Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Olympics Preview: Hockey Jerseys

As part of my previews for the 2014 Sochi Games, I decided to split up my Hockey preview into two posts. For the first one, I teamed up with my long-time buddy Ray, who runs an architecture and design blog, to talk about the aesthetic aspect of Hockey - the jerseys. We went through the sweaters that each team will be wearing in Sochi and compared them with the threads that were donned in Vancouver. To come up with a metric for analysis, we decided to score each jersey on a 1-5 scale for Functionality (how a jersey looks both from far away on TV and up close), Values (how well it reflects the nation which is donning it) and Appeal (basically the "Would I buy it?" factor).

A few notes on formatting before we dive into it. Rather than typing out "Ian's Ratings" and "Ray's Ratings" a whole bunch, mine are in yellow and Ray's are in orange.

Group A



Functionality: 2 Perhaps due to having the same color scheme as the Washington Capitals (and suffering from the same red-blue color blend from a distance) these don't score higher. I'm also not a fan of the blue sections on the edge of the shoulders surrounding the numbers and under the arms.
Values: 4 On the whole the Russian jerseys in 2010 did a good job with the country's name and hockey crest in the middle of the jersey.
Appeal: 3 I wouldn't buy one, but they kept enough of the "Russian Red Machine" image to strike fear in their opponents.
Total: 9

Functionality: 2, Values: 3, Appeal: 2. Total: 7. I think that's actually a magic eye, if you look at that picture of 4 Russians and kind of cross your eyes you can see a sailboat. Or maybe they just wanted to display Russian resourcefulness by making the sleeves out of discarded scraps of red, white and blue fabric. Either way it's bad news.

Functionality: 4 - Dramatic improvement here eliminating the under-arm blue and having the blue bar at the top stretch the whole way across. Also improved is the stripes on the arm of the red jersey now being in order of the Russian flag and not simply being an added element. The "away" white jersey is one of the best you'll see in these Olympics.
Values: 5 - Improved from 2010 by changing the stripes on the arm to resemble the Russian flag. The "expanded" outline of the crest on the white jerseys is phenomenal.
Appeal: 4 - The host nation knocked it out of the park with these. The only reason I didn't give it a full score is that the blue on the shoulders of the home jersey is only on the front and gives a disjointed look to the back where it sharply ends so that the name plate can still be red. I'd rather they have used the New Jersey Devils look and have the shoulder coloring extend behind the neck as well.
Total: 13

Functionality: 4, Values: 5, Appeal: 5. Total: 14: The biggest trend in the differences between my rankings and Ian's rankings is that I am inexplicably drawn to the Eastern European sweaters. This bias aside, I think the Russian sweaters are amazing. I love the boldness of the double eagle on the away sweaters and I like that the home sweaters are more than just a palette swap of the aways. I knocked it down a point because the crest is tough to read from far away, but that little quibble aside, Russia's sweaters are amazing.



Functionality: 1 - Much like the Russian jerseys, there's simply too much going on here. Red under the arms, tabs on the shoulders for the numbers, and the color patter of the striping on the sleeves is opposite that around the waist.
Values: 3 - The hockey crest is the same as the national crest that appears in the middle of their flag. This is solid, but not spectacular (you'll see why in a minute).
Appeal: 2 - Basically these were the same sweater design as the Russian ones with more things that annoyed me.
Total: 6

Functionality: 2, Values: 3, Appeal: 2. Total: 7. 2010 was the year of the patchwork sweater, evidently. Not digging it.


Functionality: 3 - Up close these look great, and they are simple enough that they will probably look good from far away too. My only complaint is with color consistency - the dark blue of the jerseys is not the same blue as on the national crest.
Values: 5 - It's almost impossible to see, but the stripes on the jersey are actually the words to the Slovak National Anthem, which is awesome.
Appeal: 4 - They cleaned up a lot of the extraneous coloring from the 2010 versions and added the words of the National Anthem, which is great.
Total: 12

Functionality: 5, Values: 5, Appeal: 3. Total: 13. At first glance these look pretty similar to the USA 2014 sweaters (which, spoiler alert, are way down the list). It's the details that set it so far above the USA sweaters, though. First, the crest works a lot better with the color scheme. The large patches of color are less distracting than stripes. Also, the barely-visible stripes are actually the words to the national anthem, which I think is incredibly cool. I just can't really see myself wearing this sweater though, probably because of the bad taste in my mouth from the USA sweaters.



