Some thoughts on the adidas x Humanrace collection
In 2020 we’ve had our fair share of bold designs which divide opinion, but few kits, if any, have reached the same level of notoriety as adidas’ latest collection of kits.
The Humanrace collection, designed in partnership with long-time collaborator Pharrell Williams, has kitted out each of adidas’ major teams with an artistic interpretation of a famous kit from the club’s respective history.
Some designs channel famous looks from the 90s, whilst others evoke more recent designs. On paper it all sounds quite reasonable, but in reality the aesthetics of the kits have caused… a bit of a stir.
Whilst lots of people immediately rushed to buy the shirts, lauding the collection as the latest ‘must-have’ items, others were more laughing than lauding, mocking the hand-drawn looks and suggesting the kits looked like they’d been through one too many wash cycles.
Here's a thread with all the new adidas x Humanrace shirts and their historical inspirations.
Personally, I thought the concept behind the collection had a lot of potential. One of adidas’ key themes in 2020 has been the coming together of art and football, and this collaboration makes a lot of sense as an opportunity to build on that artistic theme, with a greater creative freedom that’s not afforded to match shirts.
What's more, some of the shirts have been (and will be) worn in competitive matches, which immediately puts a design on the kit map, regardless of its look.
As much as I like the idea though, I’m not completely sold on the execution. The arty, hand-drawn aesthetic lends itself well to the patterns of some of the shirts, but for details like the crests and adidas logos we’re left with something that looks a little too dumbed down. This isn’t helped by the fact most of the designs are relatively literal interpretations of the kits they were inspired by, leaving some of the shirts to look like cheap fakes of the original kits.
"We had a glass tray filled with water and oil and placed it over the artwork of the dragons, which blurred and distorted the image on the shirt. We then photographed that, and it became the artwork on the final shirt." @InigoTurner on Real Madrid's @humanrace jersey ⚫⚫⚫ pic.twitter.com/EposeDMTxi
I’m also not overly keen on the sublimation approach used for the majority of the designs. Sublimation isn’t a problem in itself, but for a brand with the resources of adidas, high quality applications would’ve been the way to go. The fully sublimated look only adds to the relatively ‘cheap’ look of the kits, and again there was an opportunity to be more experimental and creative with a canvas as open as this.
Having said all this though, how would I rank the kits we’ve ended up with? Which ones are worth picking up (if you can at the time of writing!), and what are some of the best features across the collection?
Ranking the 5 adidas x Humanrace shirts
5. Real Madrid Humanrace Shirt
In the first of two relatively recent interpretations, Real Madrid get a nod to the dragon-adorned 2014-15 third shirt. Apparently the designer of the 14/15 kit Yohji Yamamoto is a friend of Humanrace director Pharrell.
Real’s Humanrace shirt takes inspiration from the popular black 2014/15 third shirt, which featured an intricate dragon design created by Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto.
One of the best features of that 2014 shirt was the intricacy of the dragon design, and unfortunately with the 2020 Humanrace interpretation we’re at the other end of the spectrum. The dragon appears faded and washed out, and what was the 2014 kit’s greatest strength has become the 2020 kit’s greatest weakness.
To make matters worse, the crest is a hilariously dumbed down version of Real’s usual badge. There are even rumours that a more refined version of the crest might replace this initial look, which would be an embarrassing 180 for all involved.
Topping things off is the ahistorical version of the Fly Emirates sponsor, with “Emirates Fly Better” on the kit (as we’ve seen on some 2020 match kits). That feels like an unnecessary change, but it’s quite possible this was more the sponsor’s doing rather than adidas.
4. Juventus Humanrace Shirt
Completing the set is Juventus, who refer to one of the truly defining kits of the past decade, the pink 2015/16 away kit.
Many people remember the original kit because of *that* Drake photo, and there are few images more iconic in modern day shirt culture.
The ‘Drake shirt’ is perhaps a surprise entry at number 4.
At the time of writing, this is the only shirt on the list to have been worn during a game (though Bayern are set to follow in Juve’s footsteps). For that fact alone, this shirt will likely hold more value than its counterparts as even the most notable pre-match shirts are typically less sought-after than a shirt worn even in just one game.
If we’re judging the design on a purely aesthetic basis though, I’m not overly keen. As mentioned before, the more literal remakes lag behind the more daring approaches in my eyes, and this version of Juventus’ 2015/16 away shirt (famously worn by Drake) looks more like a cheap imitation than anything else.
Many people would argue that something less similar to the original kit would lose its connection and meaning, but I’m not buying that argument especially with the lack of high quality details.
3. Manchester United Humanrace Shirt
The Manchester United Humanrace shirt calls back to the legendary 1990-92 away kit. From a pattern perspective, it didn't get much better than that 90s look.
Sadly, there's no return for the iconic Sharp sponsor...
United’s new kit has something going for it. The 1990/92 away kit which inspired this new design is easily one of my favourite 90s looks, and I’m saying that as a Liverpool fan. Fast forward to 2020, and adidas have remixed the famous ‘snowflake’ look with more of a freer, ‘painty’ vibe.
We’re left with a kit that captures the essence of its inspiration source, whilst also introducing a fresher approach. From a distance this is particularly good, the crisp Humanrace logo in place of the sponsor illustrates in my mind how sharper details can coexist with a messier base.
2. Bayern Munich Humanrace Shirt
European champions Bayern Munich have revisited the 1991-93 home shirt. The pattern on that kit was one of the most memorable and popular of the 90s, with its bold three stripes over the shoulder.
From the conversations I was having on Twitter, Bayern Munich seemed to be coming out on top as the people’s favourite. Like United above and Arsenal below, adidas had the benefit of a club’s 90s catalogue to work with, and indeed the European champions have nodded to the 1991-93 home shirt.
That particular design was a powerhouse of a shirt, and the 2020 adidas Humanrace shirt does a good job of bringing the look back with a new, arty aesthetic.
It also makes me smile that this shirt introduces blue back into the Bayern pallet, after fans voted recently to avoid the colour for future home kits. I quite like Bayern kits with a bit of blue, so this has circumvented rules rather nicely in my book.
Flecks of white throughout the shirt help add to the imperfect, artistic theme, and if the team do indeed wear it during a game, this has every chance of going down as the best overall kit of the collection.
1. Arsenal Humanrace Shirt
For Arsenal, well you already know don't you?
Of all the Humanrace collection, this particular kit is the least similar in terms of colour to its historical inspiration.
Topping my personal rankings are Arsenal, with their wild resurrection of the bruised banana.
We’ve already seen adidas take on the famous fruity 90s creation with the relatively tame 2019 away shirt, and this kit goes in the completely opposite direction. The boldness of the original bruised banana is cranked up several notches, with various shades of blue replacing the black details of the original. What’s more, the sharpness of the triangles of the 90s kit have been abandoned for a daring tie-dye look, creating what is in my eyes the ultimate festival clobber.
This is exactly the direction I think adidas should have taken the rest of the collection. It’s a riskier angle, and fans who are already a little alienated by the concept of a 3rd kit (let alone a 4th kit) would only have their anger fuelled, but if you’re going to go down the path of art and creativity, it’s best to go all out in my opinion.
Sadly we probably won’t see this during a game, but if we did (and, without wanting to sound like a broken record, if we had some quality applications) this would be a stone cold future classic.
You can buy each of these adidas x Humanrace shirts directly from adidas or from each of the club’s official stores, though some of the kits have already sold out.
If you're looking for some vintage adidas shirts, have a look at our collection here.