The Worst Pro Jerseys of the 2013 Tour de France

The Tour de France is the only bike race that gets any kind of general media coverage in North America.

Which means it's the one time we actually see much of the European pro team jerseys, all at once. And maybe that's not a good thing, because really: it's not a pretty sight.

As a collection, they been beaten hard with the ugly stick: too busy, too goofily "graphical", mostly with colour schemes that just downright hurt the eyes. And it’s been that way for a while. Seven Tour wins, and can anybody remember a single jersey Lance wore? Were any of them even remotely iconic? (US Postal? Really?) Possibly it’s because so many of the sponsors these days just have crap logos. Maybe it’s because sponsoring a pro cycling team is so financially idiotic that it takes 3 or 4 of them at a time to make a go of it, guaranteeing a dog’s breakfast of a jersey.

OK, Sky is pretty good. Certainly the best of a bad lot. And it never hurts to have the glow of a winner not named Armstrong attached to it. In fact, I'd argue that some of Sky's success as a team can be attributed to the fact that putting on that jersey doesn't make you look like a dork. That has to be worth at least 3 minutes in the General Classification.

Adds a good 0.5 watts per kilo
Movistar is also pretty cool. (And cool is in very short supply in this crowd.) It's sharp and clean, and its colours are subtle and sophisticated. Even if that "M" does look like a Pixar cartoon monster. And after this year's Tour they are gonna sell like crazy in Colombia.

You've lost the minute you put it on
Things get pretty sketchy after that, however. Katushka? Omega Pharma Quickstep? (I would argue that jersey cost Cav the sprint in the last stage of the TdF.) Or God helps us, Astana or Lampre? (Seriously, how could anybody who puts that Lampre jersey on expect to win? It looks like Team My Little Pony.)

Here then, are my personal rankings of this year's pro circuit jerseys:

Best:
 
 Really. No contest.
And from what I could see in the UK last week, the punters are already snapping up the Sky replicas. This should come as no surprise with Froome's win, but an actually cool design makes it a lot safer to wear in the pub than, say, Astana.
 

Bearable & possibly wearable: 







Belkin is crisp and uncluttered, but that's one dire shade of hospital waiting-room green. Euskatel might have made the top 3 if not for that giant, goofy old-school phone poking out of the side of it (see "Big Graphic Things!", below). Similarly Cofidis had a great base colour and looked pretty good on the road but got undermined by that silly swoosh off the shoulder, which looks like something that got rejected as a uniform design for the Starship Enterprise. Points to Garmin, though, for the daring "argyle" motif. Yep, nothing puts the fear of God into the pro peloton like the sight of argyle.

Getting sketchy:
Orica & Omega-Pharma both make the crucial error of doing screened colour blends for the classic cheezy 3-D effect, with Omega's black & turquoise combo notably goofy. Saxo and especially Katushka just look like somebody barfed a bunch of Eurologos all over them.


What were they thinking?

All white? Really? I guess when your logo looks like a bathroom cleanser, Argos, it makes sense. Shimano, however, should know better. At least the AG2R guys get some colour on their shorts but it's brown for chrissake. A crappy shade of brown at that.



Big graphic things!

Somebody in the world of pro cycling jersey design seems to have got it into his or her head that a big screened-back graphical element thing bursting up through the riders' stomachs like a logo Alien was a good idea. FDJ might not be half bad without it. But for the rest it's just icing on the crap cake. Sojasun looks like a seed sack, Europcar seems to be a design rejected for the new Irish Spring bottle, and the less said about Vacansoleil the better. It's no wonder poor old Phil Liggett couldn't keep half these teams straight when he was trying to call the race.

Just flat-out hideous (and possibly detrimental to your team):
Here's the thing: any grand tour is basically a superhuman feat of strength and endurance. How these guys race 3,400 kms in 3 weeks is beyond imagining. The physical & psychological wear must be phenomenal. Surely every little bit of an edge must make a difference. So I gotta wonder: how demoralising must it be to put on either of these two jerseys after a bad day on Mt Ventoux? Exactly. And from a viewer's perspective, the first time I saw these two on my screen I thought something had gone wrong with the colour balance.

Why does it matter?
Because they're the pros. We look up to them, we copy them, we wear stuff and buy stuff to feel like  them. They have a responsibility to set standards, godammit, including aesthetic ones. Certainly as far as jerseys go there seems to be a trickle-down effect to amateur clubs. I have mentioned before that a lot of the club jerseys in my area (Toronto) are not exactly monuments to great design. (Bit of a deal-breaker for me. Which is why I appreciate the DHF jersey, which is one of the nicest I’ve seen in these parts.) But as Sky and Movistar demonstrate: the field is wide open for making a mark with a really beautiful team jersey.

Next up:
The best team jerseys of all time. In my humble opinion.



Comments

  1. While I have some quibbles with the rankings of the first 21 jerseys in your roundup, I vehemently disagree with your choice of Lampre as the worst of 2013. C'MON!!! It is clearly the classiest of the lot, and while it would be a bit much going by at anything less than Tour cruising speed, I bet it looked fantastic in the bright sun atop Ventoux. (Although the entire team was probably in about 100th spot. I don't remember them having much of a showing. Whatever.) At least they went for it, sartorially. This is a bleak period in jersey design, especially when the boring Sky jersey with its mamby-pamby neohumanist sans serif is the pick of the litter. The only problem with Lampre is that they missed an opportunity to have the gaping, teeth-ringed maw of their spirit eel, the lamprey, silkscreened on the back of their bibs. That would have been pretty bad-ass. Literally.

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