18th May 2016.
With the summer’s 2016 European Championship tournament getting closer and closer, it’s time to start thinking about picking up a football kit or two to show support for your favorite national team. For teams that use Nike as a kit manufacturer, the American sportswear company has given fans a wider array of options to choose from with its latest batch of jersey releases. In addition to the obvious variations that are always there in the jersey market—home and away kits, jerseys and tees—Nike has also unveiled different kit varieties this year.
Nike’s Two Jersey Types
On one side of the conversation, we have the Nike Vapor Match shirts. On the other side, there are the Nike Stadium shirts. Viewed independently, these two kits could easily be taken to the be the “official” jerseys for their respective teams (or perhaps as similar designs of the same team’s jersey from different years). There are slight visual differences, but nothing as drastic as you would expect to see between a home kit and an away shirt.
So what’s the purpose of Nike unveiling two types of jerseys? What is the real difference between a Nike “Vapor Match” shirt and a Nike “Stadium” kit? Perhaps most importantly, which shirt should you spend your cold hard cash on this summer as you gear up for the Euro 2016 festivities?
The Nike Vapor Shirt vs. the Nike Stadium Shirt
Let’s dive right into the comparison between these two types of jerseys. The Vapor Match shirt is the new type of shirt that Nike is unveiling this year, so it’s probably best to start by explaining exactly what the Vapor Match jersey is and why it might be seen as superior to the Stadium shirt.
The Vapor Match jerseys are only available for Nike’s six biggest national teams—at least for now. Of those six teams, three of them will have a presence at Euro 2016 in June (England, Portugal, and the French host team). The other three either aren’t European teams (Brazil and the United States) or failed to qualify for the final European Championship tournament (the Netherlands). Bottom line, Vapor Match technology isn’t exactly going to be everywhere at Euro 2016.
Still, there’s a definite chance that the Vapor Match jersey could begin gaining prominence in the next year or so—not just in other Nike products, but also as an inspiration for Adidas and kit manufacturers. Ever since the 2014 World Cup, Nike has reportedly been working on developing a new jersey design technology. The Vapor Match kit is the fruit of that hard work.
So what exactly is the Vapor Match jersey, and why is it better than Nike’s past designs? According to Nike, Vapor Match kits cut 10% of the weight of standard Nike jerseys. They also allow for 50% more stretch, are 20% faster at wicking away sweat and moisture, and dry 25% more quickly.
The result is a shirt that is, theoretically, cooler, more breathable, and more comfortable than its predecessors. Nike says that they collaborated extensively with players to develop the new design of the Vapor Match jerseys. Players told Nike that they wanted a jersey that fit better, was more breathable, and offered a “superhero aesthetic,” according to the company’s Creative Director Martin Lotti. Since the shirts look as great as they presumably feel, it seems Nike has lived up to the expectations and suggestions of their players.
Nike is also making shorts and socks out of the same material that they used in their Vapor Match shirts, so the innovation should make for more comfortable uniforms from head to foot. Nike is obviously hoping that the extra comfort and breathability will be able to push players to stronger performances, so keep an eye on the French, English, and Portuguese teams to see how they perform when they don these kits at Euro 2016.
What about the Nike Stadium Shirt?
Okay, so Nike put a lot of time, effort, money, and collaboration into developing a brand new proprietary soccer jersey. With all of that effort and investment considered, why is Nike releasing another kit type at all this year—at least for those six flagship international teams? What purpose, exactly, does the Nike Stadium shirt pose?
The key point is that the Nike Vapor shirt will be the jersey that players from the Brazil, Portugal, France, Netherlands, United States, and England national teams wear when they take the pitch. It is a highly player-focused jersey developed for high-intensity sporting activity. It is, in short, an athletic shirt. The design and technology make the kit ideal for playing soccer (or running, or playing basketball, or going to the gym), but not necessarily ideal for cheering on your favorite team from the stands or watching a football match on TV.
The Stadium shirt, then, is Nike’s more consumer-minded product. If you’d prefer a football kit more along the lines of the shirts that Nike has always sold in the past, then the Stadium shirt is the right option for you.
These shirts contain very minor aesthetic differences from their Vapor Match counterparts. For instance, with the England away shirt, the red hues of the Stadium shirt are a bit darker than they are on the Vapor Match version. However, for the most part, the Stadium shirts are merely the more traditional versions of the same basic aesthetic jersey designs. Their material and weave are not quite on the premium level of the Vapor Match shirts, but the Stadium kits are still quality garments and will do the trick for most supporters.
A Note on Price
Another factor to consider when deciding between the Vapor Match jersey and the Stadium shirt for your favorite national team is the price. The premium sportswear design of the Vapor Match kits doesn’t exactly come cheap. On the contrary, according to Footy Headlines, Nike’s suggested retail price for the Vapor Match shirts is $150 (£100 or €140). For comparison’s sake, the suggested retail price for the Stadium soccer shirts is $90 (£60 or €85).
For most supporters, price will probably be the deciding factor. While it’s definitely cool to be wearing the same jersey that your favorite players are wearing down on the pitch, it’s also a significantly more expensive investment. Nike is only offering the Stadium variant as a standard option for supporters (e.g., a shirt that fans can wear in the stadium), so it makes sense that this less expensive model would end up being the preferred option for most football fans.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a market for the premium Nike Vapor Match shirts, though. There’s something intriguing about a shirt designed with a ton of player feedback taken into consideration. (That description of the shirt having a “superhero aesthetic” only adds more appeal.) If you’re the athletic type and want to rep your favorite national team during your next gym trip or road race, the comfort, breathability, and near-weightlessness of the Vapor Match shirt might match your wants and needs perfectly (not to mention its moisture-wicking capability).
Vapor Match Shirts: The Next Step in Football Uniform Evolution, or an Unnecessary Update?
At Soccer Box, we’re curious to read some of your thoughts on this matter. Do you think Nike’s state of the art Vapor Match shirt will have a noticeable impact on player and team performance at Euro 2016? Would you be interested in trying the shirt out for yourself, or in seeing Vapor Match variants for some of Nike’s major club football clients, like Manchester City or FC Barcelona? Will Adidas try to create their own version of the Vapor Match shirt?
Alternatively, do you feel like Nike’s new jersey design is an unnecessary twist on a formula that already works? As a supporter, are you perfectly okay wearing the standard “Stadium” version of your favorite team’s kit—even if it isn’t what the players are wearing on the pitch?