With the 2023 NWSL Season kicking off this month, the Washington Spirit hosted an invite-only event for season ticket holders, partners and media to set the stage. During the event, held in the lower level of Penn Social in Washington, DC, the Spirit’s kits for the 2023 season were unveiled. Crucially, this year’s kits are seen as a midway point of a rebrand that’s expected to be completed ahead of the 2024 season.
Being in the middle of a rebrand placed the Spirit in a bit of an awkward position when it came to the team’s look on the pitch this season. There are two options: 1) do something basic and hide behind the promise that next year will be better, or, 2) add enough flare to make the new shirts interesting. While there’s a bit of a tug-of-war in The District Press Slack chat about which category the new shirts fall in, it’s the opinion of this writer that there’s enough flare to qualify them as interesting.
First things first, it was announced that CVS Health will be the team’s front of shirt sponsor this season. Spirit supporters who have been alive longer than two years will remember that CVS Health is not an entirely new sponsor. However, they’ll also note that the logo has been desaturated for 2023, allowing the new shirts the full complement of black and white contrast.
While the shirts may seem somewhat basic from the vantage point of the photo above, hints of the shine from the monochrome reflective crest can be seen. On shirts that are white and black, the addition of a reflective crest is a welcome design element that adds some pop. One unfortunate part is that the Spirit’s star, earned in 2021 when they lifted their first NWSL Championship trophy, is flat black rather than reflective. While the star is noticeable on the white shirt, you have to squint to see it on the black shirt.
However, getting closer to both shirts reveals an additional design feature.
Both shirts have a lot of texturing to add depth, and more intrigue that would be found in flat, solid colors. In the close-up photos above, you can also see how the crest changes in light. All in all these elements add up to shirts that are more interesting than basic all black or all white kits. They also reveal the layers of thought within the Spirit organization these days. Being resigned to basic kits can be a bit of a bummer for a designer and, eventually, fans. But to make up for it the Spirit opted to add intrigue where they could, even to the extent of altering the typical presentation of the club’s crest.
Even though I’ve come to appreciate the detailed touches in what could have been simple black and white shirts, I still must admit that neither shirt will make it on a must-have list. However, that was never the intent with these shirts, and crucially, they’re still more visually interesting than some recent kits thanks to cohesive design, interesting features, and nothing embarrassing like Portland’s home shirt that resembling a 90s barbed wire tattoo.
However, one issue might be the color of the shorts players wear the white away shirt. Orlando Pride recently received plaudits across women’s sports for swapping their white shorts for black, a preference for players who menstruate. Club and Brazil legend Marta spoke to Women’s Health about the necessity of the switch. “I try to not let this affect my performance and try to do my best, but I still had a bit of anxiousness about an incident happening.”
I asked if the Spirit would do the same. Sources close to the team stated that they have made the request to the league and are waiting approval. However, the hype video released in conjunction with the live announcement reveals players in the away shirt also wearing white shorts, which could mean that the request from the league is a new one. Either way, hopefully the change is made so players can have one less thing to worry about during away games.
Getting back to the rebrand, Spirit majority owner Y. Michele Kang said “everything’s on the table” when discussing the direction the club might go. Asked specifically whether that included the team name, she repeated that everything is on the table. “We’re trying to get input from the fans, the community, the players and so forth,” explained Kang. “So I can’t predict, we’ve got a lot of experts working with us so we’re gonna be very careful, the fans’ input is very important. At the end of the day they identify with us, it’s not just the name but overall the kind of vision and philosophy behind us.”
For now, phase 1 of the rebrand seems to have accomplished most of its intended goals. And in doing away with the standard blue or navy and red, this new iteration of the Spirit is showing there isn’t an inch of the club they aren’t willing to rethink and change – even boldly. Also, any good kit drop is also accompanied by a slew of similarly designed merch, and this hoodie-loving writer fears he’s not going to be able to resist this black on black SPIRIT SPIRIT SPIRIT number. Send help.