Grading the MLR 2021 Kit Reveal
Major League Rugby made a major announcement on Tuesday morning as they unveiled all the kits for the 2021 season! Kitmas is always an exciting time of the year for fans and players alike! Once again Paladin returns as the league’s official kit supplier. Paladin had plenty of solid offerings in 2020 and once again delivered in a big way. With plenty of great kits being released, I have decided to put my rugby fashion sense to the test and grade each team’s kit.
Of course, you are welcome to completely ridicule my rugby fashion sense on your social media platform of choice. Parts of this article contain comparisons to last year’s kit, so click this link if you want a refresher! Let the grading begin!
The Gilgronis kit has not changed much from what they took to the pitch in 2020. However, even though the changes are minimal, they are significant. My biggest issue with the Gilgronis kit in 2020 was the football style numbers on the front. Thankfully those are gone. Perhaps even worse than the football numbers was that the numbers were white on the white away kit. I’m not sure who thought white numbers on a white kit was a good idea, but I’m glad they have made the sensible decision and changed the numbers to orange.
The only other change is a star has been added to the map of Texas on the left chest. By removing the football numbers Austin is left with a solid kit with a great colour scheme. The league released a picture of all 13 club’s home kit for this upcoming season. This is the image that really put the Gilgronis kit over the top for me. In a league with 5 blue teams and 5 black teams, the bright orange Gilgronis really stand out. Ultimately, it’s a solid kit with a great colour scheme, and they fixed the biggest problems with their 2020 kit.
HOME: B+ AWAY: B FULL SET: B+
The Jackals will be one of two expansion clubs joining MLR in 2021. When they unveiled their name, logo, and colours to the world, I called it “my favourite team branding in MLR”. Everything about the Jackals branding is absolutely terrific, so I was extremely excited to see the kit for the first time. Unfortunately, to me the kit didn’t quite live up the promise of that logo. It’s not that I think it is bad, I’m just neutral towards it.
The home kit features a green pattern that begins at the bottom and slowly fades to black. That same pattern fades to white on the away kit. One thing I really did enjoy about Dallas’ kit release was that they referred to the colour as “Jackal green”. It’s great to see MLR teams jumping on the trend of giving your team colours fun names that has been established by the other major leagues. Ultimately, I feel that this is a decent kit that is elevated by the best logo and colours in the league
HOME: B AWAY: B FULL SET: B
Once again, the SaberCats present a kit that is as flawless as Sam Windsor’s boot. As the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The SaberCats had my favourite kit in the 2020 season and I’m excited to see it return. To start the perfect bright yellow away kit has been untouched from last season. I love bright colours and the SaberCats have a near perfect kit in my eyes.
There have been some tweaks to the black home kit. There is now a sublimated cross-hatch pattern replacing the SaberCat logo that is still present on the yellow kit. Yellow strips and piping have nearly all been removed from the kit with the exception of the SaberCats logo, the Paladin logo and a small strip on the socks. It gives off a bit of an All Blacks vibe, which is great! Aveva returns as the kit sponsor on the front with Lone Star College on the back.
HOME: A AWAY: A+ FULL SET: A
The Giltinis are the second MLR expansion team entering the league in 2021. Much like the Jackals, they revealed their team name, logo, and colours earlier this offseason. Unlike the Jackals, their name and logo was met with vitriol from the fanbase. However, the colours seemed to be the one element of the branding that people liked as they went with bright pink and blue. As I previously mentioned, I like bright colours so I was excited to see what the Giltinis kit would be. The home kit is simple, but clean. The kit has a white base with pink and blue stripes accenting the collar shorts and socks.
The away kit is nowhere to be seen. It’s incredibly disappointing that the Giltinis do not have two kits prepared for the day the league released them. The organization has made a number of questionable decisions, such as complete social media silence for 4 months. This just adds to the list. The home kit is good, but not good enough to save their grade.
HOME: B AWAY: F FULL SET: D-
San Diego Legion
The Legion are the squad with the biggest departure from their 2020 kit in the West. The home kit features a black base with a white Legion logo, some red piping, a sublimated image of a gladiator, and a red faux-collar. The faux-collar is an interesting choice given how popular real collars have been among MLR fans. I would have liked to see them go all out with that. A real collar also guarantees you a minimum B+ grade under the Layman’s Sports Rugby Fashion Grading System. Alas, they went with a faux collar.
