Wild RB Leipzig third kit shows Nike are trying to shed the boring tag

Nike kits – 2020 overview

A year or two ago I would constantly have to defend Nike’s reputation on Twitter.

In many ways the brand’s notoriety was self-inflicted, after an era-defining run at Euro 2016 which left a sour taste in many people’s mouth. The narrative rang loud and clear from the kit community at the time: Nike make boring template kits.

I have been a Nike fanboy for as long as I can remember, and I’d regularly tell people that better days were ahead. Post-2016 was a dark time though, and hope was most certainly dwindling. Slowly but surely though, the tide began to turn.

2018 brought with it another era-defining moment from Nike, only this time in the positive sense. Nigeria’s kit transcended boundaries and broke into mainstream news in a way which no kit had done before. Shirts to this day continue to be influenced by the Naija 2018 release, and famously Nike themselves adopted a battle cry of defiance at the start of 2020, almost as a direct response to the complaints of the past.

“We’re ditching the templates.”

In the first full release window since that memorable comment (made back as recently as February this year!), what has that actually looked like in terms of cold, hard shirts? Is the ‘post-template’ Nike landscape worthy of hype, or just a smokescreen for the “same old Nike”?

Best 2020 Nike kits

Portland Thorns home kit 2020

One of my favourite Nike kits of 2020 also happens to be one of the first we saw with the brand’s latest shirt construction.

The ‘lightning bolt’ side detailing has largely been a hit in my eyes, and the Portland Thorns home kit makes great use of the feature as a pair of striking red details on the dark base (if you look closely you’ll also notice additional details within the bolts). This wonderful shade of red is also used for the Nike swoosh, crest and main sponsor, and in a move which we’ve not seen from many teams the collar is a half and half aesthetic; black at the front and red at the back.

All these elements would be enough in themselves, but a tasteful rose pattern across both front and back is the cherry on top. And, though not a factor in this particular list, I have to give a mention to the promotional images that accompanied the release of the kit. On point in every sense of the word.

RB Leipzig third kit 2020

I’m not completely in love with Nike’s elite level 3rd kit collection this year (more on that later), but RB Leipzig’s offering bucks the trend. The wild blue and orange creation is on the experimental end of the kit design spectrum, but it’s a wonderful example of the approach. 

According to Nike, the pattern was created by heavily distorting the Leipzig crest. What I particularly like about the overall look of this pattern is the grainy aesthetic. With a cleaner ‘texture’ for the blue portions of the kit this wouldn’t quite be hitting top gear, but the approach Nike have taken here is spot on in my books.

A quick word on orange details. I’m finding myself increasingly impressed with bright orange as a secondary colour on kits, with Fluminense’s stunning new third kit serving as a tasty example. 

Venezia FC away away shirt 2020

At FSC, we loved this shirt so much that we decided to stock it ourselves. The buzz that surrounded this design upon release hasn’t faded, and if anything I’ve personally grown to appreciate this kit more and more since the summer.

As has been the theme with each of the shirts in this ‘best’ category, the colours are the standout feature here. Orange, green and black is a combination we ought to see more in football based on the evidence presented before us here, and the typically Italian horizontal band aesthetic could not be more appropriate either.

The “Venezia Football Club” wordmark, which takes the place of the main sponsor, is also one of my favourite ongoing design elements from any club.

And yes, just to reiterate, we’re selling this shirt (and the equally gorgeous home kit) for just £80 with free UK shipping. That’s cheaper than you’ll find anywhere else.

Worst 2020 Nike kits

England away shirt 2020

The line between match shirt and leisurewear shirt continues to blur, and designs like England away are suffering as a result.

Perhaps it’s the collar, perhaps it’s the cutout swoosh, or maybe it’s the pattern. Everything about this shirt screams a leisurewear item that’s been released in addition to the home and away kits. Even if this was a leisurewear item though, it’s not one I’d buy.

The pattern, which features broken up lions and a line design reminiscent of adidas’ overused Condivo 18 pattern, falls completely flat compared to something like the RB Leipzig design mentioned previously. The red lightning bolts on the side are a similar shade to the ones seen on the Portland Thorns kits, but on a bright blue base they don’t land nearly as well, not to mention the fact we have no details at all inside the bolts themselves unlike the Portland kit.

One of the few positives I should mention is that the pattern continues fully on the back of the shirt, but that’s a rare glimmer of light in what is otherwise a bit of a black hole.

Liverpool third shirt 2020

I mentioned before that I wasn’t feeling as high on Nike’s third kits as I have been in previous seasons, and Liverpool’s third kit personifies my feelings.

The shirt looks to me like a bad Croatia shirt, and though the checkered design (inspired by the flags seen at the Kop) and grey, red and white colour scheme sound like decent ingredients, the end result looks clumsy to me.

A lot of people mocked the collar of the Liverpool home kit (also seen on some other Nike kits), but I’d take that over the shape of the collar and neckline seen on this third kit. The white section looks out of place, and the end result is ugly.

The lighter grey section on either end of the sleeves give off a significant ‘training top’ vibe, and this barely edges ahead of the disastrous 2019/20 Liverpool 3rd kit (the last from New Balance), which was one of a number of weird 3rd kits from the Premier League champions. At least this new effort from Nike is in keeping with the theme, I guess?

Chelsea third shirt 2020

Here’s the thing, I absolutely love the pink shade used on this Chelsea shirt. In isolation, the colour is vibrant and the sort of tone that can make for a beautiful third shirt.

What I don’t like is the design of this shirt. The typical Chelsea blue fades from the shoulders of the kit to the chest, and there are further gradients to be seen on the sleeves and the side panels. I think a more interesting design as opposed to stripes was in order here, and anything other than stripes would’ve helped with the Crystal Palace comparisons which even Palace themselves were getting involved with on the kits launch.

Gradients are tricky to pull off at the best of times, and in that sense Nike are not the first to fall into the trap. They were always up against it too with this one given the ugly 3 sponsor, despite it’s best attempts to not get in the way.

Overall impression

Nike are in a decent place right now. Their commitment to ditching the template was a bold one, and even though the approach isn’t as radical as it might have seemed at the time (teams are still largely choosing from a set number of variations) it’s a significant step in the right direction.

From a colour perspective, we’ve seen some really tasty things from the Swoosh. This has combined well with other key introductions in 2020, such as the ‘lightning bolt’ side details. Bespoke patterns like the ones seen for Portland Thorns and RB Leipzig only give more cause for optimism.

On the flip side, I’m not nearly as keen on the elite team 3rd kit collection compared to previous years. In 2018/19 and 2019/20, Nike’s third kits were some of the best across all teams and brands, and the Air Max inspired collection this time round was hit and miss to say the least.

As a Nike fanboy, it pleases me to see the brand in a much stronger position than just a couple of years ago. One thing’s for certain, there are fewer people saying “same old Nike” in 2020.

And that’s a wrap! Thanks for joining us on our journey through the best and worst all the major brands have to offer this year.

Compare Nike’s best with the likes of adidas, Puma and Umbro, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with our latest articles as they go live.

Phil Delves

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