Thursday, April 05, 2007

Canadian rugby couture

January 6, 2007

[Note update below.]

FORMER CANADIAN SKIPPER and current Rugby Canada columnist Al Charron has his latest commentary up headlined "Crimes of Fashion," where he wags his finger at the shocking pink Stade Francais jersey festooned with as many corporate sponsorship decals as a NASCAR stock racer.

Charron also talks about Canada's national kit. His commentary inspired me to add my own $0.02, as I've been thinking of my own "What Not To Wear" feature about Canada's national rugby uniform for a decade.

Charron concedes the Canadian jersey has not always been too attractive:

"Kind of like it was for the Canadian players in the mid-nineties who had to wear the appalling multi-coloured maple leaves of pink, blue, and neon green splattered all over the national jersey with the exploding a_ _hole for a logo to boot!"

Charron hit the nail on the head of that abomination (Figure 1a) which was pretty humiliating. The old "exploding asshole" design Charron mentions (Figure 1b) was thoughtfully abandoned and thrown to the garbage can.


That wasn't the only uniform mess Canada's rugby team has featured. I distinctly remember a black "maple leaf ticker tape" that ran down the shirt sleeves that looked decidedly amateur.

But Charron rightly mentions the team has had a significant upgrade in appearance:

"I think our Canadian sides at present have pretty smart looking kit in both on and off the field attire, be it made by Canadian apparel sponsors Barbarian, KooGa or Under Armour it looks top dog and I know many people who comment on how good our gear looks and want to get their hands on purchasing Rugby Canada garments."

The current Canadian jersey looks good in a clear strip without sponsor (Figure 2a) or with the sponsor logo splashed large (Figure 2b).


And the combination with the black shorts (and socks) also looks sharp (Figures 3a & 3b).


Nevertheless, I remember as far back as the 1991 World Cup where Tonga came dressed in an All-Red strip (jersey, shorts & socks -- see Figure 4a) that I thought looked fantastic. I was always envious they had that kit, and thought the combination would be ideal for Canada. But for some foolish reason, Tonga abandoned their great All-Red strip and instead has recently been playing in a kit with white shorts and white trim on the jersey (Figure 4b).


Not only does Tonga's new design look weaker; it also duplicates almost exactly the same strips as Wales national team (Figure 5a) and the British Lions (Figure 5b).


Note to Rugby Canada marketing dep't: I really, really like the new strip (my objections to the corporate Rugby Canada insignia notwithstanding, see additional comments below), but if you ever feel like changing it yet-again, then by all means consider the All Red strip.

Still photos doesn't do the combination justice. You have to see the strip in motion to fully appreciate it. It looked awesome on the old Tonga kit (Figure 4a, above); it looks sensational for the Liverpool F.C. uniform (see Stevie Gerrard, Figure 6a), and there's a reason why Ferrari is addicted to the colour (Figure 6b).


As mentioned above, the one Canadian rugby design hang-up that still annoys me is the cheesy-lookin' Rugby Canada corporate insignia (Figure 7a; see close-up Figure 7b).


It's a stylized image of a player running with a rugby ball. Is the design intended to help make it easier for spectators seated in grandstands with binoculars to recognise that the game being played is rugby? Who knows?! For some bizarre reason, these redundant cheeseball designs are not restricted to rugby up here -- it's practically a national affliction.

Canada's pride & joy national ice hockey "Team Canada" also uses a similarly crummy "boardroom decision" logo (Figure 8a) that is unbecoming of their elevated stature in the world game. Organizers of that team have changed the national uniform countless times, and seem to have settled on this piece of garbage. Again, like the thinking at Rugby Canada, it seems as if the executive brass at Hockey Canada believes a spectator needs to look at the jersey logo to know what sport Mario Lemieux is playing (Figure 8b).


Canada's sole NBA franchise, the Toronto Raptors were equally as foolish, duplicating and making worse the exact same design errors. Raptor executives believed basketball fans across Canada needed to see a picture of a dinosaur dressed in a basketball uniform (you don't get much more redundant or silly than placing an image of a uniform on top of an actual uniform, and making the fake uniform actually look sharper than the real thing) and dribbling a basketball (Figure 9a) so that spectators could compute what sport Vince Carter (Figure 9b) was playing. That uniform got laughed out of the league, and the Raptors have since wised up and gone with a cleaner and slicker uniform.


Bottomline: the current Canadian national rugby kit is more than satisfactory, and head-and-shoulders above the indignities our mens team used to dress at international level. I'd be tickled if they went to an All Red strip, but my main point of contention is the lame-ass logo. Rugby Canada should reconsider. It may look good as a letterhead on linen paper, but it doesn't look suitable on our uniform.

Maybe an idea to work on is a simple maple leaf, like the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL team. Personally, I don't like the geometrically clean leaf that was ushered in with the lengthy and disastrous Harold Ballard era and remains today. That "leaf" (Figure 10a) is synonymous with losing. I am more attracted to the old throwback stylized pointy maple leaf of the teams' glory years (Figure 10b).


There are better stylized maple leafs available too. A little colour change doesn't hurt (Figure 11a); and lest ye think I'm a partisan when it comes to ripping-off Canadian hockey insignias, I'm not afraid to borrow ideas from Les Habitants, either (Figure 11b).


What are your thoughts...?

[Update:] I just found this old cover of the National Rugby Post in 1995 when the All Blacks demolished Canada 73-7. That's the contest Al Charron will be writing about later this year (see RT passim). I had no idea Canada wore the "exploding a__hole" jersey that day. The scoreline wasn't the only humiliation (see pic below; and check out the additional pics in the "Comments" below the fold...)

Canada All Blacks 1995


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