Many months ago, I promised to write an article about this topic. Hopefully I could shed a bit of light in terms of 'understanding' how football jersey design is really important for the success of a team.
A brief Introduction: Why people wear uniforms
If we were to trace the reasons back into history, in its most basic format, there must be at least some ways to identify a 'family/tribe' member from the outsiders. Be it through using the same kind of language, hairdo, body markings/make-up/jewellery, using same kind of tools, or wearing the same kind of clothes.
This basic form of uni-formity provides a sense of identification, that someone is being part of something which is bigger than him or herself. Naturally, identification would lead to association.
"If you look like a duck, quack like a duck, walk like a duck, then you must be Pato." - me paraphrasing an old proverb
"If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good" - Deion Sanders
AC Milan as a club has been traditionally exuding this feel good & successful image, to the public eyes, the sponsors and also to the players.
So how do we radiate this image? You dress nicely, you play beautifully, you talk & behave properly.
Some skeptics would quickly diminish this notion and argue that jersey is just a jersey and the design is not that big part of the deal. I beg to differ.
When 11 players play on the pitch, they're are not just playing for fun, they are also 'working' for their club. And at work, these men are 'battling' the opponents to win the match. Our jersey is our armour, our cape, our identity.
And like any battles, when the technical abilities between opponents are becoming more and more similar, then those who has the mental edge would have the upper hand.
Would you be able to confidently convince yourself that you are a part of a solid football team?
Let's take a look at some jersey design precedents:
Case study #1. France World Cup Jersey 2010
Notice how Anelka & Ribery jerseys are very different from Henry's. We could see 2 fatal design flaws: ideologically and psychologically.
Fatal Error #1: It is ideologically flawed that 2 design options are allowed to be worn by different players of the same team in the same match. Individuality must not be greater than the unity of the whole team.
Fatal Error #2: It is an oxymoron to put a giant X mark across the back of a jersey. The X sign, psychologically simbolizes 'errors', or 'mistakes.
Case Study #2: Milan Home and Away jersey 2012-2013
Take a look at this Milan jersey design from 2012-2013. And ask yourself, what is the strongest impression that you get when looking at them. Pay attention to the shirt collar.
Now, compare it with the image below. What impression do you get?
Yes, our 2012-2013 jersey design resembled a school uniform. I refuse to believe that the designer has not taken into account that that season was supposedly our year zero.
And like schoolboys, we were still learning, but with enthusiasm. Like schoolboys too, we were inconsistent, unstable but somehow over-achieved last season.
But, can we actually dress a bunch of donkeys and make them into believing that they're horses?
Case Study #3: Milan Third Jersey 2012-2013
At one point last season, Adriano Galliani vowed that he wouldn't allow our third jersey to be of black colour again, ever. His reason was because he never watched our team played that bad before. Some think it's superstition, I say it's more about the physiological problem caused by using the black jersey which outweighs its potential psychological benefits.
The general model of color psychology relies on six basic principles:
1. Color can carry specific meaning.
2. Color meaning is either based in learned meaning or biologically innate meaning.
3. The perception of a color causes evaluation automatically by the person perceiving.
4. The evaluation process forces color motivated behavior.
5. Color usually exerts its influence automatically.
6. Color meaning and effect has to do with context as well
Psychologically the colour black denotes grief, sophistication, fear, intensity.
Mike Tyson always wore black, so does the all-conquering New Zealand's All Blacks, wouldn't we also become as strong?
Yet, black as a team jersey colour in football is not recommended, as players wearing black make it visually difficult for their teammates to locate them whenever they're spread across the green field.
Somehow our human eyes just don't recognize/track black-over-green as constrasting as red-over-green, for example.
Same principle goes with pale colors. If you can't spot your teammates properly, you simply can't pass properly.
So some designers had to come up with another color, other than red/black/white combination. One stupid one come up with the idea to use Gold to dress our have-achieved-nothing squad. The designer forgot about Principle #6 above.
Case Study #4: Milan Third Jersey 2013/2014
Gold as a colour is usually used when you want to put emphasis/accent on a generally homogeneous background, to express wealth, abundance, bling, success. Whenever being used as the main colour, it becomes an extravaganza.
Naturally, in jersey design, you don't wear gold unless you have actually won something (or you're Real Madrid).
Have a look at this photo of Mattia De Sciglio, dressed in gold. As much as I think he's a good lad, I seriously think that nobody in our team themselves think that they deserve to wear wholesome gold.
What have our squad won? Nothing. Psychologically, this gold colour is making our players delusional of them being the player that they're not. Gold is used sparingly for a reason, it's a 'psychologically heavy' color to wear by a bunch of under-achievers.
Case Study #5: Milan Home/Away Jersey 2013/2014
Our Rosso-Nero Jersey design is a combination of not-so-solid red and 'fragmented' black. Notice that there's a thin vertical black line breaking the red. This denotes a 'crack' on a solid.
History have proven that winning teams tend to wear 'solid' and 'convincing' jerseys. It's seldom that they use 'gradation' or supplemental, broken pattern and or color. The more quirks, the lesser successful team becomes.
Our sponsor logo (Emirates) is pasted on an uneven surface of that Rosso-Nero pattern (some white parts sitting on the red, some sitting on a different black thin material).
I find this glaring design mistake as unacceptable. This lack of insight of doing the right thing for the right reasons, is exuding that they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing.
Our Away jersey, the pseudo V-neck pattern is resembling an undergarment.
The V- shape is not necessary nor truthful to the actual neckline, in addition to resembling an inner shirt, the V-shape resembles a rope clinging onto the neckline.
The results? There's no sense of pride nor 'urgency' whenever we're playing Away. Somehow lethargy has become the norm rather than the exception, like there's a weight hanging onto our player.So many wrongs in the jersey design. So many wrongs as well in our 2013/2014 squad. Coincidence?