“Clothes allow you to see yourself in a different light. They can transform you instantly and have a very real, visceral impact. Clothes become symbolic of who we are.”~ Stacey London (of “What Not To Wear”)
We’ve been talking about players; favorites, mysteries, best loved, troubled…but what about what is perhaps the most visible thing that ties them all together?
Playing in a uniform kit is first an issue of identification. I don’t know if you recall this, but the Timbers’ 2013 red jersey looked like this:
If I recall correctly the first time the team wore it was away to Vancouver. The Whitecaps were in their home white, and supposedly the reason that the visitors gave away so many passes was that from the back they couldn’t tell their teammates from their opponents.
I’m not sure I buy that – I suspect that the Boys were trying to excuse some crap passing – but you can see how they might have a point.
But beside pure practicality there’s something in being in uniform that makes a team a team. You play for your teammates and yourself, sure…but you also play for pride in the club that’s symbolized by the colors and the badge. It adds a little height when you know you look sharp, a little swagger when you know your shirt represents a proud tradition.
And, well…great kits are awesome.
So I thought it might be fun to talk a little about the various kits that the team has gone through since that first April in 2013. I’m not going to be objective; some I’ve liked a lot, some I’ve been sort of okay with, some are just “meh”…but I thought I’d lay them out in order of my preference and see whether you agree or disagree.
Let’s start at the bottom.
Perhaps the ultimate in “meh” were the white kits the Thorns wore for the first two seasons, from the 2013 plain-white-shirt-and-black-shorts-with-a-number…
…to the 2014 plain-white-shirt-and-black-shorts-with-a-number-and-“Globofuel”-written-on-them.
I’ve read that the early Nike kits were intentionally plain looking and cheap to keep costs down. That certainly screams out of the first two season’s white kit. BO-ring. I mean, yeah…it’s a white kit. But surely you could do better than that, Nike, right?
Ugh. Apparently not; the 2016 white kit was a little more…ummm…interesting, though the “changed the oil wearing my second kit and got it all over my sleeve-ends and shorts cuffs” thing just doesn’t work for me. It’s a bit more complex than the first two season’s whites, but not in a particularly good way.
In 2017 Nike second kit did pretty much the same thing:
And it didn’t really work that much better.
The 2018 version, though, was reeeeeally different – the “tire tracks” gray-and-white hoops second kit.
I know people who haaaaate this jersey with the intensity of a million suns. Me, not so much. It’s actually kinda interesting, with the little four-pointed star patterned hoops (and I’m a hoops fan, so I like the hoops, even these grossly huge ones that aren’t really hoops but are “demi-hoops” that only go around the front).
My pet peeve? The red numbers. REALLY hard to see on the screen when reviewing tape. But still more interesting than the other white kits. Still kind of looking for a good answer, though.
The 2019 white kit is actually kind of fun:
But it’s a fun that’s almost impossible to see unless you get up really close. There’s a very subdued gray “smoke” pattern that adds a fun and interesting texture to the shirt (the shorts are just white). And that’s kind of a problem, since from the pitch the shirt just looks white, too.
I like the cleanness of it – pure white-on-white – but other than that…it’s just white. So better than the ugly dipped-in-ink 2015 and 2016 versions, but still kinda meh.
Now we come to our first red kit; 2014.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate on this kit. First, it’s red, and red is Thorns’ color. I like the red.
But it’s also a boring red. The little sleeve rings are kind of fun, but everything else is just just…red. There’s not a lot of interesting stuff going on there. And the little Globofuel sponsor script on the shorts? Ugh. That’s just desperate, like the sleeve logos that are starting to turn up everywhere now. This isn’t fucking LigaMX, and there’s no reason to turn players into goddamn stock cars. That’s just crass.
The 2016 red kit was the cuffs-dipped-in-ink white kit turned red. It looks better simply because the red-to-black gradient looks much better than the white-to-black one does. But it’s still just kinda fugly. When Tobin Fucking Heath can’t make your red outfit pop, it’s just not popping. Sorry.
