I'll confess that when I first saw the new Sale Sharks home kit for the 2015-16 season through the promotional image released on the official club website, I was...underwhelmed. In hindsight perhaps it was the slightly over-edited feel to that promotional picture (as seen above), which seems to overemphasise the white 'sponsor strip' on the shirt's chest and diminish the contrast between the light blue found on the shoulder and sides and the navy blue of the rest of the shirt.
But then the real pictures began to roll in:
I hope the surprisingly stark difference between the marketing and advertising materials and what the players will actually be wearing on the pitch this season is now a bit more obvious as it became to me earlier this morning.
And now that we've seen what the kit really looks like? - I'm a huge fan.
Is it as good-looking a kit as the hoop-and-fin design Sale have worn for the past two seasons? No, but then again that kit might have been the best-designed Sale have had since they adopted the 'Sharks' moniker in 2001 so to directly compare the two is a little unfair. But with this new kit, there are lots of small details, tweaks and subtle updates that really make it standout as one of the better kits around the Premiership this season.
The most important aspect design-wise, is of course the shirt. A self-confessed update and homage to the kit Sale wore 10 years ago to their only Premiership triumph to date, the shirt does a great job of incorporating the hoop/stripe heritage of the Sharks/Sale FC albeit with slimmer stripes giving it a slightly more modern and sleeker look, whilst the (now much more apparent) contrast between the baby blue of the shirt's shoulders and sides with the navy 'body' of the shirt a great-looking tribute to the most prominent design feature of the 2005-06 kit as seen below:
And whilst it would have been nice to see that baby-blue designed to match the historic kit's vertical styling, I understand the curved chest design of the Iconix™ shirts produced by Samurai Sportswear meant that was probably not possible to implement.
Overall regarding the front of the shirt, the stripes look great, the colours work well and the white sponsor strip is a lot less prominent than first thought and makes a nice dividing line between the shirt's design and the compulsory workdmarks and logos that adorn every modern kit. It would have been nice to perhaps have had the striped design extend to the full body of the kit rather than just the bottom 3/5ths but there is always the danger that it would make the shirt appear too cluttered, which is the last thing a fashionable rugby kit should be.
However its the back of the shirt which really elevates Sale's design choice.
Obviously, in-game it will be a lot more cluttered than the front of the shirt with sponsors (as seen here from the 'competition shirt' from the club's store), but ignoring that momentarily, the decision to have the white horizontal stripes extend all the way to the back of the neck is a masterstroke that adds another layer of depth to the shirt's overall look and feel that, at the same time, makes the contrast with the shoulders that bit more prominent and eye-catching.
The delightfully simple 1861 Shark Fin crest returns on the nape of the neck, once again a great way of highlighting the club's 150-plus year history and having the horizontal stripes pass through the 'patch' make it so much more understated and natural than having it separated by its own white box. Another great design choice.
Personally I've never been a big fan of the Samurai/Sale shorts worn for the previous two season; the seemingly random shapes of lighter blue and white on the navy background and sporadic white lines didn't seem very uniform when compared with the rest of the previous Sale home kit.
This year Samurai have toned things down slightly, replacing the weird blue pentagon shape with a simple rectangle and a smaller white rectangle at the bottom and dispensing with the white outlines for a much more simplistic look. They look better than the last kit but I still don't know if the additional colours are necessary with navy shorts. Is there anything else to say?
For an item like socks, simplicity is key. Same shade of navy for the primary colour, same shade of white, same thickness and same frequency of the horizontal lines across the socks all to match the shirt and the same lighter blue contrast at the top. Executed well, they keep things simple and make the uniformity of the new kit obvious and apparent as good socks should do.
Without overanalysing every single shade and stripe of the new kit, the smaller, less obvious design features of the new kit are really what make it work. The shirt in particular plays the customary homage to Sale's heritage with some neat design choices that simultaneously keep it feeling fresh and modern with the added bonus of celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Sale's only Premiership title with some mirroring of the kit they wore that famous day in 2006. The shorts and socks have also been simplified and give the kit a nice sense of consistency.
One feels the limitations of Samurai's Iconix™ template perhaps hold the shirt back from the 'iconic' category and even if less prominent than originally thought, the white MBNA sponsor strip is such a sharp contrast to the rest of the shirt that it definitely feels obtrusive especially as it limits the horizontal striping to only 3/5ths of the front of the shirt which I know will not be the most popular of choices. However sponsorship is a big part of the modern game and therefore perhaps unavoidable so perhaps I shouldn't mark it down too harshly for that.
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