Recently we looked at the introduction of Nike’s Vaporknit technology, its use in Euro 2016, and throughout the 16-18 club seasons. In this article, we look at how the Vapor was redesigned for the 2018 World Cup, the expansion of sublimation, and the introduction of different panel structures through a retro-like 3rd shirt in 19/20.
Before going any further, if you haven’t read part 1, you can do so here.
Aeroswift -> Vaporknit
In December 2017, the first remnants of the Aeroswift template for the upcoming World Cup leaked. In what was predominantly a similar-looking shirt, however there were some major changes to the shoulder panel and sleeves, with a glitch knit pattern adding texture and ventilation to the design. The front and rear panels re-engineered to allow more breathability through an open-hole texture, whilst built-in ribs were included to reduce the shirt clinging. One of the noting features was the new heat transferred crest and applications, which were 64 percent lighter than previous versions.
From March 2018 onwards, the release of the World Cup kits had begun. Nike had 10 federations participating and of those, Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea were the only countries that missed the Vaporknit technology.
As far as design and kit community reception go, the boring same shape of every shirt was still there much to the bemusement of fans, even after 2 seasons of Nike pushing the technology.
Improvements in the fabrics and structure of the shirt meant few changes from what was previously a restriction in design. The glitch fabric pattern utilised for added ventilation on the sleeves were used to maximum effect as a contrasting colour, however Nike was smart enough to only use it sparingly, this spark contrast to the double-knit sleeves from the generation prior gave customisation a wider scope, if only for the single option of having it or not.
One element, which was a marked improvement, was a little more variety between the feds and clubs, the main one being bespoke prints were back. Nigeria’s home shirt seemingly broke the football shirt world with their release and it reinforced that prints were no longer off the table on their Vaporknit fabric.
Jay of Designfootball.com explains the niche improvements that renewed fans’ interest in Nike:
“The nominally 2018 edition of the Vapor shirt from Nike – now incorporating Fast Fit Vaporknit technology – represented aesthetic evolution of the principles but also, on the other side of that coin, the undermining of the hitherto understood ethos.
The new device was the soundwave-like yarn patterning on the sleeves, which could have been viewed as a corruption of rivals adidas’s iconic sleeve striping, and this was to be repeated on the front of Paris Saint-Germain’s 2018-19 Home shirt. It was, however, worn to greatest effect by PSG’s Kylian Mbappé in France’s victorious Russia 2018 World Cup campaign, where the youngster came of age and looked the dashing part in a light blue baselayer which merged with said motif.
This combination with an undergarment may not have adhered to the Vapor marketing script, but the constructional consistency had already been abandoned by different clients being provided – shock! – with shirts of differing neck types. France, for example, even had to carry the extra weight of a button detail, not that it seemed to do them much harm.
The fill of the kits was also in direct contrast to Vapor 1.0’s simplicity and often dual-colour obedience. The French, again, returned to a Tricolore-based blue shirt, white shorts and red socks as first choice – even experimenting with flag bothering via allocation of solid-hued anthem jackets – while the Elite Club Third kit range and, most famously, Nigeria’s one-for-the-ages Home shirt confirmed that Nike had surmounted any issues they previously faced combining sublimation with tech.”
The fascination of printed sublimation within Nike shirts reached near-peak levels with the release of the thirds of that season. With Nike’s premier club for design and innovation locked in with an exclusive relationship with Jordan for their third (and subsequent fourth) shirt, meant that the remaining elite clubs were able to present shirts that were outstandingly bold, but for Nike also showcased the next step in the evolution of their Vapor fabric.
The two-tone printed shirts to the untrained eye may have appeared as a standard sublimation, however on closer inspection, the contrasting colour printed on a pre-dyed fabric with vibrant and contrasting colour. The third shirts, with ideologies around the cities the club represent, consisted of design incorporated or aerial map views of the city’s major landmark or just the city itself. The shirt received it’s peak exposure during the Champion’s League Semi-Final where Tottenham Hotspurs wore in their famous away comeback against a fancied all-conquering, youthful Ajax team.
2019 also so the introduction of the Vapor shirts in women’s football, with US WNSL favourite Portland Thorns introducing their delightful home and away shirts in Vapor for the first time. This would precede Nike representing 14 teams in the Women’s World Cup, Nike’s elite federations were provided with Vapor kits as part of their push to promote women’s sport at an even keel to their male counterparts.
With the 2019-20 club season proper coming soon after the Women’s World Cup, elite clubs were releasing their shirts thick and fast. As far as could be shown, only small changes in variation to the collar were added to the panel of options for the home chassis. A taping to create more of a V-Neck or at the rear to round off the rear of the neck. Barcelona proved to the exception to the rule for the home, with the Senyera as a neck detail to square of the front of the collar, Chelsea brought a little more to the table, the first instance of a polo-collar seen since before the Aeroswift era.
What Nike had been hiding up its sleeve was a mastery of art to an ode to a retrospective era in which had kit enthusiasts screaming “shut up and take my money!” The third kits, 90’s inspired contained Nike’s Futura logo, detailed matte/shine jacquard fabric with the club’s name or logo and collars were more reminiscent of Drake Ramberg’s famous work from 1992-95. Roma, unfortunately fell foul of UEFA’s kit regulations due to multiple logos on the kit. The “ASR” logo was removed for its match vs Wolfsburg.
In Part 3, we will look into Nike “ditching the templates” with it’s 65 chassis options, the reception of the overhaul of Vapor Gen 3, bespoke ventilation and the future of Vapor going forward.
Information sources: Nike News, Footy Headlines, Museum of Jerseys.
Images thanks to: Footyheadlines.com, Soccerbox.com, Joe Williams @ Subside Sports
Author: RiK FSC