Nike unveiled their new home kit for the women's national team yesterday, revealing a simple white kit with black details around the sides and collar and neon socks. This is also the first time that the women's jersey with two stars above the crest will be available in men's sizes.
Opinions are varied, but seem to fall mostly in the "boring" or "HOW UNPATRIOTIC" categories, with a few voices defending the kit, calling it clean, with the neon socks adding an eye-catching pop factor. The Washington Post even called USA Today's desire for a kit with the colors of the American flag "a stunning amount of jingoism."
Let's walk the issue back and consider what should be the base question before designing a World Cup kit: how do we want to present ourselves on the field? Is it just about being recognizable as a representative of your country, or does being distinguishable in and of itself factor in as well?
The blue away kits certainly satisfy both conditions, whatever your opinion on them. One look at those suckers and everyone knows exactly who you represent.
The black and white kit—not so much. Are they distinguishable? Yes. Would a viewer at first glance, with no context, immediately associate them with America? Depends on their feelings about neon. They would already have to know that the US went with black and white home kits. Or, one supposes, they would have to look at the information on the screen and take a few seconds to scratch their heads and say, "Black and white? Really? Not red, white, and blue?" before returning to their midday beer.
And those socks! The "Elite Match socks" are the color Volt, not neon. Nike has been using Volt as a design element for a while so it was only a matter of time until it showed up somewhere in an American kit. The socks are specifically meant to blend color into Nike's cleats, so sorry to you chumps who picked up Adidas or Under Armour contracts. The cleats themselves create the seamless blend from sock to boot in Volt, then cut to a satiny turquoise whose official name is "Blue Lagoon," a color meant to evoke "the famous lakes of tournament host nation Canada." Sure, Nike. Canada, if your lagoons are this color, please contact the Department of the Environment.
The jersey is its usual blast of high-tech buzzwords: breakthrough cooling sytem, laser-cut ventilation, strategic mesh paneling, fully articulated. They're made from recycled plastic bottles, too, which is actually fantastic. If you've gotten your hands on an authentic match jersey, though, you'll find that Nike really isn't joking around with those buzzwords. Modern jersey technology has created extraordinarily light, breathable uniforms compared to the scratchy sweat lodge garbage sacks of the 80s and 90s.
Some people would argue that fashion, like all art, is not meant to make the viewer comfortable. It is meant to provoke feeling and thought. Fashion must intersect with function in this context, though, and function asks that these kits act as representatives of the United States. Just a dash of jingoism might be appropriate when representing one's nation in the biggest women's sporting event in history. If fashion has to override function this summer, at least make it exciting fashion. Provoke with your art, Nike! No maybes!