Juve's new kit divided opinion online but it's all part of their bold future. Just ask the man who designed it
Ever looked through your old school books and found all those lazy, daydreamy drawings next to math equations, English comprehension and French or Spanish vocab?
"When I was a kid," Inigo Turner recalls, "I used to design and draw shirts in the back of my notebooks and textbooks. It's always been a long passion of mine." It was a passion that culminated in him becoming the design director of Adidas' football department. Born and raised in Manchester, Turner and his team now come up with the concepts for the jerseys he used to get as hand-me-downs from his United crazy older brothers.
"To get to do that as a job," he says, "is a dream come true."
Shirts play a huge role in football culture. They not only establish the look of a team, but often give a feel for an era either through the material or the sponsor. "I grew up knowing the shiny polyester," Turner says. Turn on the news now and it's not uncommon to see someone wearing a football jersey in the background of a foreign correspondents' report. They have become one of the most widespread and recognisable pieces of clothing in the world and yet for years, we've been in the dark about who is behind them. Jerseys would come out a bit like the season's fixture lists; the mystery of who actually designed them even puzzled Adidas, too.
"There is an archive," Turner explains. "All the old products are kept down there and lovingly looked after in controlled cool environments so they don't get damaged by heat. But when it came to who did what, we only really knew about the recent history, the past 20 years. Before that, some of the most iconic shirt designs of all time like the Germany 1990 shirt, our '88 shirt, the Netherlands shirt from the same era ... there was no record of who did them or where they came from."
So the designer turned detective. "We managed to get a few leads," Turner says, which led him and his boss to Ina Franzmann and Ton Pannekoek, whose creations lent an unforgettable aesthetic to Marco van Basten's jaw-dropping volley against the Soviet Union and Lothar Matthaus' trophy lift after the World Cup final in Rome.
Aspiring kit designers now have an idea who some of their idols should be, but how did Turner end up following in their footsteps? He was studying art at university when his "brother's wife's cousin," who was already working in Germany, recommended he send off a CV to Adidas. Taken on as an intern, 13 years later he's "overseeing all the club designs we do."
That includes Juventus' new home jersey. The initial motivation for reaching out was to chase down a now-notorious story doing the rounds on social media that the decision to swap the legendary black and white stripes for a new half-and-half design was down to feedback from U.S. focus groups, who supposedly concluded the traditional shirt bore too close a resemblance to the ones worn by NFL referees.
"That's utter rubbish," Turner says. "That was never part of the process. It's fake news, somebody starting stories, click bait, whatever you want to call it."
When pictures of the shirt first started to appear online in spring, the design polarised opinion. "I ask myself: whatever will they invent next," former Juventus captain Beppe Furino told La Repubblica. "I preferred it when the creatives had the No. 10, not a pencil." Jokers on Twitter suggested there must have been a mix-up with Juventus' kit and those worn by Udinese and Siena, while others wondered if it would look better on a jockey competing in the Palio horse race.
"We're really aware [of the reception the shirt is getting]," Turner says, "We prefer when it's well received. Obviously when you do something that's quite bold, there will be a reaction at least to begin with. Sometimes jerseys take a little longer to become a favourite. It could be that the team needs to wear it a little bit and then people will go, 'Yeah, now I'm really used to it. I really like it.' Everybody has an opinion.
"We also think that to stay in these traditional shirts all the time would also be a little bit predictable and not push things forward. It's something that we're compelled to do at Adidas: drive forward the look of football on the field. That becomes increasingly difficult with lots of regulations, with number boxes needed and other things.
"If you think back to some of the most iconic shirts in history, those old Man United away shirts, the 'bruised banana' Arsenal shirt, all the iconic shirt everyone remembers now ... I think if we'd had social media back then the reaction would also have been fairly strong. But these are the jerseys everybody loves, the ones that are remembered and held dearly in a lot of people's affections."
In any event, the new Juventus home shirt is not a complete break with tradition. In some respects it incorporates more classic features than other recent editions. Take the pink line breaking up the black and white.
"Pink was one of the very first colours the club wore. The first kits they wore were pink with these black neckties. It's a foundation colour, one of our nods back to an authentic story. While I think we've done something very disruptive, we also reference something that's from the heart and the origins of the club. It's important that we make those historical references and bring those stories into the kits. We're not educators but we make reference points to a club's rich history."
The stripes haven't gone either. If you buy into the bigger concept behind the design, they are more pronounced than ever. The slogan used for the launch -- "Be the Stripes" -- imagines a stand of Juventus fans wearing the half-and-half shirt. The visual, if realised, would be pretty powerful: thousands of supporters, side by side, forming a human collage of black and white stripes.
"We tend to throw our net quite wide in terms of ideas," Turner explains. "I think about when the team lines up in the kit before the game and the camera pans across the team or you get the wide-angle shot. What you see are black and white stripes. It's different thinking. Also behind the goal, if Juve are attacking the goal and you've got thousands of people wearing that shirt you have a very different-looking black and white stripes. It's much bolder. They come together in a different way. It's a very confident statement about bringing everybody together collectively to create the stripes."
The biggest statement of all, though, is perhaps what it says about Juventus in 2019.
"I would say they're blazing a trail," Turner says. "They want to be number one. They want to lead the industry and they don't want to do things after someone else has done it because then obviously it looks like you're somehow following them. They clearly see themselves as a global number one, a big player."
A process that started with the badge redesign two years ago, involving the "J" icon, continues apace with the jersey and the new "Live Ahead" motto. Turner says of the collaboration, "We want to take the story of Juventus Football Club and lead it into the next era. It's also sort of about defining a new history as well. They're a very progressive club in terms of how they see their brand and they're always looking to drive the industry. An inherent part of that is taking risks and doing things first."
As fans get used to the new Juventus jersey, Turner is already onto the next one. The process is well underway for logistical reasons, which is understandable when you think about it. Consider, for instance, how many need to be made and all the production and shipping timelines involved. Concept creation begins 18 months before launch, which means Turner must have a very good idea of what the 2020-21 Juventus home shirt looks like, then.
"Oooooh yeah," he says with excitement. The Old Lady is fashion forward. A daring new look doesn't faze her.