Functionality: 4 - Simple, sweet, straightforward. The white "road" jerseys knock the total set down a peg because of the lettering. I don't mind the diagonal letters but the blue-with-red-outline looks blurred from a distance.
Values: 4 - The two stars on the shoulders representing the two World Championships that the US has won only appeared on the "home" jerseys, which seems strange.
Appeal: 5 - These were some of the best USA Hockey jerseys yet. Simple, straight-forward, America.
Total: 13

Functionality: 3, Values: 4, Appeal: 3. Total: 10. I was initially really low on these (total score of 7) until I learned more about the design (great history of the evolution of Team USA sweaters). I just thought the design was pretty bland, but it turns out that the white sweaters were a throwback to the 1960 Olympics (that other time the USA won gold on home ice) and the dark sweaters are a massive improvement over the wavy 'S' of the '90's. I tapped my inner homer and bumped these up to a more respectable 2nd-tier ranking.


Functionality: 1 - These probably shouldn't even score a 1, but I gave them a point because they'll probably look decent from far away. They are basically replicas of Slovakia's design with Nike's shiny, plasticy stars on the shoulders. The crest is terrible.
Values: 1 - What is with the crest? It's not the country's primary or alternate crest and it is disproportionate and pear-shaped (bloated at the bottom), which draws the eye away from the country name.
Appeal: 1 - The only reason this gets one point from me is that Americans are wearing it. On any other nation it would get a 0.
Total: 3

Functionality: 1, Values: 2, Appeal: 1. Total: 4. If Slovakia's sweaters are the authentic shirts you get from a concert, the USA sweaters are the knock offs you can buy in the parking lot for five bucks. I hate the fake laces, the stars, the stripes on the biceps, the crest and everything else. I added a sarcastic bonus point under "values" since I think it's hilarious that the crest, along with the average American, has become more pear-shaped over the years.



Slovenia did not qualify for the Winter Olympics in 2010 and we were too lazy to try to look up what jerseys they wore during qualifying.


Note: There is a lot of misinformation and uncertainty floating around about which uniforms Slovenia will actually wear. We went with this image which was posted on Stanley Cup of Chowder's jersey breakdown.

Functionality: 1 - Ugh, neon green. Green appears nowhere on the Slovenian flag yet their soccer jerseys are dark green and they opted for the visually worse neon green here.
Values: 3 - They get slightly more points for the mountain design and the stars which are reflective of the crest on the flag.
Appeal: 1 - I could go without seeing these uniforms in action, but since Slovenia faces the US, I guess I'll have to. Also, that will be the most visually unappealing game of the entire tournament.
Total: 5

Functionality: 1, Values: 3, Appeal: 2. Total: 6.  I thought the world had moved on from neon clothing and geometric patterns, but Slovenia wants to bring them back. I can't say I like the idea, but mad nostalgia props for coming up with a sweater they could have worn on an episode of Wild and Crazy Kids.

Group B



Functionality: 4 - I could've done without the dark stripes under the arms/along the sides but overall these were very good jerseys. I could've done without the shoulder tabs for the numbers on the "away" jerseys, but overall these were good.
Values: 4 - National crest? Check. Country's name? Check. Added points for the reference to the national flag with the cross on the arm of the white jersey.
Appeal: 4 - This was a very good set of jerseys that Teemu Selanne wore en route to a bronze medal. Everybody loves Teemu.
Total: 12/15

Functionality: 4, Values: 4, Appeal: 3. Total: 11. Overall a solid design. A lot of the 2010 sweaters have stripes on the inside of the sleeve and underarms which is not great, but this one actually pulls that aspect off because the colors are so dark that they don't clash. I did knock points off because I didn't like that color red on that color blue. Side note, I like the horizontal neckline and I wish the 2014 sweaters would have just had that detail instead of fake laces.


