The Boot Room caught up with our creative manager Peter Burt to talk about the new home and away kit
As the new season approaches, fans often find themselves overcome with trepidation at the prospect of another year in the emotional mangle. Immense highs, painful lows and the perpetual ebb and flow in-between.
But if there’s one constant of a new season, it’s the giddy excitement that fans feel towards the prospect of a new kit. No matter the post on Twitter, from training news to a new signing, expect ‘announce new kit’ under each one. A kit release can turn the most hardened fan into an excited child again.
Then the kit comes around and opinions are divided. Some like it and, inevitably, others don’t. This isn’t a Hibs thing, it’s a football thing. What is a Hibs thing, though, was the almost unanimous praise from fans that this year’s releases received - a rarity in the divisive world of football fandom.
With new manufacturer Joma on board - a Spanish sportswear brand that makes kits for Villareal and Atalanta, amongst others - Hibs and their amigos were eager to hit the ground running. Joma’s entry in the Euro 2020 tournament with Ukraine’s kit got plenty of publicity, whilst their new partnership with Norwich City already has fans drooling over their range of training gear, all by the way of a cult entry into goalkeeper shirts with Swansea’s latest, evocative of classic Romanian colourways.
Opting for two very distinct approaches at Hibs, a contemporary style with the home featuring a map of Edinburgh with the crest covering Easter Road and then a very tasteful retro approach with the pinstripe away, these shirts are the work of the club’s creative manager Peter Burt, whose tireless efforts in collaborating with Joma have firmly placed these two shirts into contention for the best of the last two decades.
Burt’s background is in architecture, for which he received an MA from the University of Edinburgh and possibly gives us a clue to the geographically inclined nature of the home shirt, where Edinburgh’s streets are plotted out in detail, with contrasting curvilinear and gridiron street patterns giving the shirt a texture that’s bolstered by the gentle gradient from an Emerald to the darker bottle-coloured greet at the bottom.
“We had our first meetings with the team at Joma and I presented some of my initial ideas to them to see what was possible," says Burt. "The nature of our deal with Joma means we have a reasonable degree of flexibility in creating something bespoke, so it was a good opportunity to test their capabilities and see what was manageable. They were very receptive to the ideas and from initial concept to final product the base design changed very little.”
Having fostered an eye for detail in his own process of moving from architecture to design, something he was far more passionate about, Burt wanted to make sure that all of the subtleties of the kit worked in harmony, things easily overlooked individually, but that contribute collectively to the presence of the kit.
Being a football fan himself, Burt is no stranger to the divide that seems to rear its head year after year during the summer of new kit releases - that of brand and fan and a never-ending sense of disconnect between the two. Each hold different visions and desires which, unfortunately, are too often settled upon with a compromise where neither truly shines through. Concept kits found on online design platforms like Behance seem to hit the mark more often than the official release, a chasm that Burt was very conscious of bridging.
Firmly embedded in this online sphere, his goals were clear: “I think, first and foremost, it’s important to understand what the fans like, being engaged with the fanbase and paying attention to what they want to see in a football shirt.” he says. “I’ve formed my own opinions of what makes a ‘good’ shirt design. Design is subjective, but you can learn a lot by reading and appreciating other people’s point of view.”
Both kits were created together, with contrast as well as synergy in mind. Hibs have come off the back of a successful season, on and off the pitch, that the club are hoping to build on. This is a process of growth that must manifest in all actions of the club.
“In the instance of this season’s kits, the home one is heavily influenced by what we are trying to achieve as a club and the vision that Ron Gordon has for us as a brand in the city," explains Burt. "When you are aiming as high as we are, where possible it’s important to channel the same message and feeling through any design or marketing campaign, so we wanted the kit to be a statement of that ambition.” Burt told me about the creative choices made for the shirts.
Focussing on the away release, Burt, club and company drew their influence from the past and wore it on their sleeve - in both the shirts and the advertising campaign that came with it.
“The away kit was inspired by shirts of the 80s and 90s, styles that are incredibly popular at the moment. Anyone who knows the retro shirt market knows that the value and appreciation for kits of that era are as high as they have ever been.
"The ambition was two-fold - create a kit that currently has the appeal to that market due to its style and design influence, but also to come up with a design that is unique in the history of the club, in the hope that it becomes a modern classic.”
When you are aiming as high as we are, where possible it’s important to channel the same message and feeling through any design or marketing campaign, so we wanted the kit to be a statement of that ambition
Although the shirts take up the majority of the headlines, there is work going on behind-the-scenes that’s just as important in establishing where Hibs want to position themselves for the future. A degree of cohesion and uniformity has been established throughout the communications of the club, a standard increasingly expected in professional football where club’s are increasingly engaging with fans and are, therefore, granted newfound opportunities to grow and improve in-keeping with their aspirations.
Burt has had a lot to do with this too, graduating from his role in digital development to his current more all-encompassing title. The success story of Hibernian was the 2016 Scottish Cup Final victory. Coinciding with the cup run and subsequent win was the ‘Persevere’ campaign that integrated the history of Leith and the club, giving fans an organic and honest flag to stand beside. Hashtags, t-shirts and digital campaigns helped build this narrative into something truly memorable and is a source of great inspiration to the club moving forward who aim to tell these ‘stories’ in new contexts that explore the club’s history and sociology in greater detail.
One key area for this development, and one where Burt was able to play an integral role, is that of Easter Road stadium itself. Walkout tunnels are a sacred place of ritual. Either slapping hands off of the overhead crest before walking out, or a place where captain’s steady their side with infectious resolve. For a club to be truly effective, the whole environment must contribute to the one particular ethos and vision. Being the last thing players see before stepping out onto the field, the tunnel is a space that Burt sought to revitalise to create “an elite sporting environment for both players and spectators.”
This feeds into the collective consciousness of the club, for players and fans. With the same attention given to the minutiae of detail on the shirts, Burt has turned his attention to often overlooked aspects of the matchday experience for fans, “Currently I’m working on the re-branding of the kiosks for the forthcoming season. There has been a lot of work put in to improve the matchday food and beverage options for fans and we are complimenting that with a new catering brand that we are rolling out across all of the stadium kiosks.”
All of these decisions are feeding into one thing: an idea of what it means to be Edinburgh’s premier football team. This isn’t just as a contrast to rival sides, but a challenge to the club itself, to integrate Hibernian’s rich history with that of its surrounding area to fully realise the potential of both. One wouldn’t exist without the other and, for a long time, this is a stone that nobody thought worth turning over. With the hugely popular new shirts, improved tunnel for walkouts and an enhanced experience for fans, Burt and his team are viewing Hibs holistically, building towards something greater, piece-by-piece.
By Edd Norval