And speaking of red kits, here’s the original “red kit”, the el cheap-o 2013 shirt:
I have amazingly fond memories of this kit for no virtues of its own; it was, just like the white kit that the squad won the first Championship in, a cheap corporate hack. It looks like a rec league team jersey. It’s not really interesting, and it’s not really striking. But it’s “iconic” in it’s the first kit we saw our Thorns in, it’s the first ever tifo image, it’s the first star, it’s the costume worn for a dramatic and compelling season. So it ends up way higher in my memory than it earns just on its merits.
Now we come to the point where I’m starting to prick up my ears. Here’s the 2015 second kit.
I really like this shirt, probably more than it deserves. The black Globofuel shorts are still there, but the black-red-white shirt is really fun. My only complaint is that it came and went quickly, so quickly that it never became a “Thorns kit”.
This is something I get on U.S. Soccer about; there’s no “U.S. jersey”. Mexico? The iconic green shirt is better than the national flag; the jersey IS the flag. Germany’s white, France’s blue and the different blue azzurri of Italy. But there’s no immediately recognizable “U.S.” shirt. Why?
A Thorns kit should shout its provenance. There should never be any question who she’s playing for when she’s in a Thorns shirt. This second kit is fun…but it’s not self-evidently “Thorns”, and it didn’t hang on long enough to become “Thorns”.
The team did another red-black-white combination that stuck around longer and that I liked even better:
This semi-hoop shirt first appeared in 2014 as a warm up kit:
You can tell the difference by the sponsor; “Tire Factory” sponsored the shirt as a warm-up top, but when it appeared in matchplay in 2015 it carried the main sponsor Providence Health across the front, as you can see Vero Boquete wearing above Alex Morgan here.
As a match kit it was worn with the black shorts, as in the Vero shot. When it appeared with the red…
…it was a warmup top; unfortunate, because I like the hoops-and-red combination. Sadly, it disappeared before the 2016 season. And I’ve never understood what problem Nike has with full hoops; why does the back have to be a solid color? C’mon, you. Get with the program. Hoops! Still…I love this jersey; it’s distinctive, it’s fun, and it’s Thorns. Wish we’d revisit it – only as genuine all-the-way-around hoops.
Now we’re getting down to the wire; we’re starting to nudge into some either iconic, or brilliant, stuff.
Here’s the 2017 red kit, the “gray-sleeves” kit…
…which was also the 2018 primary kit, only with the second star.
This was a shirt I truly disliked when it appeared and I’ve only partially warmed to it. I thought – and still think – it’s clunky and awkward looking. It’s kind of drab. I didn’t like the sleeves, even though I did like the all-red torso-shorts-and-socks-everywhere-else. But it was also another Championship season, and as such I like it for two stars.
It’s still not a good-looking shirt, it’s just an iconic one.
The 2019 primary kit is actually a great kit; it’s striking, it’s Thorns red-and-black all over, the subtle “smoke” pattern is terrific. It’s unfortunate that it’s going to be associated with a crap season, because as a kit, it rocks. But that’s the breaks in the sports uniform game.
Now…this isn’t an official Thorns kit at all:
The Thorns started wearing these all-black kits in preseason starting back in 2016 or 2017. I love this kit and wish we’d make it our third kit. Maybe add a touch of red somewhere…no, I love the basic black. This has never appeared outside preseason, although the kit release teaser before the season went on hiatus suggested that the team might appear in black in 2020. We’ll have to wait and see.
This is the 2019 version, by the way:
Enh. I like the all-black version better. The little white stripey gimmicks don’t work for me; if the team does walk out in black this year I hope it’s more like the early preseason type than the late.
Anyway, that’s it; we’re down to one. This is my favorite Thorns kit; the 2015 primary red.
Like 2019, it was linked to a terrible season, and so a lot of fans (and probably many players) don’t recall it fondly. But it’s just brilliant. Everything about it kicks ass; the simplicity of the clean red and white lines, the unfussiness of it. The crafty rings of thorns in the background that jump out along the seams down the sides. Even the little sleeve logo is slick and tidy. It’s just an awesome damn kit.
I have a couple of Thorns shirts, including the gray sleeve 2017 championship shirt, but this is the only one that I don’t have and wish I’d picked up when I could have. It’s that good.
We’re still waiting for the 2020 kits, but the hints suggest that we’ve got an all-black (yay!) and a white (ummm…don’t be boring!?!).
So any of these you like better than I do? Or you hate worse? Okay then! Change my mind!