Functionality: 2 - Apparently someone thought people needed to know what Finland's flag looked like. As in, their ENTIRE away jersey is the flag. Also, they added a GIANT flag to the arm of their home jersey. It looks terrible.
Values: 3 - We get it, you have a flag.
Appeal: 2 - Some points for the design of the home jersey, which is good despite the flag on the sleeve which looks bigger than the crest on the chest of the jersey, though that could just be the perspective of the picture.
Total: 7

Functionality: 2, Values: 3, Appeal: 2. Total: 7. Finland took a lot of risks here and none of them panned out. Kudos for the boldness, though. The only thing I can think of when I see the light sweaters is that kid trying to hide himself against Finnish flags, like those scenes in Arrested Development where Tobias follows Lindsay around. Anyone else? No? Moving on ...



Functionality: 5 - There's really nothing to hate about these jerseys. They look great up close where you can see the Vancouver-inspired detail inside the maple leaf and from far away. Overall a great set.
Values: 5 - Great reference to the flag with the maple leaf and with the national crest on the sleeve.
Appeal: 5 - Sidney Crosby won a gold medal in these. What's not to love?
Total: 15

Functionality: 5, Values: 5, Appeal: 5. Total: 15. It's tough to make red and white look original, but Canada crushed it with the 2010 version. Tough to tell in the picture we have, but there is a detail in the leaf done in a darker red that has some native American motifs. Best sweater on the slate, hands down.


Functionality: 2 - Fake laces, shiny plastic maple leaf on the shoulders (because, Nike) and a black jersey that looks like they handed over their jersey design to the Nazis.
Values: 3 - Much like Finland, flag overkill here.
Appeal: 1 - Not much to like here. I'm not sure what's worse - Finland's full-jersey flag or Canada's jersey where the flag covers the body and one sleeve and the other sleeve is bizarrely blank.
Total: 6

Functionality: 2, Values: 2, Appeal: 2. Total: 6. How the mighty have fallen. All the great detailing has been lost, replaced with a cheap looking outline of a leaf and lettering too small to be read at any distance. It's a good thing they fixed that on the black sweaters and made the letters comically large, great for people who want to take in a hockey game from low earth orbit.



Functionality: 4 - Simple and straightforward. "Norway" that's it.
Values: 3 - Having the country's name counts for something.
Appeal: 3 - Having a player named Torre Vikingstad also has some appeal.
Total: 10

Functionality: 2, Values: 3, Appeal: 4. Total: 9. I think I like this sweater because it's so bad that it's good. It's just the name of the country in downward-stepping letters and some randomly placed stripes with colors that don't work next to each other. I want to walk around in a sweater that says "NORGE" on it, I think that's awesome. And there are real laces. Real laces are clutch.


Note: Like with Slovenia, there are some conflicting reports here. The SB Nation post referenced above used an image for Norway's 2014s that were pretty much identical to their 2010 threads. Since our scores wouldn't have changed at all if they wore the same jerseys, we judged these ones.

Functionality: 4 - I'll categorize this as a "push". I love the inclusion of the bear logo but I hate the shoulder tabs for the numbers.
Values: 4 - The bear logo is a modernization/simplification of their hockey crest and looks badass.
Appeal: 2 - Lose a point for not having Torre Vikingstad on their Olympic roster which means you can't buy a jersey with a bear on the front and "Vikingstad" on the back.
Total: 10

Functionality: 3, Values: 3, Appeal: 2. Total: 8. Another sweater in the "mixed information" category; Ian found this one when it was rumoured that Norway would be wearing something close to the design of what they've been using for other international events. The more recent word is that they will be wearing something much more like the 2010 design. But, since I already ranked it, here are my thoughts: I think that if there was some kind of design checklist, this would be a "better" sweater than the 2010 version. But I think the problem is that it's too textbook; the colors are nice, the logo is there, the name of the country, too, but there's no personality.



Like Slovenia, Austria didn't compete in the Olympics in 2010.


