To Buy or not to Buy (That is the Question)

To Buy or not to Buy (That is the Question)

It seems that preparations for next season are already well under way in the Barça camp. First it was a new manager, then came the transfer window wishlist and now, before the current season has even been set out to dry, comes the revelation of what the team will be wearing next term – that’s to say the new kits have arrived folks!

And there’s little old me without either of our (apparently not so) current kit offerings in my collection. How do I have the nerve to call myself a Barça fan, really!? Shucks. I guess I should be ashamed of myself?

To be fair I would almost certainly have added to my not insubstantial Barça kit collection this season if it had not been for a few rather timely issues that pricked my conscious and prevented me from doing so, prime amongst them being the small matter of the shirt sponsor. Not to drag up long dead skeletons but the Qatar Foundation deal has basically secured a ‘retro’ life for me from now on.

Add to that the shoddy way Unicef were treated throughout negotiations, and the fact that the fans were being shown such little respect and yet were still being asked to fork out a minor fortune to be part of the in crowd, and I couldn’t help but feel that the decision was taken out of my hands completely. I wouldn’t, no couldn’t buy this season’s strip.

Of course this was a hard decision to make. Like all fans the temptation to buy into ‘the new’ is always strong, but thankfully Nike helped me out on this front – by coming up with two kits that did absolutely nothing for me. The home jersey was nothing special, and the less said about the away one the better. I can only assume the designers were going for the ‘football fan at a funeral‘ look. Personally I always prefer Barça kits (as well as their actual play) full of colour and vibrancy, thus my money has stayed firmly in my wallet.

Well la-de-da for you Mr. holier than thou!” I hear you say but I must confess to having almost succumbed to my lesser urges these past few months. I tried to resist, repeating my ‘sponsorship is bad’ mantra at every turn, but still the force to consume was strong. I don’t know if it was the feeling of being on the outside, or the fact that I really wanted a jersey with Cesc’s name on the back, but either way I felt my resistance beginning to buckle. Thankfully Cesc’s form dipped just in time for me to remember all the reasons why ‘not’ to buy and so, thankfully, I have survived.

But, as a famous Italian-American once said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.” And so it all begins again with next season’s offerings now on display for our purchasing delight.

First off, it has to be said that the ‘new’ kits have been about as well guarded by the club as Zubi’s fondness for Brazillian centre-backs who play in Milan, with images of the strip appearing online since around X-mas. With that in mind most fans have had at least a couple of months to formulate an opinion on said kits, with many critics focusing on two crucial points. 1) The home strip’s blurred, merging of the blaugrana stripes. 2) The away strip’s rather trippy tie-dye effect.

So what to make of these two rather innovative, new arrivals to the Barça kit scene?

By now I’m sure most of you will have had ample time to have a look at the official images released by the club this Tuesday, with many of you already firmly placed in one camp or the other – that is ‘I love them’ or ‘I hate them’. Unfortunately I can’t seem to sit firmly on either side just yet, each new viewing forcing me to reconsider my feelings once again.

Admittedly part of this is due to Nike’s clever ‘eco-marketing’. Yes I know it’s cynical, and that to a large degree I am being manipulated by a huge corporation who is using Barça’s ideals to sell product, but when I read ‘Each set of shirt and shorts has been made using as many as thirteen recycled water bottles, a process that reduces energy consumption by 30% in comparison with traditionally produced polyester,’ I can’t help but be slightly impressed.

But should I be? Hard to tell without doing a bit more research into sustainable manufacturing techniques but my instinct says it’s good to know that the club, and the huge company behind the kit, are at least considering such issues. On this point I’d say the new kits get a begrudging tick in their favour. Not perfect by any means, but a positive step in the right direction to be sure.

As for the designs themselves, well, basically, I still can’t decide. When I first saw the mock-ups I was instantly turned off, with the home kit especially serving to frustrate me, so dark and ‘un-Barça‘ was it in its design (I mean, where are the stripes!). But having now spent some time studying the kits online I find myself strangely stuck, my instinct is saying no, but my head is working hard to convince me that it’s a yes. I just can’t decide.

The home jersey reminds me of something Spiderman would wear to go the gym (yes, I believe Peter Parker is a Barça fan, with the Incredible Hulk favouring Real Madrid!) whilst the away kits’ sunburst effect seems slightly too busy for my eye. And yet, there is something about both of them that intrigues me. I don’t know if it’s just because they’re better than this season’s rather dull offerings, or if it’s the intriguing modern technology that’s included within their design, but something is pushing me towards favouring them more than I’d really like to.

All I know for sure is that I’m going to need to see them up close and personal before I can properly, and finally, decide. Only then can I turn my conscience back on, put my money back in my wallet and walk out of the sports shop – no new Barça jersey under my arm. Because despite all the debate and intrigue, excitement and innovation, I just can’t bring myself to actually make that transaction anymore. In the past a new kit meant a black hole in my bank account. Now, it just means a black hole in my collection. And I’m afraid it is going to have to stay that way for some time, recycled water-bottles or not.

Still it’s great fun to talk about them right now, isn’t it?!

Image: fcbarcelona.cat