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The changing face of Sunderland: There’s a new kit on the block!

Roker Report’s resident merch aficionado takes a look at the newly released Sunderland AFC change kit for the 2022-23 season - plus some other potential strip developments..

Over the years Sunderland have often rotated between blue, white and yellow coloured change kits. There has been the odd random one thrown in from time to time, a green or black maybe, but blue remains the most common in recent times and the latest strip, revealed on Friday night, has gone down a well-trodden path.

This is the second blue kit from Nike in three seasons, with the club’s official press release referring to it as being a ‘throwback colourway’ that uses the same palette as the design seen in 2002-03. Referred to back then as ‘baltic blue’, similar light shades have also been used in 2006-07 (Lonsdale), 2011-12 (Umbro) and 2017-18 (Adidas, also used as an occasional third kit in 2018-19).

The new colour isn’t a million miles off the one adopted in 2014-15 either (also Adidas), but it is obvious why Nike have chosen to draw parallels with one of their own previous looks.

Both that top and the new one feature round collar necks, although this time there is much more shoulder and sleeve detailing, and the shorts are blue and the socks white – it was usually the other way round 20 years ago.

Another change from 2002-03 sees the main sponsors logo, as with the accompanying home kit, being colour coded so that it matches the other trim.

Ross Stewart scores the first goal in Sunderland’s latest kit. Image from the Sunderland Echo

The initial response to the launch appears to be mixed, and as is often the case one or two traditionalists have railed against the decision to market this specifically as an away kit when in truth the Lads will still primarily being wearing red and white whilst on the road.

Over 4,000 fans took part in an official club Twitter poll that showed 60% preferred the latest home kit too, and whilst the change strip itself hasn’t been too widely panned many supporters are disappointed to see the club being given a template similar to the one being used by Portsmouth this season.

Many, it would seem, would prefer a smaller name brand to take over and start providing a more tailored service in future.

Feelings often change once the kit has been seen in person though, and the blue debut against Accrington Stanley prompted a few more positive comments.

Also on show for the first time was the all burgundy back up option for the goalkeepers, and that does appear to have gained more universal approval. Matching the smart, simple design already seen in pre-season, both this one and the original green version have gone down well so far.

Sunderland v AS Roma - Pre-Season Friendly
Anthony Patterson show off Sunderland’s new goalkeeper kit design
Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

The change strip is due to go on sale on Monday, at which point there will hopefully be a bit more information available. Details are still a bit vague at the moment, and that is a little frustrating for the kit connoisseurs, although if you go off Nike’s description from their catalogue the top would appear to use their patented Dri-FIT technology and includes a mesh back panel.

The 2022-23 home kit, which has apparently sold very well by the way, has also incorporated Dri-FIT materials and according to the blurb on the club’s online store is made with a minimum of 75% recycled fibres in an effort to reduce waste and carbon footprint.

On a personal note this was a very pleasing move and is something I would love to see more, hopefully starting with its change kit counterpart.

Another recent Nike development was the suggestion that they are considering bringing back longer lifespans for their football strips. This would be another positive development for my mind, coming at a time when economic and environmental concerns continue to impact society.

Football clubs and shirt manufacturers have long been accused of cashing in and perpetuating ‘throw away’ ideals, but the game still has to power to bring about changes in culture.

Is that a mesh back panel? Image from the Sunderland Echo

Of course, new kits are brought out because they will invariably sell well, particularly at Sunderland where it is suggested that sales steadfastly remain amongst the best in the country no matter what division the team is in.

Shifting high volumes not only brings the money in, but it also helps SAFC maintain an image in the wider game; neither are things they can afford to give up lightly, but some sort of halfway house perhaps, where, for argument's sake, the home kit is revamped every season and the change one is retained for a couple of years, could recognise both sides of the argument.

There are times when the change kit doesn’t get that many outings anyway, so keeping it in place longer may help supporters that buy it feel like they are getting a bit of value for money.

All of that is perhaps for another day. Right now, Sunderland do have two new strips, albeit both are modelled to an extent on previous favourites. The new blue has replaced what was a hugely popular yellow kit that by happy coincidence matched the colours of Ukraine which, when you saw it close up at that top there was some heavy sleeve patterning, and whilst the replacement’s elements are a bit more obvious it is still a pretty inoffensive effort.

I’m a fan of the new release, but as always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and there is a lot to be considered going forward with Sunderland’s look…

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