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What does this New York City shirt mean?

A club's shirt can have many meanings. So what does New York City FC's shirt mean?

The inaugural NYCFC home kit in sky blue | Courtesy

Earlier today, New York City FC took the wraps off the club’s inaugural home jersey at a glitzy event inside Manhattan’s Terminal 5. The shirt was modeled by NYC star striker David Villa, accompanied by a plethora of cute elementary school kids and one gigantic jersey. Seriously, not even kidding:

New York City FC shirt reveal

The jersey itself looks good in real life (as opposed to a render, or floating eerily in cyberspace):

NYCFC home jersey mockup

In talking to people at the event, though, the sentiment was fairly mixed. Those feelings were only amplified online — whether that was Twitter, Facebook, reddit, even the independent online bulletin board NYCFCForums.

That’s why we had a supporter put down his take on what this all meant to him (read it; it’s good). By the way, if you’re a reader who likes the shirt and thinks it’s awesome, drop us a line: We’re happy to let both sides speak on this; it’s only fair.

But the question remains: what does a club’s shirt mean?

Obviously, one can get very, well, philosophical about this. After all, it’s a piece of clothing. A garment, worn to distinguish one set of 11 players from another set of 11 players. It holds only that meaning which we give it. It isn’t intrinsic to the shirt.

That shirt serves symbolic purpose. Besides the badge, it’s the most public emblem of a sports team. It’s why shirt unveilings, and the leaks that precede them, get so much attention. That’s why people spend so much time designing imaginary jerseys for their club. Some of these are quite good, indeed.

We’ve all heard and read the critiques. It’s bland; boring; utterly derivative of Manchester City. Personally, I’d go with conservative and staid.

It’s the shirt that so many people expected, despite wanting something bolder. That doesn’t make it a bad shirt. When you’re introducing yourself to the world, there’s a lot to be said for being conservative and sober-sided.

Yet, as Chris wrote in his post, that yearning still remains; that desire for a shirt that truly reflects the wild wonder of New York City. In every age, there’s one city that’s universally regarded as the world’s city. Once, that was Athens; then Rome. In time, Paris and London took their turn on the world’s stage.

Now, it’s New York City. Is a shirt like this emblematic of New York City? Are conservative, staid, unadventurous, and prim words that one would associate with New York City?

I’m not the only one asking those questions. All kinds of fans expressed anger, disappointment, and frustration once the jersey was revealed. “IBPants”, who designed one of the mockups we featured, had this to say on reddit:

“It’s a question worth asking. It’s disappointing that literally no steps were taken to differentiate the kit from Manchester City. As I said in /r/MLS this looks more like a traditional Man City kit than the current Man City kit.”

But he went on to say: “I’ve never really felt like colours define a club – the fans do that. Since the club’s inception I’ve seen the growth of a spirited community of people with strong opinions, many of whom do feel that colours define a club. I fully expect those people will make sure that they aren’t ignored.”

I’ve spent most of the day thinking about this, as I wrote and edited other articles. I went one way, then the other. And then back again. Over and over, as I composed this in my head.

The truth is: this is what I expected would be the shirt. And it’s not just because New York City is owned by the same people who own Manchester City. It’s also because this is a new team, and adidas tends to give new MLS teams template shirts, which is what this is. If there’s any daring, any original, New York City-specific design for the club’s jerseys, you’ll likely see it in the away shirt.

(Speaking of the away shirts: New York City CEO Tim Pernetti was asked about them. His response? Beyond saying that it would be revealed later, he said that they are “nothing short of fantastic” and that “it’s really going to connect with New York sports fans.” QED)

My hunch is that, for as much disappointment and despair you might be reading online, it’s the kind of emotion that will swiftly turn into elation if the away shirt really is emblematic of New York, as Pernetti claims they are.

That disappointment comes from an authentic place, though. If New York City FC is really serious about being a top-rank soccer team — and, whatever you may think of the home jersey aside, we have no reason to think they’re not — they’ll be paying close attention to what the team’s supporters are saying and feeling.

The passion of New York fans is so hard to earn; it really would be a shame if it were needlessly squandered by a thousand needless nicks like these.

As journalists, we have a duty to make sure these voices are heard, and those feelings are fairly reflected. Without fans, soccer is nothing.