THE DATE should be marked on the official club crested calendar: July 1 …” transfer window opens”…. July 2… “new away kit launched to fans’ outrage.”
Almost every year some aberration straight from page 47 of the manufacturers catalogue is unveiled – usually after a cack-handed leak the night before – and the fashionistas and purists get the pitchforks out.
This year it is yellow. But not subtle on point hipster yellow, no this is a bright retina burning neon, a plastic Minnion flavoured searing shade demanding sun-glasses. And that has naturally provoked the annual backlash.
Mellow yellow: well at least Albert looks happy with the new shirt.
Why the outcry? Because yellow is “not a traditional Boro colour”? What, and broad jade and hunter green stripes with gold trim was? What about a pomegrante hooped ensemble on white? Or bruise blue and purple? Or black with red and white stripes?
I’m actually surprised that Boro haven’t had a yellow away kit given the infatuation of all things Brazil in the late 90s. Then it would have been hailed as a marketing masterstroke totally in tune with all those half-and-half Boro/Juninho scarves. Or a bit of cynical opportunism. You decide.
Away kits are always initially derided as an “affront to our history” amid a flare of fury and impassioned vows never to purchase this textile heresy taunting everything we stand for. It’s the rules. I quite like it it. It reminds me of Dortmund which is a great club with much to commend it. But there has been a lot of outright opposition and anger from other quarters. But you expect that. Last season it was the same: a narrow striped charcoal and dark blue top with neon trim that had been the Chelsea kit the year before. Booooo.
But then, while the internet intelligensia foamed and sneered, the masses and the kids bought them, the club sold out and announced all sales records had been smashed with our most popular ever shirt and in a few weeks everyone got used to them. It will be the same this year. By the time Boro win the title at Burnley in April the packed away end will look like Dortmund’s Yellow Wall and the eye-catching image of our heroes in a fetching shade of rubber duck will be part of our history, like the green/green of Bryan Robson’s promotion year or the white “Y” device on blue as worn by Magic Merse and Emerson.
Of course, the away kit IS a break with history and many will bristle at the very sight. Not least because the Wembley pain inflicted by the Canaries still smarts. But in truth, it is only the home kit that has ever really been a visual vehicle for identity. Boro are red with some kind of white flourish. We know that from our memory bank of generations of famous photographs and our own wardrobe and have discussed it many times.
But away kits are different. They have always been a mis-mash, a fashionista dog’s breakfast, a designers guitar solo, an opportunity for sweeping self-indulgent show-off statements and free-styling, juggling all the in vogue fashion motifs.
Every club has a host of unloved kits stashed away in the loft of shame like purple loons. I mean, that white kit with the assymetric tyre tracks across it. What was that all about? The ICI white with the pigeon muck artfully inked on one shoulder?
Best not analyse them too closely. There was no golden age of the away shirt, no period when year after year we were proud to parade around in these distinctive statements. Be honest, they are all half-forgotten emphemera. Most people don’t recognise away shirts of other sides. They are not important icons.
Now, we’d all like consistency, possibly blue and black stripes – but that’s not the deal when you sign up with a global giant. There was a popular clamour for Adidas (“or someone like that”) as it was a big name and offered quality and brand recognition and street cred points that Errea or Skills Leisure never could.
But there is a downside to that. Unless you can deliver massive sales volume to knock Barca and Chelsea and Bayern out of their slots in the production schedule what you get from mega-corp PLC is a choice of three templated identikits designs from the catalogue, long delivery times and an inflexible supply chain.
Once the initial outrage has died, Riverside regulars will get used to them and the early refuseniks will start to buy into the yellow. Then come October when they have sold out Boro will be slammed for cocking up and not ordering enough.