The Columbus Crew has had a number of monikers in the team’s 25 years of existence, but the one most familiar for its supporters and around Major League Soccer is the “Black & Gold.” In 2021, that nickname will remain but the “gold” will be less prevalent when the team takes the field.
On Tuesday morning, the Crew debuted its new “Inaugural Stadium” kit, which will serve as a complement to the black uniform from 2020 that carries over to this year. Gone for 2021 is what has long been dubbed “the banana kit,” which was primarily gold and debuted in 2000. In its place is a new gray jersey with black and gold trim.
“The Crew will always be black and gold,” team co-owner and longtime team doctor Pete Edwards said at the unveiling from the team’s new downtown stadium. “I think being new, being innovative, celebrating the new stadium is what this jersey is about. We have a history of doing special event jerseys and this is a great one.”
While there will be no full gold kit as in years past, the grey jersey will be paired with gold shorts and gold socks. The Black & Gold can also wear white shorts and white socks, potentially, in CONCACAF Champions League or U.S. Open Cup play for different looks.
The team’s new look does pay homage to the $300 million stadium that was announced after Edwards, along with Dee and Jimmy Haslam, took over as investor/operators of the Crew. Opening in early July, the sharp designs of the stadium’s roof and stands are represented on the jersey with a white pattern simulating the angles of these structures.
“Definitely a modern kit,” midfielder Darlington Nagbe said at the event. “I think the way it’s designed, how it represents the stadium, the lines that go across. The color is a little bit different but they did a great job still keeping the yellow, staying true to Columbus and the colors that represent the city. So overall a great kit and we’re looking forward to representing the team wearing this kit.”
In addition, both kits will feature the Black & Gold’s new jersey sponsor, Nationwide, which was announced last year. They will also have the commemorative silver MLS Cup championship sleeve patch, after winning the title last December, and a second star above the team’s crest. The “ColumbUS” logo and the state of Ohio transfer with a star signaling Columbus are also part of the jersey’s design.
While reactions were mixed on social media following the debut of the new kit, the team itself believes it, along with Adidas, has created something different and unique that fans will appreciate with time. Given the initial backlash following the “For Columbus” kits — one of the best-selling jerseys in team history — under the previous ownership group, they might be right.
“The formation of the jerseys is in collaboration with Adidas, but Adidas and the league allows the teams to drive the process,” president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko explained. “So you start with an idealization phase. There’s various CR1, CR2 where you talk about the framework, the beliefs that kind of ground the idea behind the jersey. So that first meeting you talk about, ‘Well, what we know for certain in 2021 is we’re going to have a beautiful stadium, $300 million stadium that’s built for this city to represent our fans that saved the team and our new ownership.’ So that was sort of the core of the idea for the jersey.”
The thinking behind the grey jersey was that it allowed for something different that fans could wear not just at games, but around Columbus while still carrying the team’s core black and gold colors scheme with the trim as well as in the shorts and socks.
“We felt like, unlike some of the jerseys of the past, our solid yellow, which are great, beautiful jerseys, we want something that’s wearable, something that’s a little bit different in terms of the color pallet and then obviously the designs, it’s really cool,” Bezbatchenko continued. “It’s something that you can wear in the streets that’s maybe a little different than the canary yellows, which are great as well. But it’s about the future. It’s where we’re going in terms of taking more risks and not apologizing for what we want to be.”
The new kit is a change but not a complete deviation from what the Crew represents. The Black & Gold wore grey in the past — during the run to the 2002 U.S. Open Cup championship, the team’s first ever title — and have worn grey training tops the last several years.
This new jersey is here for the next two seasons, but there are jersey changes every year. Like teams around the world, the Crew will continue to be true to who it is, but also look to be innovative and exciting with its look.
“As Dr. Pete said and Steve (Lyons) and I talk about quite a bit, we’re still black and gold. Some day the banana kit will come back,” Bezbatchenko said.
“We’re going to respect the past, respect our roots obviously. But with the championship from last year, we want to push our roster forward, we want to push our business, our ties to the community and I think the way that we look is important in terms of being outwardly facing reflecting that attitude.”