Design of football 2011/12: Puma

posted on September 13th, 2011 by Anthony

Puma logo

It was only fairly recently that I became aware that Puma is:

a) German
b) technically as old as Adidas

You see both were set up by one of the brothers Dassler. Brothers who originally went in to the shoe making business together in 1924. It was during this time that they famously made the shoes that powered Jesse Owens to four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.

Things started to sour between the brothers during World War II, and by 1948 they decided to go their own ways. Adi (Adolf) Dassler stayed in the existing factory and called the company Adidas. His brother Rudolf moved (literally) across the river to set up his own factory and company – originally called Ruda, and soon became Puma.

The two companies have been bitter, and at times nasty, rivals ever since.

It’s a quite fascinating tale really, that only get’s more interesting when the two companies went into a full scale marketing war… but this isn’t a blog about all of that. I’m here to look at the last of the big boys’ crop of shirts.

I would say Puma have had a much smaller part to play in the actual shirt design game. They’ve been much more successful at supplying boots: I think most lads my age will remember lusting after a pair of the legendary Puma Kings.

In the last decade, or so, they seem to be making a much more concerted effort to become firmly established as kit suppliers. On a national level dominated by Adidas and Nike they made the sensible decision to target the emerging African market and they are steadily picking up teams in all the big leagues in the world.

Colchester

I’m going to get this out of the way now. There isn’t a lot of variety to Puma’s designs this year. The majority are based around a couple of templates – even more so than Umbro. Plus there is a very strong theme and influence running through them. That influence is the very obviously the late 70s, early 80s.

This Colchester shirt sums it about the best.

Colchester Away shirt

The collar and stripes instantly summon up images of times when the sizes of collars were only matched by the perms of the players, and the stripes adorned shirts like a big bushy moustache.

Something along these lines in fact …

Coventry brown shirtStunning.

You know what, I quite like it. As aesthetics go in shirt design it’s quite a nice one to see this one coming around again. It’s a classic era to be nicking ideas from. Granted it lacks some of the classic sophistication of some of Umbro’s 50s inspired numbers, but it is quite fun.

Motherwell

When used with some well chosen colours the template can look really quite smart…

The new 2011/2012 Motherwell Away Kit

Grey isn’t a popular choice of shirt colour. Not since United got tonked by Southampton and Fergie blamed United’s grey shirts for his players piss poor performance. It turned them invisible apparently.

I think it works rather nicely here. It carries the teams home colours in the stripes and other embellishments rather nicely, and the white collars and cuffs are a nice touch. It’s a really rather smart looking uniform.

Reading

The template even transports quite well to hoops and other classic looks.

Reading 2012 Home shirt

Again it’s a really good, solid shirt. It respects the clubs traditions, gives a good solid hoop and manages to stick quite rigidly to the template without jarring by cleverly incorporating the shoulder stripes into the main hoop colour on the shoulders.

They lack the a bit of the weighty, quality, tailored look of Umbro’s shirts, but they still look pretty good.

Dundee, Preston and Burnley

In fact the template looks pretty good applied to most teams.

Dundee FC Home and Away 2011/12

Preston North End Shirt 2011

Burnley Home Shirt 2011 2012

It’s really quite adaptable, and works well with it. Every single one is a nice shirt. As templates go, this a goodun.

It is just a template though, and I’ve lambasted some of the other manufacturers for their overuse of them. It’s a pretty unswerving use of a template too. They don’t change much other than the bock colours and the stripes.

It works. Considering these shirts are all for lower league teams, it works. The team gets a kit that suits the club and the history, Puma get results without significant outlay.

OK each shirt is hardly a design masterclass… but the hard work was done with the base template to make the rest of the process easier.

Coventry

I showed Covvee’s classic brown shirt as a prime example of Puma’s inspiration for that previous template. As it happens Puma actually are making Coventry’s kit these days. Alas they don’t use that particular template.

Coventry home shirt 2011 2012

What they have come up with is another retro inspired number. This time it’s with a reason, this is the 50th anniversary of the Sky Blues wearing sky blue. So the inspiration comes from that shirt – hence the 60s style rounded collar and generally simple design. They’ve even produced a new rendering of the club crest based on an original illustration from a copy of a 1962 programme. I love things like that.

It’s a proper ‘bespoke’ kit (so they say). Nice to see for a smaller team.

Again it’s really hard to fault.

Newcastle United

The Magpies are a big team with a loyal fan base. True those loyal fans are almost as famous for going bare chested in midwinter as they are for wearing replica shirts… but they still ship a few units.

