By Les Motherby
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The sense of loss felt at the end of Hull City’s Umbro deal, which resulted in some of the finest kits in the club’s polyester pantheon, was tempered slightly by the excitement of going with a brand we’ve never had before. Not just any brand either, but a brand with an impressive backstory when it comes to football kits, a brand known around the world.
Sure, for some people Kappa conjures up images of 90s Chav culture, as memorably satirised by the character of Vicky Pollard in an ill-fitting pink track jacket, but focusing on that ignores the Italian firm’s body of work, which takes in outfitting the United States track and field athletes at the 1984 Olympic games, which possibly inspired B-boys to don Kappa gear when breakdancing or rapping.
More importantly, Kappa kits have clothed some of the greatest players, coaches and teams in football history…think of Zinedine Zidane at Juventus, Ronaldo (not that one) and Bobby Robson at Barcelona, Totti and Batistuta at Roma, and bringing it back to Hull City, Theo Whitmore and Ian Goodison for Jamaica at France 98 (who would go on to swap playing Japan for facing Halifax and Rochdale in English football’s nether regions for the Tigers). A rich heritage then, lies behind the ‘Omini’ logo of a man and woman leaning against each another in silhouette.
There was a certain inevitability to Hull City going with Kappa, given that Tigers owner since 2022 Acun Ilıcalı, a man often labelled “the Turkish Simon Cowell” (which is unfair because he’s never been pictured wearing the waistband of his trousers above his navel), owns the Kappa licence in Türkiye. Presumably his latest football acquisition, Shelbourne of Dublin, will also swap Umbro for Kappa at some point.
Just how Kappa Türkiye get away with being name-checked in Hull City’s social media posts when there is a UK Kappa licensee isn’t really known, one suspects the involvement of Kappa HQ, or their owners BasicNet, to smooth things out, but they’re keen to distinguish themselves from Kappa Europe (formerly Sport Finance), who hold the licenses for Kappa in the UK, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal.
The kit then, let’s focus on the new Hull City primary kit by Kappa (Turkiye)…
Officially unveiled online on June 3, the kit is a relatively simple affair. I’ve noticed that when a new brand takes over a club deal they often start with a basic, nay classic looking home kit to begin with, as if they feel they have to show they understand a club’s established aesthetic before they have the right to go experimental.
Fan opinion was unfavourable when in mid-June a leaked image of what appeared to be a junior player trying on the new stock appeared on Twitter, but then that is to be expected, a poorly lit and hastily snatched photograph is never going to make a shirt look good, and people subconsciously associate poor photography with a poor garment.
Reaction was much better when a slick drawing board/mood board graphic appeared on the club website and social media channels to announce the kit. It showed a mostly black, round neck shirt with raglan sleeves and three amber stripes of equal width. Sure, Hull City’s standard look is probably best described as an amber shirt with black stripes, and this shirt certainly has black as the base tone, but this definitely looks like a Hull City shirt, and that’s the first, most important target hit.
It also looks like a Kappa garment, a tailored looking fit and featuring more branding than is strictly necessary. Could you palette-swap this shirt and give it to another Kappa team? Yep, make that green and black and it’s a Serie A side Sassuolo shirt from any time between 2015-2020, make it blue and white and it’s a Deportivo de La Coruña of La Liga 2023-24 shirt.
Pleasingly the drawing board/mood board graphic showed what the shorts and socks look like. A bugbear of mine in recent years is kit launches really just being shirt launches, and shorts and socks not being seen until a kit’s first use in a match.
The amber used is slightly darker than we’ve been accustomed to in recent years, 15-1153 (termed ‘Apricot’ on Pantone charts) as opposed to the usual 137C, but it’s not readily noticeable, and only known because it’s mentioned on the drawing board/mood board graphic!
Another pleasing element is the return of the definitive article on the back of neck appliqué. Under the divisive rule of the Allam family, ‘Tigers’ was applied as a sign-off, a residual effect of their abortive and unpopular attempt to rename the club ‘Hull Tigers’, but under new ownership we are ‘The Tigers’ again. A little thing, perhaps, but an indication that fan opinion and club heritage is respected these days.
There’s a vague sense that this kit is based on the 2006-07 primary kit, which also featured an Italian marque: Diadora. That kit had a lot of black on it, but the shirt had stripes on the back, whereas Kappa’s 2023-24 home shirt has an all-black back.
This irked some people, who noted that when Hull City gave the new kit a debut, in a friendly against Galatasaray played in İzmit, Türkiye (which incidentally, the Tigers won 4-3 having been 3-1 down at half time), players facing each other looked like they were wearing different shirt designs. That will be mitigated somewhat by bespoke amber numbers, which weren’t available for pre-season when standard white EFL numbers were used.
Most shirts sold in the club shop are a ‘regular fit’, distinct from the form fitting ‘Kombat’ shirts meant for the players, which will please anyone carrying more weight than they want clothes to advertise. Bigger shirts do have more amber stripes than the three seen on smaller sizes, so these shirts might fat-shame some people after all. Broadly speaking though, Kappa Türkiye have done a great job with Hull City’s first Kappa branded kit.
There is one fly in the ointment however. At the design stage, when whatever is being printed on a shirt is decided, be that simple stripes or hoops, or be it a complex geometric pattern, it’s important to factor in what that shirt will look like in a range of sizes. Prints need to be scaleable, so that two shirts put side by side look the same even if one is a child’s medium and the other is an adult XXXL.
That doesn’t seem to have been considered here, and comparatively children’s, women’s and men’s shirts have vastly different solid black areas flanking the amber stripes. A kid’s shirt can look like a knock-off when compared to an adult shirt, when they should look the same garment, with the Omini logo and club crest in relatively the same positions.
That won’t be an issue with the other shirts/kits, the away is believed to be all-amber (which offers some interesting interchangeability and explains why there is so much black on the home kit) and the third is all-blue, but it’s something that needs doing better the next time round. What you can draw on paper or on screen doesn’t always translate to a garment with multiple panels stitched together.
Regardless, this is a great looking kit, and the Hull City x Kappa era is off to a good start.