“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” – Bruce Lee
November 18th, 2020 – a day we all anticipated. This day, our city took another step forward in welcoming its first professional sports franchise — we saw the official Austin FC kit.
Let’s cut to meat of it: the Austin FC kit design is a certain misfire, as the general consensus surrounding its reveal seems to be one of disappointment or newfound indifference. I’m sure the inaugural kit design will grow on us with time and even become a point of nostalgia, but it’s assesment of being unimaginative, overly cautious, and dull is a deserved one.
No doubt. The most hopelessly devoted fans talk about setting a low bar for this first kit offering, so “the creators” — whoever that really is — have room to improve upon it in the future. I couldn’t disagree more with this attitude of gleefully accepting mediocrity. I view kit design as its own art form, and by such logic should be judged like any other. Keeping in mind this sentiment, I wonder why some of us are so swift in excusing this lazy of an entry into the Austin FC lure. Would anyone praise da Vinici’s first work if it was a coloring book clipping filled in with his local Italian club’s colors? I think not. This kit design is a failure, in the truest sense of the word, void of any sort of creativity or originality.
Creatively, I wish the design team would have mustered enough bravery to swing for the fences and make us the league’s envy. I’m not asking for avant-garde kits of Jackson Pollack’s degree, but anything looking less like a template would have been a major improvement. The upside in Adidas/MLS/AFC’s design team choosing a less conservative option could have meant Austin soccer fans proudly wearing a creation as unique as our city. The worst that could come of taking a creative risk and subsequently missing, would be putting the fans in the exact mood we’re in now: let down. The only thing accomplished by using a prefab Adidas template was guaranteeing that disappointment ab initio.
But none of this should surprise us. This kit reveal had all the quintessential signs of a Major League Soccer botch job: an overabundance of teaser ads, the desperately pandering design graphic attempting to feign deeper meaning, and a generic jersey template finished in our a city’s colors.
An association like the English Premier League operates more like a collective of individual entities. It’s within the freedom of that individuality where you see more creative kit designs, by multiple brands, for varying levels of competitive teams. In contrast, Major League Soccer operates more like a single entity with one jersey company, unified branding across kits and logos, and is designed to keep most every team competitive through a salary cap and playoff structure. Trying to force cohesion across twenty six teams (and four on the way) is a certain recipe for stifled creativity.
If you’re looking to blame someone for being so abruptly let down, find a mirror — we did this to ourselves. It really hit me while watching the recent “Play-in” game between Nashville and Inter Miami; two franchises less than a year old with equally uninspired uni designs. They’re straightforward kit designs (I’m being kind) are a tell-tale sign of Major League Soccer being competition averse, not to mention Miami’s potential playoff inclusion with a 7-3-13 record (FYI – they ended up losing). This is a big reason why American businessmen are incentivized to purchase an MLS franchise; by the league’s design, these teams are financial safe bets. You can tank your inaugural season, still get a chance at the playoffs, and never have to worry about another town having a kit far superior to your own. This offered safety is the same reason why we won’t see relegation reach the States for the next one hundred years (probably never) and could go a decade without an AFC kit as unique as we deserve.
I personally put a lot of let-down-blame on those fans who used their inner-most imaginations in coming up with their personal visions of Austin’s inaugural kit. Leading up to the official reveal, I’ve seen an abundance of concept kit ideas being tossed around the internet and all of them were surprisingly well done — some even blew me away. Whether they were fashioned by off-duty professionals or just creative pedestrians, Austin’s concept kit game was strong. I don’t intend to waste your time with what a simple “Austin FC concept kit” Google search would accomplish but below are some of the finest:
These concepts set a lofty bar for any team to surpass, but the time for whimsical daydreaming over kit design will have to wait for future iterations, as we’re married to what we have for a little while. Come to think of it, I loved these concepts so much that I’m unsure the team ever stood a chance of impressing any of us. But we have the official threads in our hands now. This is it gang — no turning back:
Aside from the kit, the most heavily critiqued aspect of the reveal were these comedically astonishing Adidas photos. In line with the kit’s final design, it seems like the good people at Adidas are clueless when it comes to the city of Austin or fashion.
God bless the Adidas employee who finalized the wardrobe for this shoot. The only explanation I can muster is that the director of photography recognized the subpar effort put forth with the Austin kit, then accessorized the models with 1990s German-wave attire in an attempt to distract us. Nothing screams Austin more than an exposed gold chain and a long sleeve activewear turtleneck. Bucket-hat for good measure? Fuck yeah.
Even with all of the disapproval, none of it really matters. Austin’s new kits snagged the 24-hour sales record for an inaugural jersey launch and less surprisingly took the 2020 MLS jersey one-day sales record. With so many of us voting with our dollars instead of our hearts, we’re approving this lackluster design in the eyes of MLS power-players and voiding our town’s verbal disapproval. Hype is like a drug — one I too am guilty of indulging.
I hope to see you all soon at McKalla Place, wearing the kit so few of us are fond of. I will be appropriately rocking my turtleneck & ATXFC kit combo in Austin’s hot-hot temperatures, teetering on the verge of heatstroke. Maybe one day, a subtle design by one of our own – a fan – will fit the bill on both sides of the equation.
Even a subtle bend at the bottom of the stripes goes a long way: