MAKE IT WORK.

Rumors and reported sightings of the 2012 Crew home and away kits have slowly found their way into social media circles over the last two weeks.  The big clues came in the form of well-timed and well-conceived teases from the Crew's terrific social media operations, via Twitter and Facebook.  By now the close-up photos of the Crew crest on what is presumed to be the away kit, the inside back collar on what is presumed to be the home kit, and the photo of what is presumed to be all-time great Crew center back Chad Marshall's Derek Zoolander impression have been widely circulated among Columbus supporters.  Every pixel of those photos has been ravenously consumed by devoted fans who are, frankly, starving for something new and creative from their team.

There are eyewitness descriptions that have leaked.  Among these were descriptions from reliable sources that came out late Friday.  Columbus Wired was given information about the new shirts, and they asked if I would create two graphics based on the descriptions that they'd been given. Combining those descriptions with recent shirt styles that adidas might reasonably use for the Crew, I drew two mock-ups for Columbus Wired (who broke this news early Saturday) of what the much-anticipated shirts will look like when they are unveiled on Monday to the masses.  Both graphics are intended to give a broad idea of what the colors and patterns are.  Important details—like piping, if any, exact location of seams and stitching, any special insignia that are included on the shirt—weren't available, so I made guesses here and there and left the rest to your imagination. 


Rendering of rumored 2012 Crew home shirt.

According to the descriptions, the 2012 home kit will remain predominantly gold, which is welcome news to those of us who are fans of the Banana Kit. There will apparently be a polo collar on the home kit—the first collar on a Crew jersey since the 2008-2009 cycle's away shirt.  We expect the new shirt to be very much like a Columbus version of Sporting KC's 2011 home jersey, which is okay by me.  It's a simple and solid look—and every now and then you have to throw your fans something that they will feel comfortable wearing while rocking a pair of Dockers, or honing their short-game skills around the chipping green at Scioto Country Club.  Also, when you're trying to cultivate local business investment in season tickets, stadium naming rights, shirt sponsorship, etc., a gold collar is definitely the way to go.  Biz-caz active wear speaks to the 1% and to those people who aspire to live someday in the Roaring 2020s in the forcefield-gated communities of New Dublin or New New Albany.

Seriously though, these 2012 home kits will probably look great on the team when they're on the Crew Stadium pitch next season.  My only concern is that they're going to get very boring, very quick; and, let's be honest, boring uniforms are absolutely not at all what is needed for a home kit when your coach has a solid track-record of playing less-than-stimulating soccer.  Furthermore, it'll be interesting to see if the solid-yellow-collar-look appeals to the younger cohort that is the heart, soul, and fuel for the fire of supporters' culture in this city—especially at a retail price in the triple-digit range.  Yikes.



For many reasons, I'm a fan of the old Columbus Crew jerseys from the first years of MLS—particularly the 1996 home and away.  Those original kits are truly unprecedented in the history of soccer and, well, probably unprecedented in the history of clothing in general outside of early-1990s hip hop acts (I remember a home jersey being referred to several years after the fact as "that Columbus+Crew Music Factory shirt").  Black and gold were strong and smart color choices and, though the construction of the 1996 shirts was, admittedly, gaudy in appearance from the chest up, the first Crew uniforms weren't as utterly retina-popping as most of the rest in MLS were.  Along with DC United, the Crew wore one of only two original ten Major League Soccer uniforms that were not cursed with a terrible mid-nineties color-palette combined with random slashing asymmetrical patterns which retain about as much timeless appeal in 2011 as Dishwalla.

I've often hoped for a retro-style look to be used as a 3rd kit for the Columbus Crew.  If HSG had pushed adidas and MLS for a retro one-off in 2009 for the 10 year anniversary of Crew Stadium, it might've given the team a needed image and merchandising boost—capitalizing on the team's historic 2008 success.  The result might've been a bit of football fashion relevance in a growing soccer apparel market that many of us saw coming even before expansion into Toronto and Seattle.  At the risk of further inflating the egos of the league's two mothers of invention, those cities' entrances into the league ushered into MLS supporters culture a burgeoning consumer crave for a nostalgia-laden youth hipster aesthetic that is, now, everywhere you look—except, for whatever reason, when it comes to MLS soccer jerseys.*  Being one of the original 10 teams and having survived gives Columbus an opportunity to capitalize on the nostalgia fad by reissuing jerseys from the earliest years of the team.  Acknowledging those first years not only opens up a possible merchandise market (which the team, frankly, hasn't so far seemed willing or able to get involved in), more importantly it helps to remind the city and fans of something that a near total absence of creative marketing post-2008 has allowed them to forget: the essential importance of Columbus to the success of American soccer.

