Behind the kit.

Last Friday, St. Pauli and Hummel hosted a launch event for this seasons new kit. The new kit was met with mixed reactions, with the home shirts rather plain and simplistic in the usual brown and white colours, but the 3rd kit (usually reserved for the DFB Pokal) and the Goalkeeper kits are certainly different. Like most kits, some fans will love the designs, and others will hate them. Many will also hate the price, which is something we should mention and link you to the magnificent post by FCSP Athens South End Scum for more information (see here). But we wanted to find out more about the designs, and who better to ask than one of the people behind them? We contacted Jason Lee, the Hummel designer behind the kits, to find out more.

New kits. Photo courtesy of St. Pauli official Facebook page.

New kits. Photo courtesy of St. Pauli official Facebook page.

1. Hello. Just as a bit of background information, please can you inform us of who you are and your background prior to being involved in the St. Pauli kit designs with Hummel?

My name is Jason and I’m an American living in Hamburg, Germany.  Many are surprised to find an American passionate about football and I have to say for my love of football, I credit my parents…my Father was an architect inspired by Bauhaus and all things German.  Growing up, I was surrounded by many German brands, one of which was Adidas.  Having played football, worn Adidas, and watched the French national team in their tricolor stripes, I was immediately enamoured.  My Mother joined the US Air Force, so for a time, we lived on a base, where everyday, I was influenced by soldiers in uniform.  It’s probably the combination of German culture and aesthetics and the military that has brought me to where I am today.  Prior to Hummel, I had worked at a number of other sport performance apparel companies, most notably for football’s sake, at Adidas for nearly 5 years, where I was responsible for football apparel design ranging from inline training wear to national and club kits.  

2. What remit were you given when designing the kits, and was there anything in particular that the club wanted to be taken into consideration during the designs?

Before designing the FC St. Pauli kits, we met with the club’s marketing department and were given a brief history of the club.  Having lived in Germany for 6 years prior, I had a fairly good understanding of what the club represents, but to speak one-on-one with the club gave me insights that the average football fan would probably not get.  To me, FCSP isn’t something that can be summed up in words….it’s more an emotion or emotions. Having been born to Korean parents who immigrated to America, almost by default, I feel I have a bond to what the club represents.

So having been given a brief history of the club, we were told two things…..home kit….brown, and Kiezhelden.  Kiezhelden seemed to be the perfect place from which to start the partnership, as Hummel is as well, very much involved with global social projects. “Change the world through sport” is Hummel’s motto, and it applies just as much to the activities surrounding FCSP.  Though these are St. Pauli kits, they need to also speak to the DNA of Hummel, and because we’re kindred spirits, we believe the kits represent both at the same time.

3. What were your main ideas throughout the kit designs, was there anything in particular that you wanted to include or focus on?

I look at kits as a celebration of the club, but also a celebration of the fans….after all, without the fans, there would be no St. Pauli or Hummel.  So that’s always first and foremost.  Secondly, as the theme was Kiezhelden, we wanted to honour those who make it their lifework to help others….this is the ultimate sacrifice and one deserving of recognition.  In a world of celebrity and selfies that has trickled into football as well, the idea was to celebrate the Helden(heroes) who do good anonymously, invisible, and taking no credit for their deeds.

To translate the idea into an actual kit, the Kiezhelden were represented as “Hidden Heroes” where all the details that celebrate the heroes could only be seen from a second glance.  On the home kit, the glow-in-the-dark Batmanesque Totenkopf hero signal with star pattern is printed on the back side of the collar, not seen from first inspection.  The idea to use the star as icon as well as placing the signal under the collar originates from one of FC St. Pauli’s core values of “Selbstironie.”  The star normally represents celebrity so we used it to ironically represent a Kiezheld.  And normally, an FCSP fan would not wear their shirt with the collar upright, so the idea was to again, create this sense of irony.

All 3 kits will have a QR code with a pixelated Totenkopf “hidden” within it.  The intention here was also ironic in that QR codes in and of themselves represent that which is very commercial or corporate, so to make it blatant may ruffle some feathers until one actually scans the code, which leads to, not a fanshop.  All 3 kits also share a superhero “belt” on the shorts with Totenkopf as hero badge, inspired by some of our favourite superheroes of yore.  There are two details specific to the Away jersey….a linear gradient print at the bottom of the jersey symbolises the dirt from which the brown colour of the home jersey originates.  So the away jersey can be taken as the “home away from home” jersey.  Each of the ever increasing thickness of stripes is made up of 11 smaller lines for the 11 St. Pauli players on the pitch.

