The Chicago Red Stars’ home opener on May 22 against NJ / NY Gotham FC was a first game for the home team.
It was not only the Red Stars’ first game at SeatGeek Stadium this season, but it also marked the debut of their new kit, the ‘Momentum’ kit.
True to the tradition of the two previous kits, the new design is once again inspired by the city. On the front of the black jersey, it prominently features an L train with the four Chicago six-point stars underneath.
On the train itself, the destination was “MKOT”, which stands for “My Kind of Town” and is the team’s hashtag on social media. The club said the new kit was “a reflection on the situation of this historic club and a bridge to where we are going.”
Julie Newkirk, the Red Stars graphic designer, was the person behind the design of the new home kit. It was a concept that had been brewing for a year.
Very excited to finally be able to show all my hard work. Presentation of the @chicagoredstars Home Kit 2021 – The Momentum kit.
Designed by me! 😭
– Julie Newkirk (@ Jujubean2726) May 23, 2021
The fan reception for the new home kit has been overwhelmingly positive, in line with the reaction to the two previous home kits.
“I recently went to a game and bought the black jersey,” said Red Stars fan Jesus Trejo. “Overall, I like it, but I could do without the cameo sleeves. White is a leading NWSL [National Women’s Soccer League] Jersey.”
Because of that reception, the Red Stars’ ability to come up with design that represents Chicago and uses the city as a focal point – a concept that has not gone unnoticed by fans.
“It definitely sets them apart from other league jerseys,” Trejo said. “I like the way everyone adopts something Chicago based, whether it’s the grid, the loop or the quarters, it’s a great touch.
Anthony Guagliardo, the former Red Stars graphic designer, was behind the creations of the “Elevated” 2019 jersey as well as the 2020 “Neighborhood” edition.
His and Newkirk’s jerseys were designed in-house, which worked to their advantage.
“There is a perspective that you don’t have when you go through an agency or Nike,” Guagliardo said. “They are very good at what they do, but someone based in another city would have a hard time creating a design that is truly ‘Chicago’.”
On his website, Guagliardo provides general information on the idea behind the design of the two jerseys. For the 2019 version, the first of the trilogy, he said the main aspect he wanted to incorporate was Chicago. It used the L design as well as the incorporation of the skyline. The shirt sold out within 24 hours of its release and topped the 2018 kit’s total sales in the month of its release.
The following season, he wanted to focus on Chicago’s roots. Using the pride of the people in their neighborhoods, he came up with the idea of using Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods to create the stripes of the city’s flag. It was another hit, as it sold out on the night of the release.
While creating a concept and design in-house has its advantages, there is also a lot more interaction during the creation process.
“The design process has been vigorous,” said Guagliardo. “There was a lot of back and forth with my boss and a lot of the front office. It started with the search for inspiration: finding kits that worked and were well received and pulling out their aspects of success to see how we can incorporate them into our design. Then from there, there was a lot of trial and error.
Identity is an important part of sports culture. One of the easiest ways to build that identity is to use the kit, or uniform, of the team you are supporting. Being able to incorporate Chicago into these uniforms is something unique that the Red Stars have been able to do over the years.
“I think the Red Stars, and the NWSL, have reached a high level lately in terms of logos, fame and jersey rollouts,” said Sergio Arroyo, Red Stars fan and former DePaul. “The league feels fresh and hip, and it has to live up to the old European teams.”
Even in a city like Chicago, which has franchises in all four of the big sports leagues, the Red Stars have managed to stand out. On their launch day, the Chicago Blackhawks helped promote the kit by having three of their players snap a few photos wearing the jersey.
With the success of each of the last three home shirts comes with added pressure as well – the pressure to fight. So far so good, but fans are already looking forward to what will be worn next season.
“I hope they will keep the white jersey consistent with only slight modifications,” Trejo said. “I expect the other jerseys to spin and maybe have a new sky blue design. I really hope they keep that Chicago theme apart from just having the flag on it to some extent.