Drinking Your Milkshake

Personal musings from a young designer.

You blew it, Nike — April 29, 2015

You blew it, Nike

Nike just unveiled the new uniforms for the United States to wear in the Women’s World Cup. I am not happy.

Let’s take a moment and enter the world of international soccer, where uniforms, or kits, are large and symbolic. The world stage is not only a stage to showcase the best talent in the world, but it has also become a stage for the top companies in athletic apparel. Cool. There are logos everywhere, but it could be worse.

Now let’s step further down the road and talk about women’s international soccer. This is where the United States goes from middle of the pack to the cream of the crop. Since the inception of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, the United States has never finished lower than third place.

For young girls growing up playing soccer, the USWNT (Women’s National Team) changed everything. Girls were able to play the sport and dream of playing for all the world to see. (In my old, washed up age, I put a couple of touches on the ball in a rec league and I can dream like I’m going for gold.) Men’s sports wish they had USWNT success and this team keeps setting a superstar standard for women around the world.

So, if someone could tell me why this atrocity is being worn by one of the proudest American teams ever this summer at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, I’d really like to know.

That kit there is actually black and white. Your eyes are not deceiving you. And the only pop of color? That would be Nike’s neon favorite for the past few years- they named it volt. They popped it for lots of countries last olympics.

There are a few countries don’t use their flag to find their national team colors, like the Netherlands or Italy. Brazil on the other hand uses their flag to find the colors of the iconic set that the men and women have always worn a variation of. The United States has never had a solid identity kit wise. Our men’s kits have been all over the board, with sashes, stripes, hoops, and even denim prints. I’m personally partial to hoops, because they match the stripes on our flag. Our women’s kits have not been much more consistent, but they’ve also had a lot less time to cultivate an identity.

America is widely considered flag obsessed by outsiders. Our national anthem is about our flag and there’s even songs about that song. We should be embracing our own culture. Instead we’re shunning it for corporate colors. Personally, I like volt. I think its fun. But it sure isn’t American.

At least prior experimentations with colors and the USWNT had a rhyme or reason, no matter how absurd. In 2007, we saw a gold kit. The USWNT went by “the Greatest Team You Never Heard Of” which was a pretty cool marketing and branding campaign at the time. (It did, in fact, turn out to be a bad idea when we only placed third.) In 2011, we saw what was called the “black widow” kit. The black widow spider is a very powerful female creature, so that was a pretty neat and educated idea. (This was right before the beginning of Avengers madness, Iron Man 2 came out around the same time as the kits were released.) Black and volt has no tradition or inspiration. We’ve had plain kits in the past, but at least our colors and flag were present. Internet user aawagner01 from the SportsLogos.net message boards posted this re-do of the new Nike kit that simply added color where black was. The result is much better, don’t you think?

I wouldn’t care if Nike turned US Soccer into some sort of Oregon for producing outrageous uniforms in soccer, kind of like our new away kits, but even Oregon has tradition alive. America is flag obsessed. That’s who we are. That’s something people from all over the world note- how much we care about our red, white, and blue.

It’s just a shirt. It’s just a kit. It’s just some colors. But they’re our colors. They’re American colors. Its my flag. It’s my team. It’s my country. It’s my pride.

The only salvation for that kit is that some of the world’s greatest women will be wearing it.

Hello world! —