The State of Modern Kit Design

Jan 5 2010

Back before the Internet, bike nerds must have had to crowd around well-thumbed copies of under-the-radar bike ‘zines at the LBS, squinting fitfully at blurry, black-and-white photos pirated out of Gazzetta dello Sport before coming up with clever things to say about how freakin’ ugly the new season’s kits were.

Can you imagine? Do you think fine details like the fake rivets and pockets on the notorious Carrera kits were even visible? Could they even tell that the Castorama kit was supposed to be a grocer’s Home Depot-style apron, and not hip waders or overalls? I shudder to even consider it.

At any rate, I think kit design has improved quite a bit since the early 90s—certainly if people are nominating the comparatively staid Kelme kit for worst of all time in any sport, we’re doing OK. Riskier designs like Highroad and Garmin have taken some heat, but being distinctive and having single concept that drives the design aren’t bad things.

That was my main complaint about the Radio Shack kits—aimlessness and safe, corporate sterility—and for the most part, I think Sky’s admittedly understated kit avoids that. I don’t like it as much as Quick.Step’s reprise of last season’s underused design (which has a nice retro feel while remaining immediately recognizable) but it’s certainly better than Astana (red S on yellow sleeve looks a bit ketchup and mustard, doesn’t it?).

While I’ll readily admit that some of my favorite designs are simple patterns from the 1970s and early 80s, I think it’s a good thing that kit designers still try to innovate: good, new designs sell more apparel and drive interest to the sport, and the total flops make everyone else look better.

9 Responses to “The State of Modern Kit Design”

  1. iworedettos January 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    castorama was a french home depot. the kit was designed to look like an apron worn by the people who worked there (not grocers tho).

    i always thought it looked like overalls and didn’t even think about it until now, after having read this:
    http://bicycling.com/blogs/boulderreport/tag/castorama/

    la vie claire. still the best, imho.

  2. erikv January 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    I really liked Kelme’s jersey.

  3. Sebastian January 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    I think you’re right that the early 90s were the worst period for kit design — lots of clashy colors, lots of sponsor names, little overall design idea:

    http://ag2rnonofficiel.free.fr/_imgs_source/1993/93_Foucachon.jpg

    I like to complain about the recent vogue for colored shorts, but at the very least there’s arguably an elegance of conception in something like FDJeux.

    I’m a little puzzled by the escalating Team Cinzano Lookalike Contest we’re seeing between Caisse d’Epargne, Cervelo and now Sky . . . This 2010 peloton is gonna be visually heavy. I guess this is what happens when you try to reclaim the classic dignity of black shorts in an era when it’s assumed that the whole kit must be basically one color. (Not to go all Queer Eye here, but someone tell these kids that matching a color with itself isn’t technically matching.)

    Finally, although I too am a fan of the old Renault-Gitane jersey, many drivers here in the state of Connecticut seem to have a different opinion. Lucky for them they’re not messing with certain ill-tempered individuals who’ve worn this jersey over the years.

  4. TeamFlorida January 6, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    I think that the university of florida collegiate team really has an original and cool design this year. It definitely blends a little old school simplicity with some new distinctive mondrian inspired concepts.

    check it out:

    http://www.teamfloridacycling.org/cycling/store
    http://natbricker.com/home/node/7

  5. M January 6, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    The design state of the peloton is very anemic. Most teams just choose to play it safe. Plus there is too much “Me too” happpening. We saw the trend of everyon having blue. Now everyone wants all black. Give a good designer a little freedom and let them play with the sponsors logo and have a little fun and something good can happen. They also need to look at it from a riders perspective and make sure the team can easily pick each other out in the peloton. Loved it last year when Cervelo switched up the kits after the spring classics. In the end it usually comes down to a some exec at a flooring company or ham radio company whose idea of style is neatly pressed denim with a button down on the weekends approving or diapproving of designs. Its like the college party at 1:00am, high expectations meets reality.

  6. ksb January 6, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    I don’t think SKY are done with their jersey design (riders names on the side panel, what?), I would expect to see rolling revisions and to see a lighter color version for the Tour and hotter months.
    Worst jersey design on 2010 season definitely goes to RadioShack, hopefully they will do something to make that look better – how can you have a bike design that looks like its on crack (which I have to admit I like) and a jersey design that looks like its on Ambien?

  7. Sebastian January 6, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    Wait a minute — the Sky kit has a butt crack on it????

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/photos/gallery-team-sky-braves-the-cold-in-london/100036

  8. Dan January 7, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    I personally like the understated Sky kit, the simple adidas stripes, black and blue, perhaps undone, but better than liquigas which is worn out and tired. My eyes bleed when i see that same ole thing time and time again. I agree that the kits today, especially astana and others are so unimpressive. BTW, the radioshack jerseys are indeed safe, i agree, but those bikes are aweful, looks like someone took them out for a hard ride an barfed down the toptube/downtube and it got caught in the wheels and splattered it all over.

    My fave was the Quickstep belgian champs jersey. Nationally stated winners and classic jersey/kit.

    The sad reality is the corporate support will always require an exchange of something for cash…recognition and branding. Reality is a hard thing to bear.

  9. Clay | Www.outdoorswingsets.org April 25, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Thanks so much for the blog article.Thanks Again. Cool.

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