Puma has taken over the kit sponsorship for 2014-2015 after 20 years of Nike product, resulting in a lot of questions from fans. How does the Puma stuff fit? How is the material? Is it tight? Overall, should I buy this year’s kit? Today we start what I anticipate will be an annual feature – an in-depth breakdown of the current Arsenal kit. Because it’s the first year of the Puma kit, I will compare it directly to the equivalent Nike kit from 13-14. If you want to avoid the breakdown, feel free to skip to the conclusion(s).
First, I would like to thank my friends at Subside Sports for helping out with this article. They went out of their way to arrange having a kit sent to me express immediately after its July 1 launch. Unfortunately, due to some confusion with delivery on DHL’s part, and because I’m simply a procrastinator, this kit analysis comes much later than I had anticipated. That being said, I’m grateful to the team at Subside and would welcome all who are interested in Arsenal products to check out their site via clicking their banner. CanadianGunners has no commercial or business affiliation with them, but Subside is currently ranked #1 on our “Shopping for Arsenal” guide with good reason.
Sizing – Order as usual
Puma’s kits have a reputation of being tight – not just trim, but extremely fitted. This led to a lot of concern from Arsenal fans about the fitment of the replica shirts. The key is to realize what you see on the field is not the same as the replicas sold in stores. The ones on the field are specifically designed for players to be extremely form-fitting, in order to reduce shirt-pulling and wind resistance. The retail releases, fortunately for most of us with non-athletic figures, are regular fitting much like the Nike ones of old. My conclusion on sizing? Order your usual size.
I bit the bullet and “modeled” our kit to get a fair side-by-side comparison of the two fitments. At 5’8, 155lbs, with a very average Canadian build (give or take being a bit chubby on the tummy as any pint-loving football fan may be), I always wear a size Small. I’ve also chosen to wear a fitted undershirt, which fills out the size just a touch more. My chest measurement is about 36-38″ FYI.
As you can see, the fitment is very much like last season’s Nike kit. The torso of the kit is trim, but not fitted nor tight, and is comfortable around both the chest and the stomach. The Puma kit fits very similarly in the body, though I find it the sliiiightest bit tighter in the stomach than the Nike – really though, it’s a negligible difference. However, one issue should be blazingly clear…
The Neck – A major stumbling point
This is far-and-away the worst part about this kit. The neck-hole is FAR too wide. As you can see by my undershirt, it leaves a ton of your neck exposed – you would have to have outrageously sized trapezoid muscles to have this fit properly. Frankly, it looks ridiculous with or without an undershirt. Even worse, the materials are of the variety that stretch easily – the neck-hole will get even wider if you leave it hanging on a coat-hanger (hint: don’t do this!). To be honest, the neck ruins this kit for me and I’m not the first to conclude that either. To give you a sense of scale on the silliness of the neck, I had my friend (who wears a size L comfortably) try on the small – the size S neck fit him properly. He has tried on a Medium and even that neck was too big on him – plus the rest of the M didn’t fit him at all.
Materials – Not my favorite
Along with the neck, I’m not overly fond of the materials on this kit either. I would gauge the materials on the “thin” side by kit standards. It’s about as ‘heavy’ as the Nike one from last year, and though the DryCell technology ensures breathability on the pitch, the material composition and fabric weave leave much to be desired. As mentioned earlier, it is very “elasticy” making it stretch-prone; it’s reminiscent of Nike’s 2005-2006 away shirt. That one originally had a neck-hole I found to be “too tight” – after a few months on my hanger in the closet, the neck stretched significantly to the point where I was uncomfortable with its looseness (and subsequently took it off the hanger). Based on the materials, I anticipate this year’s Puma one will stretch easily over time, meaning the neck could get even bigger.
The material and the weave are the type that easily ‘bobble’ or pile. These unsightly little clusters of fabric (usually caused by moisture) require a little maintenance (plucking) to keep under control, which is not something I want to bother with on a sports jersey. As well, the material is easily caught on objects – after only a few wears, you may notice that you’ve inadvertently scarred your kit.
There’s not really much you can do when this occurs and it’s a shame the new kit is susceptible to it. One of the T-Dot Gooners gents, Duane, had this happen to him after only one day of wearing the kit whilst on the NYC trip – leaving him very unimpressed.