The away kit is similar, except it features a grey base. Unless you are a baseball team on the road, don’t use grey. It almost never looks good (and it doesn’t even look that great in baseball). The home kit is solid, but the away leaves a lot to be desired. Both kits do feature a new sponsor in Ballast Point Brewing, which is great to see.
HOME: B- AWAY: C FULL SET: C+
Much like the Houston SaberCats, the Seawolves had a great kit in 2020 and decided to bring it back in 2021. The Seawolves took to twitter to exclaim that they had “unfinished business” in this kit. The only new feature is a new kit sponsor in WaFd Bank. It is the same as last year so there isn’t a whole lot more to say here. They were phenomenal last year, and they continue to be phenomenal (especially the bright green).
HOME: A- AWAY: A FULL SET: A-
These kits rock! Alright, that is lame joke because these kits have mountains all over them. However, it also isn’t a joke because these kits really do rock! Utah has kept a similar colour and stripe pattern layout to their 2020 kit, but have included two massive additions. On the red away kit, we see a beautiful mountain range pattern that slowly fades out as it moves towards the player’s waist. On the black home kit, we see a topographic map of the Utah valley sublimated all over the kit. The stripe across the kit is now broken up by the player’s number. I feel like I should hate that, but the kit as a whole looks terrific, so I am electing to shrug that off.
Ultimately, I feel that Utah has produced some kits that are as picturesque as the stadium they play in. The red is among the best in the league and the black is good enough to make me forget that they have numbers on the front (although, it’s already starting to grow on me).
HOME: B+ AWAY: A- FULL SET: B+
The East really impressed with their designs this year with collars, third kits, new logos, snakeskin, and the most patriotic jersey of all time. Once, again we have a few references to last year’s kit, so if you need a refresher, click this link. Let’s dive in!
Earlier this off-season, Rugby ATL revealed a new secondary logo that was dubbed “the Ratler”. The Ratler was the head of a rattlesnake that was designed by the players and based on the nickname the fans coined for the team during their inaugural season. That new logo, however, does not appear on either kit. Instead, the club has dropped the shield from last year’s logo and we have their classy stylized “A” as the kit’s crest.
The kits are quite similar to last year with a few changes. The dark home kit is no longer completely black, instead the black fades into grey around the chest. A similar pattern in on the away kit with grey fading into white. The sublimated map of Atlanta has been replaced by a snakeskin design in honour of the club’s new nickname. Rugby ATL also revealed that Barbour Orthopedics & Spine will serve as their new kit sponsor! Ultimately, there is nothing overly flashy about it, but this is simply a solid kit overall.
HOME: B AWAY: B FULL SET: B
Old Glory DC
Old Glory DC will show up on the pitch on March 20th, 2021 wearing the most patriotic jersey in sport history. The American flag is front and centre on both the home blue and away white kits. The flag is stylized as the stripes almost appear as if they are painted. It looks great and truly is a design that only works for a team literally named after the American flag.
That uniqueness is a big plus. The kits also feature sublimated stars on the shoulders and sides, as well as the D.C. flag on the shorts. Cuisine Solutions returns as the primary kit sponsor with two more sponsors (Leidos and Iron Vine Security) featured on the back. Ultimately, I think this kit is great. Perhaps the Eagles would like to borrow it one day.
HOME: B+ AWAY: B+ FULL SET: B+
New England Free Jacks
At the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk contest, Vince Carter stepped up for his first dunk of the evening. Carter threw down a 360-windmill dunk as the crowd erupted and Kenny Smith proclaimed “let’s go home! Let’s go home ladies and gentlemen!” In that moment Smith, Carter and everyone else in the building the new dunk contest was over and it was the first dunk. I’d imagine that is how Alex Magleby and the Free Jacks felt when many people saw the Free Jacks kit first on Tuesday morning.
The Free Jacks came out on fire dropping a great kit unveiling video! The Free Jacks had the best kit in 2020 and brought it back in 2021. The glorious striping and the beautiful collar returned and brought a tear to everyone’s eyes. Only a minor change, adding some stripes to the shorts was done. The video also revealed that “Together We Ride” is written under the collars for a classy touch. However, much like Carter, the Free Jacks continued to deliver greatness.
Despite the home kit being relatively identical to last year, the away kit was quite different and it had a collar! The Free Jacks now have two kits with collars and they are absolutely beautiful! The away kit features a mostly blue bottom, with a white and red stripe at the chest, and white shoulders. Just stunning work from the Free Jacks.
