s just too many spoilers. I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t you already write about this kit back at the beginning of the summer when it was first released?” Indeed, I did, and as you can see, my opinion of it hasn’t changed. What has changed is that this shirt appears to be the beginning of a trend. Behold, the fan-designed Chicago Fire Third Kit!
There’s a certain sameness about it, is there not? It’s also black. It also has a color-matched club crest. One of the sleeves contains the main colors and design elements of the City of Chicago’s flag. In addition to seeming to spring from the same hive-mind as the Galaxy shirt, it also has some unique problems of its own. First, if you remove the red stars from the sleeve you have what looks like a shirt the San Jose Earthquakes might actually have worn in recent years. Second, what’s the deal with the stripe? Shouldn’t it extend up further and not fade out until it reaches the shoulder with only the “Quaker” wordmark interrupting its ascent? And why is there an abbreviated version on the back of the shirt were it will be tucked into the shorts of most players and at best, look like some sort of pilot light for explosive flatulence? It’s not as bad as the Galaxy shirt, but only because they had fewer colors to work with. I also have to say that, of the five finalists the club selected, there wasn’t a great deal to chose from. Unlike the Galaxy who missed the boat (check out the powder/sky blue kit in the link above), this is what Fire fans where left to deal with-
The first two look like they came right off of page 7 in the Adidas “House of Bland” collection- not offensive, but not much else either (which is a description of most of the current MLS shirts). Number four probably should have been the winner (it’s just a coincidence that this one is also light blue- I’m not a closeted Manchester City supporter!), and number five- minus the sponsor- has mid-major college team written all over it. But again, I can’t emphasize enough how black the winner is. Sorry, but the BFBS (black for black’s sake) trend that Paul Lukas has been railing against over at Uni-Watch is just getting out of hand. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done well. The current black with argyle kit that Sporting KC wears may be the best one ever to grace an MLS match, but in general it’s a tired, tired, concept. It’s the “teal” of the 2010s.
Finally, after dishing out so much criticism I must open myself to some as well, for I too have thought I could do better, that I was the one that could redesign my club’s whole kit range and find myself lauded as a sartorial visionary. You can see my attempts here and decided how I did for yourself.