On Friday June 11th, the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off for the first time in Africa. The Republic of South Africa is playing host to 31 teams representing nations from six continents. The teams bring hopes, hype, dreams, fans, and more merchandise than anyone can collect. Endorsement deals for official game kits and gear reach obscene dollar amounts and often go between major heavyweights, Adidas and Nike. The companies try to outdo each other with technology and flash and not fit but one FIFA outfitter took a different approach to jersey design for this tournament.
Umbro, a recent Nike subsidiary, is an English-born and bred sportswear and equipment company with a strong history of tailoring. For the design of England's official World Cup kit, Umbro brought on Aitor Throup, whose obsession with anatomy and minimalist functional design make him a perfect fit with Umbro. The philosophy when production began was that the jersey should move with the athlete's body instead of just around or against the body. The use of shoulder darts, tiny air holes and a stretchy base layer fabric on the underarms makes for a more streamlined and flexible fit. This is not your recreational jersey - this kit belongs to a new generation of what Umbro calls "innovative performance technology and a classic tailoring aesthetic".
Umbro did a great job documenting the design and construction process from multiple angles including feedback from England's national team. It's clear that the footballer are happy to be involved in the process as every equipment edge can help them on the pitch.
Besides Umbro's longstanding contract with the England national football (soccer) team, they also design kits for Ireland and Northern Ireland's squads as well as premier league team Manchester City and the participants of the FA Cup. Since only England qualified for the 2010 World Cup, Umbro decided to honor the history of the tournament in their own special way. They created the World Champions Collection that feature modern interpretations of the classic jerseys of the seven nations that have hoisted the World Cup trophy: Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Uruguay, England, and Argentina. The jerseys include their own crests designed by artists from all sorts of backgrounds from their home champion countries. The crests explain football history, culture and spirit and use the heralded stars that only true champions can own. Umbro use their company mandate of opposing qualities, like modern tailoring and the world game with local flavour, in designing the entire World Champions Collection apparel line which includes t-shirts, jerseys, zip ups and socks.
The requisite ad campaign continues to draw from Umbro's love of modernized vintage aesthetic but also in this case, very sexy.In the 1960's, the Umbro advertisements for jerseys featured models in long jerseys worn as mini-dresses: it was cute, cheeky and different.
To bring back the idea from the archives, Umbro recruited famous and beautiful WAG's from every country represented (wives and girlfriends of footballers) to model the jerseys with socks, and nothing else besides sultry hair and make up. The result looks sexy without being slutty or derogatory - what woman hasn't stolen her man's jersey to prance around the apartment in? Men love it and women have done it since those first advertisements came out in the 1960's. The blogs have lit up in excitement thanks to the behind the scenes video and the line is now synonymous with beautiful women.
The line is available in select retailers around the world, and I was lucky to attend their only Toronto release at GotStyle Menswear. The store is known as a destination for men who crave made to measure suits and fun, modern clothes that don't feel too intimidating or over priced - men who want to look good without looking like they're trying too hard. Umbro and GotStyle make a perfect pair and Melissa and her team did a great job displaying the collection.
Football memorabilia, photographs, video displays, sewing supplies, cute girls in short jerseys and even an England jersey signed by Fabio Capello (that you can win!) adorn the King West boutique's floor. I slipped on my team's jersey, France (allez les Bleus!), and unfortunately, it's too big for my small but curvy frame. However, they fit men off all sizes great with the minimal but sleek tailoring - GotStyle media master Reggie models the Italian jersey in size 38.
The details on the Umbro line are outstanding yet understated but are best seen in person. GotStyle carries the zip ups, jerseys, t-shirts as well as basic tees emblazoned with your country's name and colours. Prices range from $40 for tees to $150 for zip-ups . Definitely one of the most stylish and original ways to rally support for your World Cup squad. Well played, Umbro. Let the fashionable football games begin!