Lastly, I have added concerns about how the PU printing – league patches and lettering – will adhere to this material. I have a corner of the EPL badge on my left shoulder peeling off the kit, and I’ve yet to wear it to a practice or put it through the wash. Subside (who did the heatpressing of the badge) is typically brilliant for quality in this regard, leaving me to wonder if the material doesn’t take well to the PU printing. I have reached out to Subside to discuss and will update this article appropriately. [If you’re expecting the felt-style SensCilia printing, please note it’s sadly no longer used as of 2013-2014 – more on that here]
The Crest – Backwards, not Forwards
This year’s Arsenal badge is a step backwards in both quality and appearance. Nike’s badges were always fully embroidered, and very well at that. Unfortunately, Puma has gone for a much cheaper option with this shiny, almost sticker-like badge that features no embroidery at all. It catches the light easily and has a bit of a glimmer to it, making it look a bit tacky IMO. Without the embroidery the kit comes off as more ‘mass produced’ than ‘hand-crafted’, and though I know either kit came straight from a machine-filled factory, it makes the price of an official kit that much harder to swallow when you lose these subtle high-quality details.
(Away Kit) Styling – Everything but the red, please
I’ve heard some mixed opinions from fans about the look of the away kit, but I rather like the styling. Puma deserves credit for sticking with a good thing and not moving away from the yellow away kit. Yellow is the classic Arsenal away look and I take issue with the club when they don’t stick to that theme. The navy on this year’s is a deep, bold shade that plays off the yellow very well. It doesn’t have the same pleasant vintage look as the light-blue on the Nike, but does look very cutting – sharp, modern and aggressive. I enjoy how the sleeves’ navy carries to the collar of the neck too.
However, I really dislike the red on this kit. The tomato-shade red of ‘Fly Emirates’ on the yellow field looks very childish to me: the word that comes to mind is “McDonalds”. Further, because AFC has gone with the red name/numbering on the kit (as they did in 08-09) it has that same coloring problem from the back. If Arsenal had gone with a navy sponsor text, and used navy coloring on the back, it would admittedly be a flatter, more muted look but I also think it would look better overall. Some fans have spoken about preferring the yellow training kit to the away kit; the training kit opts for more of a two-tone navy/yellow combo, with little-to-no red, which I’d hypothesize is the reason they’re drawn to it.
Long Sleeves – Still too long for me
I’d make an awful boxer, because my reach is short for my height. I opted for a long-sleeve kit last year on a whim, and decided to order another one this year so that I could compare the two shirts more accurately. In the size Small, both are noticeably too long for my stature. I have to roll the sleeves up on either – affectionately I call it ‘Theo Walcott Style’ – but I find the elasticy Puma ones unfurl back down my wrist more often. If you are about 5’9 or 5’10, with a narrow figure, the small L/S kit is probably right up your alley. If you are a little bit more barrel-chested or stocky, only around 5’7 to 5’8, and/or have a shorter reach, the kit will probably fit well on your chest but you should definitely opt for the S/S configuration.
There was a TON of hype for this kit upon its release. Buoyed by the FA Cup win and the prospect of a proper title challenge in the next season, coupled with the later addition of Alexis Sanchez, Puma had a ton of momentum to seize upon. Unfortunately, the official kits (or at least the away kits, specifically) have been a bit of a let down. The material quality isn’t great, the styling cues are average, the crest is disappointing, and the neck makes it borderline unwearable. But despite my objections there are redeeming qualities here, specifically the nice interplay between the yellow and navy, and there’s enough “right” with the kit to make me believe Puma can improve going forward. Let’s just hope the very social @pumafootball account takes notice and uses the feedback to make an even better product next season. The company has stated there will be three new kits every season, so they’ve got plenty of chances to do better. In the meantime, you might want to skip this season’s kit for your collection.
Final words: Order your usual size. Opt for short sleeves if in doubt. Last year’s Nike offering was a much better kit.
Comments, concerns, agree or disagree? Get at us, @CanadianGunners.
This review reflects the opinion and insight of Barriecuda and does not reflect those of Subside Sports, Arsenal PLC, T-Dot Gooners, Puma, or the other authors of CanadianGunners.ca