Rendering of rumored 2012 Crew away shirt.
So, really, why am I using so much space going on about 1996, theoretical retro kits, and 3rd jerseys?  Because, if the description of the 2012 away shirt for the Crew is accurate, and if the drawing (above) that I did from that description is close to the mark, then there's no doubt that the 1996 Crew away shirt was the inspiration for its design.  And I like that—for maybe the first time ever—the word "inspiration" can be used in a sentence about a Columbus Crew jersey.  Based on the description, it's not a purely retro look, but it refers back strongly to the first kits from 1996-1998, and it lets the fans know that someone is thinking about the arc of Columbus soccer history and the other things that I mentioned above.  It's important to put thought and consideration into things like uniforms, advertising campaigns, match day stadium aesthetics, which bargain-basement Fredrick's of Hollywood costumes are appropriate for your dance team, you know, stuff like that.  Thoughtfulness demonstrates value, pride, trust: all good things that need to be demonstrated when you're playing catch-up for missed opportunities and past decisions.  So this kit, whether it suits your taste or not, might be a good start.

Beyond the influence of the 1996 away shirt, this new shirt slightly resembles the 2011 Colorado Rapids away shirt, which in my opinion was quietly the classiest kit in the league this past season.  When I was looking for recent adidas styles that would lend support to the description that I was given, I immediately thought of the Rapids' away shirt as an example of a predominantly white kit that, when you see it, doesn't feel like a typically boring white kit.  If the above design is what we'll be seeing for the next two seasons, I think it will look fine, but I don't know if it will sell.  In fact, I'm kind of thinking that it might find a less-than-receptive audience in the beginning.  Personally, I'd like it much better if it were black from the chest down.  I think it would be better received, and there's something great about having a Crew team come out in black every now and then.  It's cleansing.  Like confession.

So while we're on that topic, one last thing.  Last year, I submitted some ideas to, well, pretty much anyone who would listen about how to maybe create some sort of minimal buzz about the (really boring) uniform situation that we were left with when Glidden left our team's uniform sponsor-less.  Those ideas, needless to say, didn't get very far.  With that in mind, here's my submission for a 2012 3rd kit.  

2012 Crew 3rd kit.
(Not really.) 

A monochrome black 3rd kit for Columbus would be off the charts Massive, and—you know me—I don't just throw that word around.  There have been similar shirt concepts that have come out recently.  One of them was a Nike creation for the Brazil national team that was for sale to fans, but not intended for competition.  Another was an Umbro creation for the coolest non-existent soccer team in existence, your New York Football Cosmos.  Neither of these black uniforms will see competition, so why shouldn't the Crew try something like this?  We seem to be fresh out of black kits for the next two years at least, so what do you say to coming up with something that we can rally behind and that people might buy?  I'm sure there are a thousand different excuses that can be made as to why not—and lord knows we'll probably hear them—so, because I'm all about positivity, let's start off with one in the plus column:

People will buy them.

But that's a supporter's opinion.  What do I know about design and money and important things . . .


UPDATE (11/28/11): Here's the official announcement.  One day you're in, the next day you're out.


*There have been instances when MLS teams have embraced that nostalgia and harkened back to their past lives as NASL clubs, bringing back to life jerseys from the Grand Old Days of Yesterfunk.  This year the San Jose Earthquakes offered a throwback jersey to season ticket holders who renewed for next season (2012), and, in 2004, played a match in throwbacks against the then Dallas Burn.  And does anyone doubt that sometime in the next couple of seasons Vancouver, or Seattle, or Portland will, one wet Cascadia evening, bounce out onto their respective FieldTurfs in this, this, or this?  I don't, because, between you and me, that would be awesome, even though the soccer-media slobbering that it would induce will likely rival yearly rainfall totals in all three cities.