The second distinguishing feature of the Away jersey is the Totenkopf printed on the reverse side of the FCSP badge, “hidden” on the inside of the shirt, right at the heart.  And for the 3rd kit, you’ll notice that the FCSP badge on the jersey and shorts are glow-in-the-dark…..again “hidden” at first glance, but noticeable on a second.  It was important to keep only the badge glowing in honour of the club.  There’s also a tonal star allover pattern on the jersey as a metaphor for the Kiezhelden.  And to put the confusion to bed regarding the colour used on the 3rd kit, it’s not Turquoise.  🙂  The actual Pantone color is called Lucite Green.

4. St. Pauli have had some very good kits in the past, did you look at any of them for inspiration? 

I looked at past kits to make sure we wouldn’t be creating any designs that were similar.  We did see that there’s an affinity to black, therefore, the 3rd kit is black.

5. With the home and away shirts, it seems that they are quite simplistic in detail. (Which isn’t a bad thing, at all!) Was this purposeful during the designs, or something the club preferred? 

Yes, the home and away kits were kept with a bit of minimalism in mind.  Although St. Pauli is a very forward thinking club, there’s still a lot of tradition behind it, and we wanted to preserve that by creating kits that respect tradition.  As well, we wanted to surprise the fans with the “hidden” details that can only be appreciated when they’re up close and personal with the kits.

6. We have to mention the green goalkeepers kit, which features stars and reminds me very much of the famous Jorge Campos Mexican shirt. What was the inspiration behind the design, and is it a risk designing something which is a bit different to the bog standard kit?

Haha!  Jorge Campos….truth be told, I love his kits!  For me personally, I’ve always been inspired by the kits of the 80s and 90s…..I think those are the best we’ve seen in football history.  That said, I’m also a sucker for patterns… our times now, clubs tend to want to keep the home and away kits more subdued, which leaves the 3rd kit and GK kits to be more expressive.  For this season, as the theme was Kiezhelden, I wanted to highlight the goalkeepers… matches, more often than goes noticed, it’s the goalkeeper who is the “hero” who helps the team eek out a win or draw.  Even in a loss, it may be easy to blame the goalkeeper, but often, they’ve helped the team save face.  So the pattern for the goalkeeper jersey is anything but “hidden hero.”  It is in-your-face and obvious.

The pattern is inspired by the BOOM and POW bubbles seen in comic books and the stars are used here too to represent the Kiezhelden.  There are two colourways for the goalkeeper kits… in neon green and purple represents the Incredible Hulk as a reference to superheroes but to also give this psychological feeling of being bigger and imposing to the goalkeeper himself and the opponents.  The second colourway is inspired by Aquaman as a direct metaphor to Viva con Agua.  One idea was to have the VCA sponsor on the jersey for a one-off charity event, but as regulations only allow for one sponsor, we’ve kept the concept through colour.  Lastly, as Aquaman was never the most popular superhero, we wanted to underline the idea of “hidden hero” by being inspired by an under-the-radar, or rather, into-the-sea Held.  Look at this goalkeeper as AGUAMAN!

7. Onto the kit launch, how did it go? Was the reaction to the kits what you expected?

I believe the launch went really well…..anytime we can gather a crowd of fans together so passionate about their club, I call that a success!  I was able to talk with a lot of fans and even got a big hug from Birgit Hönig, one of St. Pauli’s longest standing members.  If you watch the preview video, she’s the one who doesn’t like the kits.  🙂  We were able to put differences aside and hug it out!  In general, you realise that St. Pauli is all about the fans and it’s incredible to interact with so many different types and with so many different stories but a shared love for the club.  I’m a fan!

8. Finally, you’ve mentioned some of the hidden features inside the jerseys. Is there anything else we should be looking out for?

I forgot to mention, if you take the goalkeeper jersey, turn it inside out and upside down, you’ll be able to see a hidden symbol…………just kidding!  🙂

9. Anything else to add that we might have missed?

All of this was accomplished in less than half the time it normally takes to develop a set of kits.  There were so many people involved….from the Hummel team to FC St. Pauli to the agency who helped launch it to our suppliers who actually put the kits together.  It was a massive team effort and everyone involved deserves a big round of applause.  THANK YOU!!!  As a special mention, I want to thank Marc Nicolai-Pfeifer, the DACH Licensed Asset and Teamsport Sales Manager at Hummel, for organising all the parties together and helping manage the project to what it is today.  Thanks for being my partner in crime!  Batman and Robin….though I don’t know who’s who.  🙂  Lastly, thank you to all the FC St. Pauli fans….you just made another!!!!

A huge thank you to Jason for taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow Jason on Twitter and Instagram using the links below, and check out some of his other work on his website.

Twitter:  @eldejo

Instagram:  el_dejo