All 19 MLS teams have at least one new shirt in 2014, and with the exception of one or two early (DC United) and late (Chivas USA) releases the fans all wait eagerly, desperately searching social media for 'leaked' photos or attending release parties. The big reveal is usually held just before the season in what has been dubbed by some marketing whiz as 'Jersey Week'. Given the staid track record of Adidas designers and their MLS overlords, I propose that hereto forth it should actually be rebranded as 'Jersey Weak'. The need to change only one letter will help Dirt-Cheap Don keep the costs down, and it sets a reasonable level of expectation so as not to disappoint. With the Union trying their very best to hype up the fifth season as some sort of remarkable milestone, the fans were perhaps hoping for something fresh and exciting to carry the wave of optimism that has swept up the Delaware River after a midfield makeover more exciting than any episode of "Say Yes to The Dress". Unfortunately the U might have been better off consulting the producers of 'What Not To Wear" as yet again conservatism and a lack of imagination have given us … wait for it … PINSTRIPES ! Look - there are two gold pinstripes on the front of the shirt! Wow. That is about as exciting as a Keon Daniel (backwards) pass.
Okay so the back has pinstripes too, and now the name and number is in gold, but apart from that it remains essentially the same - although with those serious Indiana Pacers overtones I half expect to see Reggie Miller popping up on the sideline launching a three-pointer off a long throw in, Sheanon style. Now there is nothing wrong with tradition, and I would argue that the most daring and well-loved Union shirt so far is the black Bethlehem Steel third kit that borrowed from a deep tradition yet was a little edgy and daring. The fact that the hideously ugly Bimbo logo (seriously, did some teenager knock that up in Microsoft Paint?) was changed to an older version to fit in with the overall design of the shirt helped enormously. The Union's original blue and gold shirt is a nice if uninspiring design, and while I appreciate the dollars that the fluffy Bimbo bear brings us I can't help but feel that the logo has us hamstrung in terms of kit design. The colors don't match, the shape is just the wrong size to fit in the center panel, and did I mention that it looks cheap and cheesy? Maybe if we could get a logo redesign for the cuddly bear we could get a proper redesign for our shirts too.
So I don't actually hate the new home shirt, but then again I don't really like it that much either and perhaps that is the genius of Adidas' design crew. In adopting a Buddhist aesthetic of 'The Middle Way', the shirt isn't making people go crazy with excitement like some five minute fad but at the same time it offends very few. Sounds like a successful strategy to lure the parents of all those kids into the store - there is no way mom could get upset and call the shirt ugly, and dad will be just as happy to wear one too because those pinstripes surely make his gut look a little less protuberant. The hard core fans will pretty much always buy the new shirts no matter what they look like either out of loyalty to the team or because they genuinely like them (hey, horses for courses) so there is no real incentive for Adidas, MLS, or the Union to try anything daring or radical. So yet another Jersey Week passes and erm … who cares?