Functionality: 2 - This borders on the "LOOK AT OUR FLAG" jersey concept with the national crest over the top. There's just too much going on here.
Values: 3 - I'll get into this more with Latvia, but the stripes on Austria's flag (red-white-red) are of equal size wherease on these jerseys the red and white "flag" look on the home chest is disproportionate. The national crest (Eagle) is a nice touch, but I don't like that it's being bisected by the stripe.
Appeal: 2 - As the lowest-seeded team in Group B, we'll probably only see the whites as Austria makes their first appearance in the Olympics since 2002.
Total: 7

Functionality: 2, Values: 3, Appeal: 2. Total: 7. This one winds up on the lower end of the "flag with crest" category of sweater. The middle stripe is disproportionately narrow and gets visually jumbled where it intersects the crest, and the darkness of the crest means it gets lost in the field of red on the dark sweaters.

Group C

Czech Republic


Functionality: 2 - The Czechs mostly wore the white jerseys in the 2010 tournament and these featured strangely shaped patterns on the arms (which is partially the fault of the stitching pattern of the Nike jerseys) and the U-shaped lines along the bottom/half the side of the jerseys that just aren't visually appealing up close.
Values: 4 - National colors with the nation's hockey crest in the center of the jersey. Nothing really to complain about there.
Appeal: 3 - This was an improvement over some of the past jerseys the Czechs have worn in the past, but overall a middle-of-the-road look.
Total: 9

Functionality: 3, Values: 4, Appeal: 2. Total: 9. This is a pretty average sweater across the board. I like the boldness of not including the name of the country on the sweater and just letting the coat of arms do the talking. If you have to ask, you'll never know. The goofy stripes really kill it for me though, this would be a much better sweater if they kept the stripes in check.


Functionality: 2 - I'm really not sure where to start here. Much like the Finland set they have one jersey that is pretty good and then one LOOK WE HAVE A FLAG jersey that is just hideous.
Values: 3 - Like with the other LOOK WE HAVE A FLAG jerseys, it's hard to scrutinize a country for putting their flag on their jerseys, but this is overkill.
Appeal: 2 - This was a tough call because the white jerseys, aside from some extraneous striping around the shoulders, are some of the best jerseys the Czechs have ever worn. That, however, is contrasted by the flag jerseys which are some of the worst.
Total: 7

Functionality: 4, Values: 5, Appeal: 4. Total: 13. This ranking represents the biggest delta between my ranking and Ian's ranking. I don't have solid justification for this, but I just think the "flag" motif on the home sweaters works. Again, I have no justification for this, because I slammed Finland for doing the same thing. I guess there's just no accounting for taste.



Functionality: 5 - Don't mess with success. Sweden has had the same look for international hockey for over a decade so why change now? (Hint: Don't)
Values: 3 - These actually took a bit of a hit because the 2010 jerseys removed the national crest from the left shoulder, after it was present on the last 3 Olympic jerseys.
Appeal: 4 - There's something to be said for tradition and keeping the same look. I took a point off because I personally think yellow jerseys are hideous, probably the only thing worse is orange jerseys. Just a personal opinion though.
Total: 12

Functionality: 3, Values: 3, Appeal: 3. Total: 9. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Blue and gold are sharp colors, said the Freeport alumnus.


Functionality: 4 - Essentially the same look as 2010 but with the shiny plasticy Viking ships added to the shoulders. It's a subtle detail that probably won't show up on TV, but it's more of the extraneous Nike crap that I hate.
Values: 3 - Nothing really changed from 2010 so the score shouldn't either.
Appeal: 4 - Sweden is known by their yellow jerseys, and that's cool, but I think the blue alternates look way better.
Total: 11

Functionality: 3, Values: 3, Appeal: 3. Total: 9. If it ain't broke, why add fake laces? I took a point off for those but then I added it back because that boat is pretty rad.



Functionality: 3 - Typical Switzerland. There's nothing that jumps off the screen at you, but nothing that makes you cringe either.
Values: 5 - Does anything typify Switzerland more than being boringly neutral? Nope, which is why these jerseys get full marks.
Appeal: 3 - There's nothing to hate and nothing to love about them.
Total: 11

Functionality: 3, Values: 3, Appeal: 4. Total: 10. The Switzerland sweater really makes the most of the hand it was dealt. What do you do with red, white and a cross? Don't go crazy with stripes, make the logo stand out by setting it off-center, call it a day.


