From the King of Style™
Among the litany of reasons we cyclists are infatuated with our sport is that we can adorn ourselves in strikingly ridiculous attire and publically parade about town. Most of this cycling-inspired clothing is virtually painted on our lithe bodies, which only adds to the absurdity of our costume (let’s not fool ourselves here, it is a costume). Denim bib shorts, an entire closet of kit worn exclusively by Mr. Cipollini, and the Footon-Servetto kit immediately flood to mind. These are three extremes, exhibiting the vast range of our costumed world, but they’re outliers certainly worth mentioning.
To the uninformed non-cycling audience, we look ridiculous all the time. While we awkwardly saunter in line in cleated reverse-high heeled shoes to order our skinny machiattos sweetened only with a half packet of Splenda, a non-cyclist may gratuitously offer, “That’s a very, umm, colorful outfit. Neat!” which immediately elicits commentary in our minds – and hopefully only in our minds – something to the effect of, “Fool! It’s called a kit. A KIT!” However this demographic of hairy legged non-cyclists is not the audience to whom we’re painting ourselves up. Rather, we dress to impress each other.
So why, oh why, would someone go to the trouble of designing a kit as abominably bland as this? I would normally say that it’s insipid lack of creativity leaves me speechless, however, I’ve now gone to the length of writing well into my third paragraph about this kit’s unrepentant flair for… vanilla.
Moreover, and down to some nitty gritty, what I have to assume is “NYC” on the front/center is sliced clear in half by a zipper (in fact, probably a ubiquitous YYC brand zipper), thereby leading the uniformed viewer into thinking this is an NC or North Carolina based team. Although in reality perhaps that’s not such a bad thing to separate one’s self from the actual team base so one won’t be accosted for dressing so unimaginatively drab.
The final score.
Effort in design: F, for Freakin’ lackluster.
Ability to Elicit Audience Participation: C. There are websites among the sponsor logos, which in reality will draw me to Oxen when I need my workwear needs accommodated.
Execution of final product: D. Sadly not even a non-cyclist would be inspired to comment on this kit as it passes forgetfully in front of said viewer at the coffee bar line.
Templates are good for many things—they are great for banging out exact duplicates of things that need to be made to exacting industrial standards. Gaskets, for example, should be as similar as mechanically possible, because in the gasket world, being indistinguishable is an aspiration, maybe even a virtue. There are endeavors however where being homogeneous isn’t exactly an asset. You wouldn’t want to create the same ensembles for two marchers in the Mermaid Parade—as that would create confusion and most likely a fierce slap fight. Marketing is another undertaking where being indistinct from your competition is a serious blunder (unless, of course you’re Kennedy Fried Chicken, Wiedemann’s beer or any of the pizza places in New York that are named with a combination of the words: Ray’s Pizza or Famous), and I fear that the Hudson kit is a victim of "template thinking".
Template thinking is the concept of taking on a design challenge without… a concept. You’re just filling up boxes with stuff, art-wise. It’s the art equivalent of sitting in during a race. It can be a perfectly adequate way to get to the finish line, but no one is going to accuse you of being inspirational. In the case of the Hudson Furniture kit, I feel there’s some template thinking going on. Granted, the main sponsor’s logo is basically the word "Hudson" set in Helvetica (or one of the other indistinguishable members of that redneck Swiss typographic family tree. Yes, I’m talking to you, Arial), but that’s no reason to succumb to the Helvetica vibe for the entire kit design. This design is essentially a white panel on the chest and the back with a red background. It feels like "option C" in the jersey layout selector from the manufacturer’s website.
But don’t think I dislike this kit, it just doesn’t rouse nor arouse me in many ways. I do like the bold striping on the kit, and I will say that red is a daring color for the panel that covers the "region de reproductive". I can say from personal experience that red, whilst a striking choice for crotch coverage, can be terribly immodest in conditions that involve: rain, bright sun, shade, humidity, fog, incandescent or fluorescent light and moonlight. That leaves you with a daily five minute window when the red looks fabulous, so use it wisely.
Who we are.
Dan Schmalz, when he’s not typing aimlessly on the internet for free, is a graphic designer who has owned his own firm for over a decade. His work has been published in numerous national design publications, and his work has received several national awards.
If you want to have you team’s kit put through the fashion critique wringer, drop us a line, and we will try to be gentle.
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