HbD News: Swedish Olympic Jerseys Announced (Oh, and the Czechs too)
This morning the Swedish 2014 Olympic Jersey were unveiled (click here if you speak Swedish, here if you can’t), and while Nike still added their absolutely ridiculous glossy features to the jersey (I’m looking at you fake laces), the overall design is pretty nice. You know why it’s pretty nice? Because for once, they didn’t mess with the tradition of the Tre Kronor and worked within the traditions of what makes a good hockey jersey while pushing boundaries in just a few places to move the jersey design conversation forward.
I know I sound like curmudgeonly old man sometimes, or maybe even like Cranky Kong, but there’s a balance that needs to be achieved when trying to create something new and exciting. It’s why futuristic-looking uniforms (like what the MLB did back in the ’90s) look so incredibly stupid, but it’s quite conceivable that in 40 or 50 years, jerseys could look just like that. But it takes time and incremental steps. Like the frog in the water, Nike turned the heat on way too quickly and everyone jumped out.
Speaking of which, the Czech Republic jerseys also came out over two weeks ago – back when I was in the midst of redesigning the site – and so I’ll quickly touch on their new designs too.
From the initial glimpse, there’s really not that much difference between the 2014 Swedish jerseys and the 2010 Swedish jerseys, or the 2006 Swedish jerseys. Bright yellow jersey, the three blue crowns in the middle, blue stripes along the bottom. When you have something that good, why mess with it? It’s simple and distinctive, even when you take all the NHL teams into account. Two-colour schemes are common in the NHL, but no team has a bright yellow jersey that they use on a regular basis. Pittsburgh did for awhile, as did Boston in the Winter Classic. The closest you get today is Nashville’s mustard-yellow jerseys.
The striping details on the jersey are actually an improvement over 2010, moving the twin stripes from the arms to the bottom of the jersey, getting rid of the solid blue bar that just looked like an extension of the blue pants. Removing any striping from the armbands on these new jerseys and replacing it with a decal (more on that later) is a non-traditional move that pushes the jersey design conversation forward. I don’t mind the cleaner aesthetic of it personally, and it’s one of those incremental steps I was talking about earlier.
A crest of three simple iconic crowns is great because, similar to the Canadian maple leaf, it’s an icon that is attached to that nation, so nothing else is really needed. Compare the Tre Kronor to the Czech Republic’s crest, or the Russian double-headed eagle crest. All of these crests tend to have similar elements (lions! eagles! elaborate crowns!) so they all blend together and are usually much too detailed for a hockey jersey anyway. But the Swedish crowns: perfect for hockey jerseys.
And luckily, Nike saw that and left it alone. And they didn’t cheapen it like they did the Canadian maple leaf. Although they apparently wanted to make significant changes. According to Tomas Bjernudd, Marketing Manager at Swedish Ice Hockey Federation (via Google Translate), “Pressure from Nike was that they wanted to change a lot…We wanted to keep it traditional.” Good on you Tomas!
But they still cheapened it with adding those stupid fake laces to which I, obviously, am unabashedly opposed to (as outlined in my USA/Russia jersey critique). The other glossy element on the jersey is the viking ship on the shoulders. Honestly, I don’t mind them too, much I feel like the orientation is wrong. If they had turned them sideways (top of the boat at the neck, bottom at the shoulders) and centred them on the top of the jerseys, it could be an interesting (and unexpected, unlike the maple leaves and stars on the Canadian and American jerseys, respectively) element on the jerseys. So, I like the initial concept, but – like Rasputin – the execution was botched. Would have been cool to see them in blue as well – a similar concept to the wings on Russia’s jerseys.
The only other element is the arm patch on the left sleeve. I don’t mind having something there (although, are they replacing the numbers? If so, it’s going to be way too crowded on the sleeve), but something a little more creative might have been good. The decal here says “These are Swedish jerseys. You know, Sweden, the team with the three crowns, which is also on the front of the jersey? SWE is short for Sweden, right? Oh, and they’re playing in the Olympics. You know that, right?” Yeah…gotcha. You’re not explaining anything new or adding anything interesting with this little patch/emblem/
I’m also assuming there will be a blue version of the jersey at some point. If so, hopefully the colours are just reversed, as it what usually happens with the Swedish jersey.
In the end, Nike didn’t totally mess these up, so at least there will be one consistently good-looking team at the Olympics. Best the best tweet about these jerseys is probably this one:
Amazing how Nike has lowered expectations such that Sweden puts out uniforms w/ fake laces and shiny crap on shoulders and we say “awesome!”
— 67Sound (@67sound) October 25, 2013
Old news, but the Czech jerseys were also released earlier this month. I apologize to all my Czech readers that have been eagerly awaiting, with baited breath, my response to the jersey’s release. All 3 of you.
The better jersey is the white one (or, mostly white one). It’s clean and minimal, which is always the direction I like to veer and they’re actually remarkably similar to America’s white jerseys: coloured shoulders, white everywhere else and a national crest in the middle. It’s an interesting, and not altogether horrible, mixture of historical jersey design mixed with a new modern design. Again, an incremental step in the jersey design conversation.
However, there’s one too many stripes. When the striping is such a prominent and integral part of the overall design, it has to be used well and sparingly. A red and a blue stripe below the shoulders is too much. The additional red stripe is unnecessary, doesn’t add anything to the jersey design overall (aside from making it look more similar to the Habs’ old barber shop jerseys) and it crowds the crest too much. As soon as the red stripe is removed, it looks a lot better.
More is not more. Less is not more. Just enough is more.
The crest itself is interesting and is exactly like the official national crest of the Czech Republic. It’s a bit busy for a traditional hockey logo crest, but it’s tough to argue against something that’s part of a national identity. For example, as a Canadian myself, you can make fun of us being represented by beavers all you want, but I still think they’re great. Eagles are great national symbols too, but make sure you remember that they’re still wild animals.
As for the Czech flag that will be draped onto the players at the Olympics, it’s an interesting concept. I don’t unequivocally hate the concept, as the Czech flag is a little more unique than most European flags that boast either a cross or just stripes, but it doesn’t work with a hockey jersey.
For one, how are the numbers going to look on the back? With the numbers 10 and above, is the first letter going to be white (on red) and the second blue or red (on white)? That’s pretty stupid. What about numbers 9 and lower? Half white, half blue/red? That’s stupid also. Or are they going to be all white but with a heavy red outline to make it readable on the white? Also stupid. Is the blue triangle going to stretch halfway down the back too, further interfering with the numbers? Incredibly stupid.
The split jersey also makes it look like a home team on one side and a road team on the other side. Is that going to be confusing for players who are making split-second decisions on a regular basis? Maybe, since it’s never really been done before, so I guess we’ll find out. It seems the logistics of the jersey, and the implications of its design, have not been fully thought out.
The only other element, the fake laces, yeah, hate them. But at least there’s no apparent glossy anything on the shoulder with this one.
What do you think? Agree, disagree? Feel free to comment.