Functionality: 2 - Apparently Nike's design was to make the jerseys look like a Swiss Army Knife was laying on a piece of paper.
Values: 5 - The biggest change was the addition of the name of the country onto the sleeve. This doesn't detract from the jersey.
Appeal: 3 - "Meh" is the best way to describe this, which is prototypical of neutral Switzerland.
Total: 10

Functionality: 3, Values: 3, Appeal: 3. Total: 9. From 2010, there were some elements added that paradoxically took away from the overall design, namely the "SUISSE" on the sleeve. Also, there is a detail on the stripe, but it's just more crosses. The detail works so well with Canada 2010 and Slovakia 2014 because it's something new when you get close. The Switzerland sweater is that Woody Allen bit where you find out your out your body is just made up other tinier bodies, except that was funny and this is boring.



Functionality: 3 - The shoulder tabs for the numbers aren't great and the size of the striping on the sleeve differs (the top stripe is smaller than the bottom stripe while on the national flag they are the same size).
Values: 4 - They had subtle hints at the national flag with the horizontal striping patterns, but the maroon stripes weren't the same size on the jersey (or in the same proportions) as they are on the flag. This would've received full points if they were.
Appeal: 4 - The white jerseys are a really good set, the only missing element would be the correct proportions on the striping to match the national flag.
Total: 11

Functionality: 3, Values: 4, Appeal: 3. Total: 10. A lot of the Eastern European sweaters feature a crest and some stripes. This one is the best of that bunch because the stripes actually reference the flag. I also like that "LATVIJA" is set in line with the top stripe, so from far away it reads as a stripe but up close it becomes letters. However, from far away the sweaters are pretty "noisy" visually so I only was able to award average functionality marks.


Functionality: 3 - I felt like these took a step back from the 2010 design because they increased the size of the stripes on the arms (which still aren't proportional with the flag) but they did make improvements by eliminating the stripes around the waist and coloring the crest.
Values: 4 - For as flag-obsessed as these Nike jersey sets have been in 2014, you'd think they would've gotten the proportions of Latvia's flag right (the top and bottom bars are larger than the center one).
Appeal: 3 - The white jerseys are clearly superior as the red jerseys feature a strange white half-circle behind the stars in the crest, seemingly as a way to connect them with the rest of the crest for stitching purposes so they don't have to be individually stitched on.
Total: 10

Functionality: 3, Values: 3, Appeal: 3. Total: 9. Latvia kept many things the same but went a little more conservative and lost a couple of the things I liked about the 2010 look.

2010 Rankings
Czech Rep999.0

2014 Rankings
Russia13 (+4)14 (+7)13.5 (+5.5)
Slovakia12 (+6)13 (+6)12.5 (+6.0)
Sweden11 (-1)9 (=)10.0 (-0.5)
Czech Rep7 (-2)13 (+4)10.0 (+1.0)
Switzerland10 (-1)9 (-1)9.5 (-1.0)
Latvia10 (-1)9 (-1)9.5 (-1.0)
Norway10 (=)8 (-1)9.0 (-0.5)
Finland7 (-5)7 (-4)7.0 (-4.5)
Canada6 (-9)6 (-9)6.0 (-9.0)
USA3 (-10)4 (-6)3.5 (-8.0)

In summary, the 2014 set of uniforms is worse than the 2010 sweaters. The US and Canada saw the biggest dropoffs, tumbling from the top of the 2010 rankings all the way to the bottom in 2014. Hopefully that drop-off in visual appeal doesn't come with a decline in play. Props to Russia and Slovakia for a complete turnaround on their uniform designs. Both of them got to the top by doing unique things - Slovakia with the words of their national anthem as the stripes on the jersey and Russia by their second jersey with the outline of the crest. Stay tuned later today for a preview of the actual hockey tournament and don't forget to check out Ray's blog.

1 comment:

Jennine Stalder said...

Good side-by-side analysis of the uniforms here. Agree with most of the points. What's more interesting is what can happen after the games end: namely, which designs can be exported and integrated by countries in their ensemble for the next one, and which ones can be incorporated into casual wear.

Jennine @ UE Sports