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Behind the Design: The 2019 Team USA Lights

Posted on: on Mar 12, 2019 2:53:32 PM

Today we're talking design inspo. This one comes from the heart, so Lorenzo is gonna drop the pun-filled, upbeat voice that you're used to from Five. I'm also going to stop speaking in the third person. Oh, and this one's long. Real long.


While I usually take care of Five's social media and other marketing duties, my background is actually in design. As such, I have a lot of opinions about jerseys (some of those opinions have been well-articulated by others). When we were told that Five would be supplying Team USA with a new kit for 2019, it took a non-zero amount of self control to not immediately back spring out of my chair and volunteer. Also, Karl is the head graphic designer 'round these parts.



So the announcement was made, and when the call was put out to provide Karl with assistance on the kits, I played it cool.


Very casual.


First, we must do research.

With planning officially underway, I first started by looking back at some of the inspiration behind previous kits designed by Five Ultimate - particularly the 2017 uniforms. Recognizing the heavy influence from national teams of the past, I decided to see what more there was to explore.




I took a deep dive into team kits in different sports - the colors, the symbolism, and most importantly the history. I looked specifically at uniforms in cycling, soccer, and basketball - sports that for one reason or another put a lot of focus on the design of their team uniforms.


These vice-themed throwbacks are dope, but as far as I'm concerned the ONLY teams allowed to use this look are teams that are either FROM MIAMI or 100% laser-themed.
Cycling is known for their loud (sometimes garish) jerseys, and some carry extra meaning during competition. This polka dotted number is actually a very special jersey given during road races like the Tour de France to the cyclist with the best performance over the climbing stages. Cyclists who earn this jersey are dubbed the Queen/King of the Mountains for that race. When you wear it everyone knows you're hot stuff - kind of like wearing your club team kit to a college warm-up tournament... #weirdflex 

Back to Black?

During my research we toyed with the idea of going back to a black base for the dark jersey - a choice we made in 2016 that was met with mixed reactions, but certainly made a statement.


These US Soccer black uniforms from 2016 are spicy, yet understated. The contrasting sleeves were a very nice touch that got translated to our final design for the whites.
While looking for other significant black uniforms in US sports history, I came across the track and field kits worn by the 1968 US Olympic athletes - notable among them were Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Now there's a compelling line, I thought. The black and white kits themselves were a little sparse for what we had in mind for Team USA, but with just a little bit of extra digging, I found another very simple kit that had an equally compelling history, which made me pivot away from starting with the dark jersey design altogether.


We Stand on Shoulders


This is the track and field uniform worn by US Olympians from 1928-1936. Athletes who wore this kit include sprinter Betty Robinson, who at the age of 16 ran and won the first-ever women's Olympic 100-meter dash event (equalling the world record at the time) in the 1928 summer games. She later won gold again in 1936 after surviving a plane crash and undertaking nearly 3 years of rehab! 

Jesse Owens, the fastest man alive at the time, competed in the 1936 Olympic games in Nazi Germany and won 4 gold medals in front of Adolf Hitler wearing this same uniform. Through his dominant performance he shocked the home crowd and silenced the myth of Aryan supremacy.

Also present at those same 1936 games (though not donning the iconic sash track kit) was the US mens rowing team, which was a collegiate crew from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs), who won gold in what some call one of the greatest underdog stories ever.


Presenting: different ways to draw 2 stripes


I pitched this concept on the strength of these three stories, and we rolled with it from there. This conveniently gave Karl the little bit of extra justification he needed to pursue a redesign of the blue jerseys worn by the US hockey team which played in the iconic Miracle On Ice game of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Between these two radically different designs we worked together to create a unified style for the lights and darks.

We're inspired by those who've come before us; by great individuals and teams from the United States who have demonstrated what it means to be an athlete and to represent your country in mind, body, and spirit.

Every team uniform - like any work of art - is a chance to say something. You could say something pretty, or funny, or cool; or you can use it as your opportunity to make a real statement. These designs say, "We will not back down from a challenge. We will not compromise on our principles." So, I'm absolutely honored to bring you these jerseys, and I hope when you put it on, you can feel like you carry a little bit of that story with you.


Alright, rant over. If you stuck with me through that entire saga, congratulations, and thank you. 


Want in on this kit? First orders are wrapping up on March 17th!

Take me to the USNT Fan Store!







What do you think of the new USNT kit? Know of any other jerseys with a history that we should know about? Tell us in the comments below!