Cover Photo Credit: Major League Rugby
Preface: One of the best ways to get a fan base excited is to have your team sport a great look. Fans want to sport pride in a team that has great style. When teams correctly do this, they have a better chance at selling more merchandise and getting fans bought into the organization. No fan ever wants to be shamed or sport an ugly jersey, even if the team is competitive on the field.
This is more prevalent for younger leagues that do not have the years of history behind them. Major League Rugby, North America's top professional rugby competition, recently came out with their fourth season's team kits. After cancelling their last season due to the pandemic, the league looks to continue to develop its young fanbase.
When looking through the league's Reddit page, I saw the thoughts of Hans Dessureault on the new team looks. He agreed to have his thoughts published for our blog.
Enjoy his grades for each MLR team for the 2021 season! If you are a rugby fan or sports fan interested in purchasing any of these new looks, feel free to check them out this link: https://therugbyshop.com/collections/mlr-jerseys.
-Carson, Stadium Gear & Apparel
MLR 2021 Kit Release Grades
Although there is no timeline telling the fans when the league will be playing again, the MLR has teased the fans with some new kit. They’ve stuck with last year’s kit partner, Paladin Sports, who have shown in their short history with the league that they have the pedigree to produce professional-grade, creative and attractive game day kits.
With this year’s crop already released, let’s take a look at the home and away designs. I’ll view, grade, and offer up some commentary on possible improvements.
Say what you will about the team name, but this consistent shout out to the Texas burnt orange works for me. The simplicity of the design lets that color take center stage, and it pays off. The modern collar, cuffs, and under-arm panels are a safe bet. The removal of the front numbers is a return to a rugby centric kit and fans should applaud management for fixing their mistake.
Where this kit fails is in the icons. Three is a crowd, and I would suggest moving the "AG" to where the Texas icon lays and moving the Texas icon to the shoulder opposite the MLR crest. Another gripe is the lack of orange on the away kit. A splash of color on this jersey's collar would do wonders.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The Houston Sabercats struck gold with this simple color combo and clean design last year. This year's design has not changed much and nor should it. The home kit asks some questions with the vertical accent and unique socks that I love. What really helps this kit is the sponsor logo; AVEVA in white on a black background gives the kit an air of professionalism that can't be disputed.
Do I have any issues with this release? Not really. The sabercat accent on the away kit isn't my favorite, but it's so tastefully done and subtle that I can't complain.
A new franchise with what may be the best rugby name in all of North America, the Jackals have come through with a solid debut kit. The teal gives this kit a unique calling card and is well, although similarly, implemented on both home and away kit. The faded pattern is clean and looks professional that hints at San Diego's past kit.
Where this kit could improve is a tossup. They've chosen to have solid under-arm panels. With such a simple design, I'd advise wrapping the fade all the way around. The default socks and shorts are too safe for my taste. My advice: try something bold like a teal short or a fully hooped sock.
San Diego Legion
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw what happened to one of the best kits in the league. What was once a clean and inspiring kit that looked as dangerous as Nonu's running lines has been replaced by hot garbage. Off-color piping, boxy sectioning, uninspired design, and a high school-esque 3D helmet accent that makes me want to vomit. Legion, do everyone a favor, go into the shed and pull out last year's kit. This kit is unfixable, tacky, and I hate it.
Thank goodness I can move onto Seattle. Everything wrong about the Legion's kit is right for the Seawolves. The socks: a unique and fun accent. The shorts: a simple contrast to what is an adventurous top. The top: a knockout entry. The home kit's piping perfectly segments the top, the hoops are a classic design, and the sponsor logo just fits. On the away top, the city scape accent is ambitious and cool. These home and away entries are near perfect.
My only suggestions would be to use a consistent collar for both kits and to role with the away sock design for each. The away socks are incredible, and I want them as the home socks except with an inverted color scheme.
A few things strike me with these entries. The Utah-centric inspiration is well applied, the way the kit is segmented into panels is well done, and the horizontal stripes give them a nice way to tie the tops with the socks. The accents on the home kit is very classy and well executed.
Now for the bad news. Front numbers take the home kit down an entire letter grade. It's just not right, and I will never budge on this stance. The number belongs—this follows the traditional rugby values of keeping the team first instead of the individual player. Also, while I like the ambitious mountain accents on the away kit, it crowds the crest. Just too messy for a professional top.
