Ever since Arsenalinsider released the design for the away shirt for the next season there has been a great deal of chatter about it, understandably so. I was surprised by the strong negative opinion generated by the design.
The reason for my astonishment is not that I find the shirt amazing or anything like that. I am largely indifferent to the design and colours. It’s the same for me when it comes to any kind of apparel. There are very few that I really like and a similarly paltry number that I truly dislike. Most of the garments fall in the couldn’t-care-less segment as far as the design and colours go. So I was surprised that so many people feel such strong emotions towards the design of a t-shirt.
Now if someone says it’s not just any shirt but will represent Arsenal for the whole season there would be a point, but not a strong enough point for me to find the design stupid or awful. One reason, I suspect, is that I haven’t been in the middle of thousands of people wearing the same shirt and perhaps that experience might have a significant impact my opinion.
For now I am just surprised at the reaction and I hope there are others who share the sentiment. I’m not telling anyone whether they should like the shirt or dislike it, just expressing my opinion.
More interestingly, these thoughts left me wondering about the kit design process. I have read somewhere that fans’ opinion is taken into account while designing the kit but I don’t really know the details. I guess it’s one of the disadvantages of being far away from the majority of fans and the club.
It could be that representatives of the AST and other fans give some inputs to the club in this regard but it’s difficult to understand given the disappointment that has been aired on more than a few shirt designs in recent years.
I’d certainly love to see a more collaborative and transparent process. It is understandable that Wenger would not want to discuss the players he is interested in or the specific details of the tactics he wants to use. But is there any need for secrecy in kit design?
I don’t know how it is done, but my guess is that some Nike designers work on it without much interaction with the fans. Of course, the designers could be Gooners, but based on the designs some might doubt that very much.
One reason for keeping the design under wraps could be the risk of imitations flooding the market before the real kits are released for sale. I find it difficult to speculate how many people insist on buying originals and how many don’t mind if they can get a cheaper fake. So it’s not possible for me to estimate what kind of a loss might be incurred if the process were more open. Perhaps it is big enough to justify the current approach.
If suspense is not an essential ingredient in creating the kit designs, I’d like to see the club release a few options and allow the fans to vote on it. I don’t think any club does this so there might be a good argument against this idea but apart from the one mentioned above I can’t think of any.
Another option could be that the official supporters clubs select some representatives who are artistically inclined – amongst the millions of Gooners worldwide there must be a few who have a special talent in this field – and these people can work with the designers in confidence. At least that way fans will know who to blame if the kit isn’t exciting!
If Arsenal don’t mind the radical, the whole process could even be turned into a contest for the fans. The artists amongst us can come up with their creations based on certain criteria that are sacrosanct – like the predominantly red and white home shirt with white sleeves and so on. These criteria can be created based on past experiences with kits from the club and fans’ perspectives. All the supporters can then decide which design should be selected.
One potential complication in all this might be the clauses in the contract with Nike but I’d be surprised if the manufacturer will object to greater involvement from fans because it should lead to higher sales and might even lower their design costs.
I think this would be a fantastic way for the club and the fans to come together. It won’t have too big an effect on the football side of things (hopefully!) but it will certainly give the fans a stronger connection and sense of ownership. This could be another pioneering initiative from The Arsenal.
I have just typed out some thoughts here. I don’t know if others have already discussed this with the club or not, I haven’t thought through what other complications might arise, and I don’t honestly know if this is feasible or just a pipedream. But I’d certainly like to know your views on this.