Making his Sartorial.Soccer debut in the first of a series of Stateside stories, Spurs fan Garry Bacon takes a look at some of the more esoteric shirts on display in the US of A.
Look beyond the Adidas shirts from MLS, and you’ll find that some of the most interesting and innovative kits launched recently come from the United States’ lower-leagues.
Clubs outside the top flight template restraints are coming up with unique, punchy, artistic kits by working closely with their chosen designers and manufacturers to provide fans with the chance to own something truly different and one-off.
It’s crazy to think that Providence City FC have only been in existence since 2015, given that they have already contributed shirts to the world that sit comfortably in the football kit Hall Of Fame.
The HAMR ‘shark’ shirt, created by Hummel in collaboration with the Revival Brewing Company, is a modern day classic in the kit world (and the originals with embroidered badges are highly sought after) and now with Toronto based brand Inaria, they’ve created two more masterpieces.
The ‘Good Night Lights’ kit is a wonderful example of the power of community within football. Inspired by the Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the shirt takes its cue from the practice of individuals and businesses within the city, who shine lights for the children to see from their windows before they fall asleep.
An act of solidarity which showcases the human connection between the club and the city, it’s an excellent reminder that clubs do care about what happens within their community.
It’s no surprise then, to learn that Providence is known as the ‘Creative Capital’, as the brand new Away shirt further demonstrates.
The ‘Klondike’ features a wonderful deep blue and a pattern reminiscent of paint strokes within. All the ‘Rogue’ trademarks are there: The unique graphic, the badge (God, that badge is good) and another local sponsor, in a lovely gold this time, in the form of the Borealis Coffee Company (who’s owner Brian moved from Alaska to Rhode Island, and is now one of the biggest Rogues fans there is).
And that sums up the club. They’ve always used local companies as sponsors, from breweries to hair salons to donuts, and this creates creative partnerships which benefit the local area. They love Rhode Island, and now, I think I do too.
I think it’s safe to say that the entire kit community was united in thinking that the latest ‘efforts’ from Puma for Borussia Dortmund were utterly horrendous (or maybe you liked them, who am I to judge?).
So it’s nice to see that they can still create Black & Yellow kits which are great and don’t look like a Pokemon character.
An arts and entertainment collective based in Santa Fe, their colourful logo certainly adds to the shirt overall and elevates it above standard norms, making it look the absolute business.
A really strong effort from the club who had another stand out shirt last year with their space-age Specialty shirt.
Last, but not least, we have Iowa’s ‘oldest club’ with what I think is shirt of the year so far.
The story goes that Gray’s Lake FC were founded in 1917, but weren’t successful until a quick dip in the lake bought them face to face with the Gray’s Lake monster.
Taking inspiration from their namesake lake and the monster that inspired them, they’ve teamed up with Skadi Soccer (more creativity from Canada) to create a shirt that lives up to their near-mythical status.
A diamond pattern featuring the monster, a lovely crossover collar and blue and yellow cuffs, sponsored by Fleur Drive Brewing, Iowa’s newest brewery which keeps things local. It’s an absolute belter.
The shirt is definitely real, the brewery is soon to be real. The question that everyone is asking is: Are the club real?
What these clubs have demonstrated more than anything is the importance of engagement, collaboration and most importantly local connections.
From New Mexico United highlighting the women connected to the club on their Twitter page, to Providence City and Gray’s Lake using smaller local businesses as sponsors, the lower league clubs of the US are providing groundbreaking ways to engage, inspire, and foster cultures and long serving identities within their communities.
Garry loves the expressive world of lower-league United States soccer and all the freedom afforded to designers by Stateside clubs.
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