Los Angeles Giltinis
Let's address the elephant in the room. This team name is an embarrassment to the league. I almost don't want to give them the time of day. That being said...here we go.
LA's team seriously chose a bold color scheme, and then they choose to entirely misuse that scheme by going nearly all white. We've seen this color scheme correctly used, but the Gilitinis' model is nowhere close. Go across league lines to the NBA and see the Miami Heat's Vice inspired jersey and come back with a better concept. Another way to go would be to find something that represents of LA and try to roll with a Hollywood or city-inspired flair.
Pretty, pretty good.
For starters, I like the logos. They're properly placed, don't clash and are handsome pieces of marketing. They did well to match the snakeskin accent with the sponsor background and have used their color scheme wisely. Also, the snakeskin accent is just a cool way to use the mascot as part of the kit without going full high school dumpster fire like another red and black team we know.
The lowlights of this kit are few. I think the socks are a bit plain, and when you go safe on the shorts, I think that gives you a pass on doing something neat with the socks. The snakeskin pattern could be a tad more obvious, but I'm really splitting hairs on that one.
Old Glory DC
What do you do when you use red, white, and blue as your color scheme? That's right. You chose two to lean on and use the third for accent. Bravo Washington DC, I applaud your restraint with colors and terrific sponsor coordination. Also, the accents are appropriately placed on the shoulders and under arm panels. Now for the bad news.
American flags are for the Eagles, not for you. Stop copping out with that. It crowds your crests anyways. Next, the under-arm paneling goes up too high and will give your players the illusion of skipping chest day. I would say you have to use a little more red here and there, specifically on the socks. Find your own sticking design and better luck next time.
New England Free Jacks
Collars, collars, and more collars. The use of a traditional collar should be standard across the league and across the entire world. The hoops are classic, the color scheme works, the panel lines are good, and the balance is spot on. Simple shorts pair well with a busier top which all other teams can learn from. Also, I feel like the away kit is reminiscent of the NFL's New England Patriots, and I dig it.
Even with all of this, the Free Jacks didn't stick the landing. The socks are too much when paired with so many hoops on the home kit, and the home shirt has one too many hoops. I suggest simplifying the sock and cutting out the top set of hoops.
New Orleans hasn't changed much, but they didn't need to. From top to sock, the away kit absolutely slaps. I need to stress that these socks are great. They're unique, but not so loud that they're distracting. If it was solely based on the away kit and sock game, NOLA would be getting an A++.
As for suggestions, I have none. I'm not a Harlequin fan, but that being said, I respect the use of New Orleans tradition, and it does look good.
Rugby United New York
New York has gone bold with these home and away kits. The home kit features a New York inspired tile pattern that dominates the top, and the away kit throws a similarly inspired twist on the classic hoop design. Also, it's just to see the pinstripes from 2019 retired.
Unfortunately, the effort doesn't match the product. The RUNY socks are boring which stinks considering how nice the old X-Blades Socks were. Both tops suffer from the skinny chest panel that plagues the MLR kit release. The home top tile theme should be under the arms and on the shoulders, because it's just too busy as is. And finally, I think the orange needs to occupy the shorts and socks as well. It's all just bland for being an orange kit. Good effort boys, but it fell short.
Everyone's favorite (and only) Canadian franchise comes through with what is basically the same kit as 2020. Not shown in the MLR's release, the old white kit is also listed as an option for this season and the away top includes a yellow accent in the number. The home and alternate (the white top not shown) is a solid entry that does not need to be reinvented.
This year's away is perhaps both too ambitious and not enough at the same time. The bones are there, but the collar connecting to the first hoops feels like a miss. I would go blue on the collar until the actual collar like that of the 2017 Lions' kit. Also, the use of yellow in the number should be expressed in the hoops somehow. Altogether, not a bad showing.
. . .
All-in-all, these new kits are bringing in something exciting for the 2021 MLR season. I look forward to seeing all the jerseys in action, except San Diego's.
Hans Dessureault is an independent journalist, collegiate D1A 7s bronze medalist, men’s club D3 15s silver medalist, Rockford High-school Backs Coach, and general rugby enthusiast. You can follow him on Facebook @FootyTalk96.
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