What’s this, another hype piece about Venezia?
I know, I know. It was impossible to escape the furore that surrounded the release of the 2021 Venezia kits last week, and the buzz around the shirts continued through the weekend as the team debuted their new threads in a pre-season friendly against Utretcht.
Some football shirts manage to break out of the bubble and reach touchpoints beyond the typical kit release, and Venezia’s efforts fit very much into that elusive category. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Nigeria, Roma and Forward Madison, the Serie A side created a storm across social media period, let alone football shirt Twitter.
Articles soon surfaced from all corners, including sites like GQ Australia and papers like the Daily Star. The Star’s claim that the new Venezia home shirt was “one of the best kits in football history” was an amusing one, but the fact that a tabloid would even write about the shirt speaks to the kind of interest that’s been generated.
Of course no football shirt is perfect, and there were many people left bemused that the new shirts were getting as much coverage as they did. I saw several people call out football shirt accounts and ‘influencers’ for manufacturing hype around the releases, and a closer look beyond the dizzying engagement metrics will show you that the kits were not universally loved.
Whatever you think of the shirts however, I want to suggest that Venezia have created the ultimate modern football shirts; designs which encapsulate the riding wave of change we’ve seen in the industry over the past few years.
The climb to the top
To understand the new Venezia shirts, you have to understand Venezia themselves. Venezia have a proud history which stretches back to 1907 with the founding of Venezia Foot Ball Club, but in 00s the club would find themselves bankrupt not once, not twice, but three times.
For many clubs this would be the end of the road but remarkably Venezia survived, transitioning first to Società Sportiva Calcio Venezia in 2005, and then Foot Ball Club Unione Venezia in 2009.
Then in 2015, a takeover was completed which set about a chain of events which led to last week’s popular shirt releases. A group of American investors acquired the club and re-founded the team as Venezia FC. That same season, Venezia earned promotion to Serie C, and the game was very much on.
On the pitch there has been more than a fair share of drama, with a memorable promotion season to Serie B led by Italian legend Filippo Inzaghi, and a dramatic end to the 2017/18 season which saw the club avoid relegation back to Serie C thanks to an administrative technicality against Palermo. Last season saw the Gli Arancioneroverdi (The Orange-Black-Greens) return to the promised land of Serie A for the first time since 2002. It’s been events off the pitch however which have caught the attention of many.
Few clubs in world football have been as strong with their marketing as Venezia. Since the 2015 takeover, the team have steadily building a reputation as a premium brand whose appeal outshines many of the ‘bigger’ clubs. From a refreshed club crest, to a pioneering artist residency programme, Venezia have jostled their way to the top of the pyramid in what has become an incredibly competitive field.
Naturally, the shirts have been a key component of the rise, and anyone who’s a returning visitor to this site will know exactly what we think about Venezia’s shirts. Since effectively adopting Venezia as one of our favourite clubs at the start of last season, we’ve been obsessed with the orange, black and green aesthetic of Venezia’s shirts which has been utilised to create some of the best designs across all teams last season.
Creative Agency Fly Nowhere were key players in helping to create and launch the shirts, and with the arrival of Kappa to the scene (replacing previous kit partner Nike), the agency’s fingerprints can be seen even more clearly with the 2021/22 home and away shirts.
If you scroll back on Fly Nowhere’s Instagram, you’ll eventually come across a post in November 2019 showing a series of concepts created by the agency for Venezia.
Swipe right and you’ll stumble across a strikingly familiar design with a ‘V’ of gold stars on a black base. The test design would of course be a key reference point for the 2021 home shirt we eventually got to see for real, and it’s just one of many examples of the kind of the design language Fly Nowhere have been speaking since their inception.
The agency’s work has the look of a high end fashion label, and in the new Venezia kits we see arguably the clearest example of a football shirt which serves chiefly as a fashion piece.
For many people, this sort of approach is enough to get the blood boiling. It’s the sort of direction which challenges our expectations of what a football shirt is, and if you are in any way slightly inclined to a traditional approach when it comes to football shirts, this is your worst nightmare.
If you zoom out though this shouldn’t be as big of a surprise as it might seem at first.
Football shirt design has accelerated rapidly in the past few years, to the point where we’re seeing shirts that are almost unrecognisable from what has gone before. You can look to something like the 2021 Barcelona home shirt, which builds on the hooped shirt of 2015 and the checks of 2019 by effectively disregarding the traditional striped look of a Barca home shirt. The aesthetic is more the sort of thing you’d expect to see on an experimental concept design.
Inter’s new snakeskin home shirt is also radical for a number of reasons, not least because it puts the story of the snake ahead of a traditional blue and balck striped effort. Again, there were hallmarks in previous years (notably the pinstriped effort of 2014), but we’re seeing an increasing amount of designs which dare to push the envelope.
When third shirts became the norm they quickly became the medium to experiment with. Soon away shirts moved into the progressive category, and now the home shirts of the biggest teams of the world are fair game for designs to play with.
Too much of a good thing?
As we wrap up, a few more words on the Venezia shirts.
I am completely obsessed with the new shirts. They are packed with intricate details, and the shirts come alive when seen in context with the setting that inspired them. Although the home shirt is my pick of the punch, I was struck by the aesthetic of the away in the promo photography. The triangles seemed to dance around the shadows of the building, whilst the sun on the floor beautifully mimicked the look of the orange-black-green gradient that was splashed across the shirt.
Jumping back to the home shirt, the Venezia players looked like decorated, gilded statues on the pitch in the new design. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before in the football shirt world.
Crucially, these shirts are not completely devoid of reason. Venezia home shirts have typically been black over their history, whilst their away shirts have largely been white. Of course, the new shirts follow this tradition, and though the details layered on top are breaking new sartorial ground, the overall aesthetic could only belong to a team from a city like Venice. The history and beauty of the city has been translated into the medium of the team’s football shirts, and Venezia will be the envy of so many teams around the world for the way they have captured the imagination, and generated the kind of excitement which even the biggest clubs could only dream of.
When I look at the Venezia shirts, I feel like I’m reading a couple of books which I can turn to again and again. On a personal level, I’m always looking out for these sorts of shirts which, whether through design or tales that are forged on the pitch, transcend a simple piece of clothing.
Have we gone too far though? Are football shirts in danger of being swept up in a wave of enthusiasm which could end up washing away what we know and love? Are we a few steps removed from seeing a blue Liverpool home shirt, or a striped or hooped England home shirt?
I don’t believe we need to panic. Venezia’s shirt will never be universally loved, and the sheer excess of the designs will naturally produce extreme reactions on either side of the coin. I look at these new shirts like a platform, though.
This is the latest chapter in Venezia’s story, and they now have an opportunity to capitalise. If they’re smart, they’ll look to continue to bring the fans along with them on the ride, listening to the feedback from these latest releases, taking on board the traditions of the club and the stories that paved the way for this modern revolution.
If the progressive approach of Fly Nowhere and Kappa can continue to be married with the fabric of Venezia and their fans, we’ll be in for a treat. Maybe I’m foolishly asking to have my cake and eat it, but I’m nothing if not greedy.