The polo style collar in soccer jerseys has been utilized less and less in recent years. When I got into soccer in the mid-’90s, it seemed like almost every other team’s jersey had one. Now, nearly twenty years later, I can only name Arsenal off the top of my head as the only major team whose jersey has a polo collar this season.
More glaring, however, is the fact that not one team at this year’s World Cup will wear a jersey with this collar. I ask myself then why such a classic soccer look has experienced such a steady decline?
I know part of the reason is simply performance. The big brands prioritize the input of their top athletes and it is no secret to anyone that some of these athletes have described the polo collar as bothersome. Another explanation also comes directly from the consumer these brands are now targeting. Marketing now specifically to a youthful consumer who prioritizes both the modern and the cool, the big brands seem to mistakenly think the polo collar no longer makes the cut.
This past week’s Nike Netherlands kit release may just be that happy accident which enlightens the big brands to use the polo collar more often. I first came across news of this kit release through Instagram and I remember being immediately drawn to the black polo collar which one of the models was sporting. Wrongly thinking the collar was part of the jersey as opposed to simply part of an undershirt Nike’s stylists had layered it with, I was taken back to memories of the 1998 Netherlands World Cup squad.
Though I was quick to realize my mistake, I couldn’t help but think how big of a missed opportunity this was for Nike. The Netherlands, unlike the majority of Nike’s national teams this year, has one of the most “templatey” looks of all. There are no visible unique decorative details to this kit specifically as Nike has banked on the iconic orange of the Netherlands to speak most vividly. While I do not necessarily find this design direction problematic, I do suspect that both Nike designers and executives of the Dutch Football Federation realize now how much more special the new Dutch kit could have been with the simple inclusion of this black collar.
Even though no one is beating Nike’s effort with the Nigeria home kit, I would have easily put the Dutch kit right behind it had it included this black collar. Considering the Netherlands will not participate in this year’s World Cup, a stellar kit might have been all the team needed to at least remain a topic of conversation amongst fans. I concede that the current kit is not exactly forgettable; its only problem is that it is simply just not memorable enough.
The funny thing is that despite its shortcomings, I still contemplate the idea of buying this kit. I have thought about wearing it in a similar way to the model or just making an alteration to the jersey in which a black collar is actually part of it. At the same time, I have gone on to think about the practicality of detachable collars in soccer jerseys. In the Dutch case, a detachable collar might be first and foremost a way to appease the more traditional fans. If seen, however, as a canvas for expression, the same medium can also satisfy the more creative leanings of its younger or newer consumers. In this way, a detachable collar should not be considered something that dilutes a brand, but rather enhances it.
For all these reasons, I am heavily pro polo collar. Make sure to let me know in the comments below where you stand on this issue and whether you see the polo collar making a comeback.