Jersey Design: What's Right for You?

In the '70s and '80s, you could identify a club easily by their jersey. Designs were usually limited to two colors—perhaps a stripe—and a couple of words since manufacturers were limited in what they could produce.

When dye sublimation came along in the late '80s, there was no longer a limit on what you could design into a kit. And the sponsors went wild. The entire kit became a blank canvas for a new art movement. Pro teams such as La Vie Claire, Castorama and Carrera took it to the extreme.

Soon, every team and club had redesigned their kits to look like a cross between superheroes and NASCAR with sponsors' logos plastered all over. 
In our rush to look professional, however, we can easily overlook the fact that we aren't professionals. We're amateurs.

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So when you're thinking about buying or making your own jersey for your club team, the "pro" model isn't what you should be aiming for.

Professional riders have sponsors of varying levels: title sponsors, presenting, supporting and contributing sponsors.

The title sponsor determines what the kit will look like and sub-sponsors scramble for the remaining real estate on the fabric. 
Pro riders will be photographed from every angle by an army of photographers and published in a variety of formats around the globe where fans will study every wrinkle and expression. 

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Amateur clubs, on the other hand, usually have their club name and a color scheme, and they'll be photographed by a smart phone from 50 feet away and posted on Facebook. Amateurs also have sponsors who help defray the cost of the sport, and taking care of those sponsors usually means providing publicity for them.

The obvious spot for publicity is to emblazon their name or logo on the jersey.

How to Design a Jersey

At a basic level, the idea of a jersey design is to make your team stand out from the other teams. It should be easy for you to identify your teammates in the field. For instance, when a breakaway forms off the front of your bike race, you need to make a quick assessment of who is in it (did your team make the break?) before the gap is too large to manage.

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Your jersey should be distinct enough for your non-cycling friends to find you in a field of 100 riders as you zoom past at 23 mph. If you invite a friend to watch you race, will they ever actually see you?

A mistake that is often made in designing kits is to unwittingly create a camouflage that makes us blend in and disappear. Too many colors, logos, and design elements tend to break up the solid colors that are easy to spot.

Another reason to give thought to how much your design is camouflaging you is found out on the open road where you spend 93 percent of your time training. Can motorists see you? Do you catch their eye? Or do you blend in with the surroundings?

The fact that you're sponsored by a local bike shop will mean nothing if you're invisible. Before you go crazy with a design template, consider how much your image will be photographed and reproduced versus how much you need the jersey to be seen by others.

You should play to the larger audience by keeping your design simple. The next time a breakaway goes up the road, your entire team will immediately see that you're in it.
 And if your team misses the breakaway, you'll begin your chase sooner.

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