The thing that really set the Free Jacks apart (even more so than the collars) was the was they rolled out their announcements. The Free Jacks had a video detailing what the kit means to them, featuring the Free Jack players and women players as well. They had the players modeling the kit, and have a women’s kit available as well. Just wonderful. I thought this would be the easiest grade, but I want to give another team an A+ later, so I have to become a little creative.
HOME: A+ AWAY: A+ FULL KIT: A++
Right away, the Gold get points for their colour scheme. NOLA finds themselves in the extremely dark blue and black heavy Eastern Conference. Honestly, it is nice to see something a bit different. The Gold’s home kit features a flashy upgrade as they have opted for a Harlequins style pattern on the kit. It comes off really sharp in gold and white and pairs well with the club’s new socks. The away kit is quite similar to last year with a minor tweak to the size of the pattern.
My concern about that is, in my personal opinion, the numbers were quite hard to see on television last year. Hopefully, they don’t have the same issue again. Ultimately, I feel that both kits are solid, however, my concerns with the number visibility bump the overall grade down a bit.
HOME: B+ AWAY: B FULL KIT: B-
Rugby United New York
Rugby United New York comes with the biggest changes to their kit in the East. Thankfully, the baseball style pinstripes are gone. Replacing them is a more traditional rugby kit with a modern twist. To start us off, RUNY has unveiled a brand-new secondary logo. The new logo is a roundel with a smaller shield inside, an interlocking “NY”, and a classic rugby ball. Overall, I like it more than the current primary logo. Apparently, so does RUNY. Despite it being designated as a “secondary” logo, it is featured prominently on the new kit.
RUNY opted for a home blue and an away orange that both have some cool features. The home kit is mostly all blue with a pattern. That pattern is the Guastavino Tile, a pattern that is prominent in many New York City buildings with archways. The away kit also pays tribute to New York City. The predominantly orange kit features blue stripes. Those stripes are made up of the names of all the neighbourhoods in NYC. Both the neighbourhood names and the city tiles are great design elements to incorporate into the kit. Both kits feature the same shorts and socks. The shorts and socks are blue with orange striping. The shorts feature a modified secondary logo where the roundel is missing just leaving the shield, “NY”, and rugby ball. RUNY’s primary logo is still featured on the back of the collar.
Ultimately, these kits are a massive improvement on last year.
HOME: B+ AWAY: B+ FULL SET: B+
Back to the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. After Smith proclaimed “let’s go home” no one actually went home. You may have known Carter was going to win, but you still stuck around because you knew deep down, that there would be a better dunk. Carter took a bounce pass from Tracy McGrady, put the ball through his legs, and dunked. At that moment Carter himself proclaimed “it’s over”. The Arrows new away kit is that dunk.
Shakespeare himself would struggle to describe the beauty that is the Arrows new away kit. However, he could probably come up with something better than a Vince Carter analogy. This is simply beautiful. Of course, right away, you notice the collar. Then you look down at the hoops. Those hoops that are actually chevrons pointing up to match the “Arrows Up” branding. A brilliant design choice that is completely unique to the Arrows.
Topping it off is the numbers. The numbers are gold, a throwback to the Ontario Arrows days before the club played in MLR. All topped off with the Canadian flag in a truly stunning kit! It is magnificent and without a doubt the best new kit revealed on Tuesday.
The Arrows were the only team to reveal three kits. The away kit that Shakespearian language fails to describe, a home kit, and a Sunday home kit. The home kit is the same as last year and the Sunday home is the same as the away kit. Both kits are just as stunning as they were last year. Once, again Honda and Waypoint Investments return as sponsors for 2021.
The “Sunday home” is an interesting concept that has not been seen in MLR yet. In baseball, Sunday home often refers to an alternate jersey that teams exclusively wear for Sunday home games. However, I cannot confirm if that is actually the Arrows plan or if they will have a different meaning for the kit. I’m sure we will find out in due time. Ultimately, all three kits are absolutely stunning. The away kit stole the show and I am fully willing to hop on a plane to any MLR road city to see them in action.
HOME: A SUNDAY HOME: A AWAY: A+ FULL SET: A+
There you have it folks! Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the 2021 MLR reveal? Let me know @BressetteTheJet or @LaymansSports on your favourite social media network! However, if you say you don’t like the collars, just know that you are wrong.
All Images courtesy of MLR and their respective clubs