That tends to qualify them for a ‘bespoke’ shirt regardless of anniversaries.

Newcastle United Home Shirt 2011 2012That is what they got.

Apparently some sort of waistcoat tuxedo complete with tie combination.

It all feels a bit chunky and clunky. I can see that working with vertical stripes is a challenge. I can see that lot’s of heavily contrasting, repeating colour will make sponsor legibility difficult. I can see the temptation to mess about with the stripes and make them markedly different from last years efforts.

It just very rarely works. (See Nike’s awful broken stripes)

The varying thicknesses look a bit contrived  and heavy. The badge and Puma logo is unbalanced and almost haphazard.

It’s just not very nice.

Maybe now that’s out of the designer’s system they can get some proper classic stripes back next season.

(It perhaps should be noted the base shirt template look very similar to Coventry’s ‘bespoke’ effort).

Spurs

Another fairly major player. A Champions League Europa League team no less. Like Birmingham, or Stoke. (I realise the irony of a Liverpool fan making these jibes, let me have my fun).

I actually liked Spurs shirt from last season. It divided opinion, but I thought that angled 80s inspired shoulder block of colour was a nice slice of something different. It seemed to upset the Spurs purists though, so this year we are back to plain white.

And a fetching shade of purple… and black.

The home shirt is interesting as it seems to be almost a hybrid of the 70s shirt and the round neck shits seen above. I’m a fan of a good plain white shirt, and this is a fairly good example. Tottenham’s iconic badge works really well in the minimal setting and it’s balanced nicely with the Puma mark. It’s a shame the sponsor dominates the clean look so much, it seems to have suffered from a bit of “can you make my logo bigger”. It’s not the 2009 England shirt, but it’s nice enough.

The purple away shirt is a bold colour, you don’t see it too often in football. I like it. This shirts uses that round collared template seen on Newcastle and Coventry’s. Again it’s a good solid shirt, nice colour, sensible white cuffs etc… yeah nice.

The 3rd shirt is a black number. I’m still to be sold on the whole black thing. It must be the traditionalist in me. The only person in black should be the referee. I miss those days. This shirt is based on another template I haven’t discussed yet. It seems heavily based on last seasons diagonal shoulder pattern, but borrows cues from the stripes from this seasons wing collared effort. I’m not sure the colours work so well on the black shirt. I’d have preferred the shirt to have just been plain.

Like a referee.

Hibs

Speaking of last seasons template – Puma haven’t totally abandoned it. They have used it to quite nice effect with Hibs’ new shirt.

Hibs 2011 2012

The different shades of green give the designers quite a lot to work with, and they’ve aquitted themselves quite well in applying them to this template.

I’ve still go to be sold on the Puma logo on the shoulder thing though. I know it’s done for a reason… it just looks a little odd out there on it’s own.

Malmo

I think you called this one a riff of the templates.

Malmo 2011 2012

Or maybe a mashup?

It borrows elements from seemingly all of the other shirts and gives them another spin. Well a half hearted turn anyway.

I’m quite a fan of the muted Malmo blue though. I love the two tone touch on the all blue kit, with different textures.

Motherwell (again), Burnley (again)

There is yet another similar template, this time based right of the first shirt, but with the collars ripped off.

Motherwell home 2011

Burnley Away Kit 2011 2012

It’s just coincidence they are practically the same kit with different sponsors.

Again both solid shirts.

Bordeaux

It wall going so well. Alas, every manufacturer seems to have an atrocity up their sleeves.

Puma don’t disappoint.

Bordeaux 2011 2012

I get that the ‘V’ is Bordeaux things… but good God all three of those are mingers.

That ‘wicked worn’ effect? No.

The French teams really do end up with some odd shirts.

Conclusion.

They really like a template at Puma. But it is hard to be so scornful of them as I have for some of the others. Particularly Adidas.

I will say that there are definitely lacking a few marquee shirts where they have really gone to town. Like the Nike with the France shirt, or Umbro with the City Shirt. There’s no obvious example of them going ‘all out’ for anyone. Even for clubs like Spurs and Newcastle. Unless Bordeaux’s is an example of this. Or Newcastle’s for that matter. In which case they should definitely stay at doing what they do best.

And that is producing a few solid templates, and they revolving ideas around that core. They get the basics right, and manage to service all the teams with good looking shirts. Which keeps the most people happy as possible.

They also manage to add enough to each shirt to make it look like they give a toss, whereas Adidas just seem to somewhat cynically colour them by paint by numbers.

They’re lacking the craft and quality of Umbro and Nike’s best work, but overall you find it hard to pick nits.

Except for that Bordeaux lot.