Today marks the 5-year anniversary since the announcement of Nike’s Vapor technology, we take a deep dive into this three-part series behind the technology, and how it has evolved over time.
In part one; we look at the announcement from Nike, Euro 2016’s shirts, and the initial reaction from fans. We also look at how the first club season painted a different style of shirt for printed designs, and finally the development into the Aeroswift Generation 2 in the 2017-18 season.
16 March 2016, Nike presented to the world the new age of football kits, given the term Vapor Kit with Aeroswift technology, the look of the kit gave a futuristic superhero aesthetic whilst ensuring maximum breathability and fit. The shirt was to be 10% lighter and gave 50% more stretch than the most recent previous shirts for its elite level of football clubs and federations. After 2 years of research and development, Nike accelerated a future-forward look with a system built for speed. “We were focused on the right fit, not a tight fit,” explains Martin Lotti, Nike’s Creative Director. “It was important to reduce grab areas ensuring the garment did not ride up, Player feedback during testing on this fit has been phenomenal.”
The construction of the shirt uses many of the same ideologies from their famous footwear technology, the Nike Flyknit, where the shirt comprises of both single and double knit to ensure breathability and structure for maximum performance. The knitting needs to be precise so as to allow for ventilation where needed. Previously, Nike’s shirt ventilation, provided by laser-cut holes postproduction, which was seen as inefficient, this new method created the breathability right into the garment without comprising the shirt’s structure or requiring post-production work.
The final testing phase in which saw elements of the technology included in PSG’s 2015-16 Third “Dark Light” kit really saw the complete confidence in which Nike had in the new Vapor yarn and knitwork.
The shorts and socks also received a complete workover with the shorts using the same yarn as the shirts. “Of all the player feedback we received, they were most excited with the shorts. It is drastically more comfortable than anything they have experienced.” The new Vapor shorts features a mesh yoke and flat finish waistband, removing the need for a drawstring. It was a complete game-changer in this area.
The Kit Launch:
Twenty-four hours later and the big five of Nike’s federation teams between the Americas and Europe had released their kits for their confederation championships, one thing stood out. While the new Vapor template was all about performance and all the odes to national pride were included as minor elements of the shirt, the minimalist, clean look was not in vogue with kit collectors and fans, as kit commentator and content creator Phil Delves explains:
“For many kit fans, Euro 2016 was the final nail in the coffin for Nike. The 10 years prior to the tournament had seen the brand double down on the template approach, with many people in the community seeing Nike as a symbol for everything that was wrong with the shirt industry at the time. What was damning about 2016 in particular was the fact that, in some cases, we didn’t even have the solace of bespoke colourways; something which had helped mitigate the ‘problem’ of templates in previous tournaments. A prime example was England’s away shirt, a design virtually identical to PSG’s away shirt at first glance.
The rigidness of the 2016 Nike template was further showcased by the brand’s insistence to include secondary colours (on the shoulder/sleeve portion of the shirt) even when they didn’t need to be there, with the light blue sleeves of England’s infamous home shirt at the time being one of the worst affected. All in all it was a dark time for Nike and the wider shirt industry, though looking back the nadir would only last a matter of months before the revival of recent seasons.”
What was to come next was also for football kit design, with UEFA banning the popular French away kit for its contrasting colours on the shoulder panel of the shirt without it followed through on the split design throughout.
Nike scrambled to amend the white kit with the new shirt containing washed-out versions of the red and blue sleeves, for which without a close-up shot, you could not tell. The special extra kit debuted against Switzerland in the group stage of the tournament, which would be the shirt’s only showing in the competition. The USA away shirt, however with the very same shoulder paneling with a black primary had no such issues with CONMEBEOL and participated in the Copa America Centenario tournament without a fuss, wearing it against Costa Rica.
2016-17 Season Launches
Before the National tournaments of the summer had even kicked off, two of Nike’s Elite clubs had announced their new home shirts for the upcoming 2016-17 Season. PSG and Barcelona launched their kits in May, in what would appear for the majority a straightforward release using the same Aeroswift Vapor template that the international kits that had recently released before them only two months earlier.
One thing that was not missed to the trained eye was that the newer sublimated kits, whilst structurally the same, did not include the newly designed ventilation sections on the front and rear panels. It appeared at that time that the sublimation process was not conducive to the Vapor ventilation knitwork and would remain that way for Nike’s third kit releases also.
All of Nike’s elite teams otherwise received a home or an away that was plain and pre-dyed to meet the technology that Nike had so promised and delivered.
2017-18 – Minor changes and improvements
During the 2016-17 period Nike had been working hard, ensuring perfection for sublimation for the second generation of the Aeroswift technology. Late May arrived and Barcelona launched their home shirt with exactly that. The engineered knit zones had also expanded to include ventilation on the front of the sleeves, whilst the elasticated side tabs were no longer the full length of the shirt. Paris on the other hand received a hybrid double knit to create a fusion of blue and red together on the shoulders to add to a bespoke look.
This season saw Chelsea and Tottenham join Nike’s stable, however as per most occasions when clubs change suppliers, both clubs were given relatively safe options to introduce them to Nike’s technology.
Nike’s elite clubs who received third shirts for the season introduced a geometric pattern dazzle camo throughout the shirt. What was significantly different in these shirts was how the ventilated “knit zones” were incorporated into the design to give such a geometric effect.
This would be the last season that the Aeroswift moniker was seen on the shirt, as the technology was again redesigned prior to the 2018 FIFA World cup with Vaporknit to be labeled on the shirts.
In Part 2, we will dive into the transition into the Vaporknit age, the FIFA World Cup 2018, and the retro-inspired Nike third kits of 2019-20.
Images thanks to Footyheadlines.com, Tim Morley @ The Football House AU.
Information sources: Nike News, Museum of Jerseys, Phil Delves.
Author: Rik FSC