I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a thread count kind of guy.
You can be, in 2016. It’s perfectly acceptable for a staunch Kiwi bloke (*cough* such as me!) to both love our national game and at the same time desire nothing short of 700-count Egyptian cotton sheets and a crisp bleach press with every fresh bed.
Confused? Yeah, fair enough. When he launched the new All Blacks jersey on Breakfast this week, I wasn’t convinced by Kieran Reid’s expression that he’s spent quite as much time thinking about fabric quality as he does about footwork at the breakdown. But then, oh! He should just try it.
But fabric’s important. Design matters. And although All Blacks players have to accept whatever new jersey they’re presented with the insincere joy of a child in a third-generation Christmas hand-me-down, it doesn’t mean the rest of us hesitate from playing fashion police. You don’t usually hear blokes on Radio Sport debating necklines, trains, or the virtue of an almond summer hue, so it’s a pleasant change – for the sake of diversity – to mix it up a bit.
Rugby fashion used to be so simple. For a decade I played rugby in the huge, hulking, cotton monstrosities that used to be Saturday morning staples. There was no Climacool for the under-14s. On a particularly wet and muddy morning, the jerseys would end up weighing about as much as the girl or boy underneath, and jersey-pulling was so easy that outside backs risked being swung around like a hammer throw.
At the elite level, it seems mad now they didn’t sort it sooner. Even in the Merhts/Cullen/Umaga era, the All Blacks were in baggy shirts. These days, rolling on the skin-tight black jersey recalls a certain contraceptive method.
And colour? Actually, our national choice isn’t super-practical. I was struck as I watched the Black Sticks play in India on a brutal 40C afternoon, that there’s a reason no other countries dress national sports teams in all black.
Fortunately, the Parisian winter is a little more forgiving than the Delhi sun, although a white alternative for a contact sport makes for an epic Napisan soak.
But here’s the thing about the All Blacks’ jersey: It doesn’t really matter.
It can be the “blackest ever”. It can be away-white or 2007-grey. The jersey will be replaced before you know it, and the guys wearing them aren’t splitting hairs over whether they’re pretty or just a bit naff. Cliche, maybe, but I’m sure Kieran Reid would agree: It’s not the jersey that matters, but what the jersey represents.
– Herald on Sunday