Is the disastrous Dortmund away shirt a theme or a blip for Puma?

Puma kits – 2020 overview

Puma’s reach across the footballing world is immense.

For decades the brand have worked with the biggest names, achieving monumental heights like a World Cup win with Italy in 2006 and an unforgettable Premier League title with Leicester.

In more recent years, the brand have established their mammoth portfolio with the addition of a number of huge profile club sides, including Marseille, Valencia, Manchester City and AC Milan, and though they face the unenviable task of living in Nike and adidas’ shadow, they’ve certainly not been hiding away in the corner.

The end of 2019 signalled at the potential of the brand, most notably with Italy’s popular green third shirt dubbed the ‘renaissance’ kit. Expectations were raised heading into this year, and I was excited as we saw some of the early Puma designs this calendar year.

Could they maintain the high standard throughout the summer and through to the autumn, or was it more of a mixed bag as a whole?

Best 2020 Puma kits

Borussia Mönchengladbach anniversary kit 2020

One of my favourite Puma kits of 2020 is just a few days old.

Borussia Mönchengladbach released a stunning blackout kit last week, and in doing so they joined an exclusive list of clubs who have chosen the all black aesthetic for an anniversary kit. The most natural comparison for the kit would be one from Gladbach’s rival for the Borussia title, Dortmund, but whilst Dortmund’s blackout shirt caused (and continues to cause) quite a stir, Gladbach’s kit goes one better for me personally.

Strictly speaking this isn’t a pure black design, but the tasteful bespoke white elements (collar/cuff lines, central foundation year detail, team name script on the back) are all great additions. Too often details on anniversary kits feel half-baked, but I love the design of the embellishments here.

The ghost applications (inc. a retro crest alongside the current crest) look superb too, and perhaps the best thing about this kit is that Puma have been gracious enough to move their logo to the sleeve of the kit, freeing up space for the aforementioned details. They’re not the first to do this sort of thing for an anniversary, but they should still be commended for it.

Palmeiras home kit 2020

The 2020 Palmeiras home kit is in many ways the spiritual successor to Italy’s popular ‘Renaissance’ third kit from 2019. Both kits are of course green, and the subliminal patterns seen on both are bespoke but evocative of one another. Pleasingly this is more than just a recycling of ideas, and Puma are intentionally nodding to the links between Italy and Palmeiras. The club was founded by Italian immigrants in 1914, even starting out life as “Palestra Itália”, and with the historical links and the colour ties all the stars have aligned to create a modern masterpiece.

Palmeiras are always good value on account of their superb crest and colour scheme, but the injection of the Italian renaissance style pattern has worked wonders. 

Slavia Prague home kit 2020

If you’ve been reading our FSC Approved series, this choice will come as no surprise to you. Let me commend Slavia Prague’s home shirt to you once again though. Like Palmeiras we have an iconic crest to kick things off, and again like Palmeiras we have an intricate subliminal pattern.

What I love most about this shirt is the way the pattern is constrained to the rest portions of the design. It’s a simple design decision, and perhaps the most obvious one, but it’s a memorable look for me nonetheless and one which stands out this year.

Shoutout too to the considerate sponsor who, whilst not adding anything to the look, has done a decent job of incorporating themselves into the overall look.

Worst 2020 Puma kits

Dortmund away kit 2020

Sometimes a brand inexplicably conspires to give one of their biggest teams one of their worst kits, and Puma have duly obliged this year with the Dortmund away kit.

A graffiti based design sounds like it has potential, but in reality the various “BVB” graphics seen on the shirt remind me more of WordArt than anything else. I talk a lot about how much I like subliminal patterns, but I can’t remember a pattern I’ve disliked more than this one.

It doesn’t look good at any distance, and it’s so bad that it even manages to make the clunky new sponsor look semi-reasonable in comparison.

Dortmund kits in general have been a bit hit and miss from Puma, but they’ve never hit this low.

Newcastle home kit 2020

If Dortmund’s kit was trying too hard, Newcastle’s home kit isn’t trying hard enough.

By all accounts, Puma signed a short-term extension to their contract with Newcastle (originally due to end last season) shortly before this season, but regardless it’s disappointing to see such a simple, lazy kit for a team like Newcastle. This particularly hurts given the fact that Puma have been creating some wonderful, city-inspired designs for so many other clubs.

The Puma x Newcastle years have been full of the weird and wonderful, but the relationship is ending with a whimper here.

PSV away kit 2020

I’m bored of soundwave graphics, and PSV’s latest away shirt illustrates why.

There are all the ingredients for a good kit here; a pleasing light blue colour scheme used many times in the past by the club, a crest and sponsor that doesn’t detract from proceedings and the promise of a bespoke graphic.

The problem is, the graphic in question looks more like the player issue texture you’d see on a Nike player issue shirt. Yes, it adds a little bit of interest to an otherwise plain design, but Puma have played things far too safe. I might be prejudiced, but it seems to me as if “soundwave” graphics often fall into the safe and flat category, as opposed to actually adding to the aesthetic of a kit.

Like Newcastle, it feels as if Eindhoven have been robbed of a potential stunning kit inspired by their city, though thankfully in PSV’s case the home kit does more than enough to make up for any losses with the away.

Overall impression

Puma are in some ways victims of their own success.

Their city inspired theme, running across many of their designs, has produced some stunning kits that are worthy mentions in any shirt of the year discussion. By contrast, their designs that sit outside this theme often look like afterthoughts; ugly ducklings with little hope of blossoming into swans.

Of course with a portfolio as big as Puma’s it would be impossible to maintain a high level across every team, and it should be said that the brand do a good job of utilising templates and seasonal graphics.

Valencia’s away kit (highlighted in our best template kits of 2020 piece) is a good example, and Puma have certainly moved with the times in that regard by providing enough attention to detail to most of their big clubs to ‘free up’ clubs further down their pyramid to use templates, without those designs feeling overly stale.

We’re on the home straight of our season overview series. See how we rate a bunch of other brands this year including Umbro and Kappa, and look out for our thoughts on a couple of notable names we’re yet to cover…

Phil Delves

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