The run up to a World Cup inevitably means releasing new kits for participating countries and other ancillary goods that are rolled out in advance of the tournament. Yesterday, in a studio in Hollywood, Nike brought out USWNT stars Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Tobin Heath to help unveil the new USWNT home kit, boots and a plethora of other World Cup related goodies.
Before jumping into the current hot topic of the latest home kit, let’s talk about a few other things that were announced yesterday. Starting with footwear. Here’s official verbiage from Nike:
For the first time, Nike also created a tournament pack of women’s footwear, that includes all four of Nike’s cleat types – Mercurial, Magista, Hypervenom and Tiempo – in a stunning color combination designed in concert with the USWNT home uniform. The cleats combine flashes of Volt yellow with a striking ‘Blue Lagoon’ color, a nod to the famous lakes of tournament host nation Canada.
Here is what I find most interesting…
Soccer boots have always been made with a one size fits all type of approach. By that, I mean that the sizing is typically based on the sizing of men’s shoes. So female soccer players have been at the mercy of having to wear boots that are essentially made for the form and fit of male athletes. Imagine being a professional female soccer player and having to wear boots that are essentially designed for men. That just seems wrong. Well, Nike has gone and done what Nike often does, and that is innovate. For the first time, soccer boots are being released in sizes that are sized according to the foot shape of female athletes and their style of play.
This is an important moment for women’s soccer. It signifies a greater commitment to the women’s side of the game. This gives women the opportunity to wear boots that are specifically made for their form and for their style of play. Imagine the USWNT winning the World Cup with the majority of the players wearing women’s specific boots. That will be a major moment for women’s soccer. Trust me on that.
Big brands are often needed to help drive a sport forward, and Nike’s commitment to the women’s side of the sport will certainly help that. It’s the muscle and strength of a brand like Nike that is needed to help drive the conversation and move the sport forward. Plus they look really rad. The color way of these boots is striking and bold and looks incredible with the new kit. I would most definitely wear these. I might need to do some size calculating to figure out what I would wear in these boots…
The Mercurials might just be the best of the bunch…
But I am historically a Tiempo guy, so these have me some kind of way too.
And last but certainly not least. The Magista.
Let’s stay on the topic of fit for a minute. The new US women’s jersey is first and foremost, tailored and cut to the specifics of female athletes. Just like they should be. According to Nike:
The simple, classic aesthetic belies the uniform’s innovative features. Informed by 3-D body mapping, the 2015 USWNT home uniform features a new, fully-articulated women’s-specific fit to maximize natural movement, comfort and performance. The dual-knit cotton and recycled polyester fabric provides a softer feel.
The part that moves the needle with the fit though, is that for the first time, the women’s specific jersey will be made available in a men’s fit. That’s never happened before. Men didn’t have an option to wear the US Women’s jersey before. Now, I get to wear the same jersey as the women. So when I’m supporting them this summer, I can sport what they are sporting. When I sat down with Tobin Heath yesterday I asked her about this. She told me what a massive thing this is for her and her teammates. That this jersey means that for the first time, her father and her brother will be able to wear the same jersey that she is wearing. That they can finally put her name and number on the jersey that she is wearing. Sydney Leroux said that her husband will actually be able to wear the same jersey that she is wearing. This clearly matters to the team and to the individual players. It matters to the sport. This actually changes the way in which we support the team. There is no longer a separation of the jerseys we wear when we support the USWNT. All for one. (You can use that as a hashtag or something if you need to).
I actually think that the jersey being made available in a men’s version and the boots being made specific to female soccer players are watershed moments. We might not fully realize the importance of them right now, but I think they are game changing in the long run. Let’s circle back around in about 5-10 years and see what these two moves from Nike have meant to women’s soccer.
Oh, you know what else is great about this? This summer, I will be wearing a US jersey that has two stars on it. My countries jersey has two stars on it. Two time World Cup champions. That’s dope as hell. And I will be wearing it with pride while supporting them in their quest to add a third star. ***
Now, let’s talk about the jersey design. In the 24 hours since this jersey was unveiled, opinions have flooded in. The consistent narrative is that the jersey lacks any red and blue and therefore doesn’t speak to the identity of the USA. That it is underwhelming given the fact that it comes in a simple white jersey with black accents (I have a theory on that which you can read further in this story**). That the green socks don’t really make sense. All of that is true on some level. And I can understand this. After all, I recently wrote a story about the lack of identity within the home kits of the US National Team.
But I’m going to give what may be a contrarian view to what many people have been saying about the jersey. Where some people are seeing a lack of color with the white and black kit, I see a crisp and modern kit. The jersey may be lacking in red and blue trim (which is usually what is on the white home kit), but the black provides start contrast to the white. And in full disclosure, I am generally a fan of this combination. It’s always crisp and it never looks dated. Plus, I love an all black logo or crest. I realize that this is precisely where fans want to see red and blue, but an all black crest is kind of tough. You have to have some bravado to pull off a black crest. Some swag (I really don’t like that word) is needed. And the women’s team has that in spades.
Which leads me to my next point. I feel like this kit actually represents the spirit of the US Women’s Team pretty well. The kit may buck conventionality and what fans have come to expect of a US jersey. It pushes boundaries and changes expectations. It’s bold. And isn’t that indicative of the USWNT? We won the first ever Women’s World Cup. We were the first nation to win two Women’s World Cups. We’re fighting to be the first to win three. The USWNT has always pushed boundaries and expectations, and this kit shares in that.
** I will say this about some of the photos I am seeing online. The promo photos that Nike shot for these jerseys with Alex, Abby and Sydney were done on a whit backdrop. I think these should have been shot on a vibrant green pitch. Because when the girls were showing these off and standing on grass, the green of the grass really helped complete the look. That’s personal opinion, but I think that would potentially have helped for all those who weren’t on hand to see these in person. An all white background with an almost white kit makes things too washed out.
That pop of green from the pitch though…
Lastly, I’m going to bring up the lifestyle angle with this. We are about the lifestyle around here, and I think this jersey makes for a great lifestyle piece. I love jerseys. But there are certain ones that I can’t really wear unless I’m attending a game in person or watching one on TV. Certain jerseys are just way too sporty to wear any other time than when supporting your team. The Bomb Pop jersey was like that for me. Cool jersey. But I could only wear it when watching the US team play. This new white and black kit though? I can wear this as a lifestyle piece. And I will wear it as a lifestyle piece. And there is a good chance the first time that happens will be with these Air Max’s that share the same color palette as this kit. You will see me in the streets in this…
And finally, the first official selfie of someone in the new USWNT kit.