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Luke 1977 makes a strong debut with their retro-inspired Aston Villa kits

Unlike past manufacturers, Luke 1977 came out of the gates with an inspired effort.

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Aston Villa’s new shirts were debuted Monday — if you haven’t seen them yet, check out the video below or our story — and they’re a really good first effort from Luke Roper and the design team at LUKE 1977.

A bold first effort

Honestly, the thing that I might like most about this home kit is that it’s a bold first effort, far better than anything recent manufacturers have done in their first try with the Villa home shirt. Think about it — not only have Luke 1977 taken the risk by making their first home shirt the first in 16 seasons to not feature blue sleeves, but they’ve done it in a way that draws inspiration from past kits (more on that later).

When Under Armour came around, their first effort in 2016/17 was incredibly bland, with nothing interesting or unique in the design. Macron’s first effort at the Villa home shirt (in 2012/13) was the blandest of their four, while Nike’s debut in 2007/08 was probably the least-designed of their Villa home kits.

As time went on, all those manufacturers would eventually pick up on design cues from past Villa home shirts or develop ones of their own — Nike had the chequerboard element in 2010/11, then again in 2011/12; Macron’s 2013/14 effort was inspired by the home shirt used from 1981 through 1983; Under Armour’s kit last year drew from Reebok’s effort that was worn between 1995 and 1997 — yet none of them came out the door with that spirit.

If this is Luke 1977’s first effort, likely turned around on a quick timeline, imagine what they’ll produce in future years with more time to develop the kit.

Retro inspiration

These kits are a clear homage to the shirts worn from 1983 through 1985 (closer to the 1984/85 season’s set with white, not claret, shorts), and I think they do a really wonderful job of bringing that design into a modern era, 35 years later.

The ‘83 set was an interesting one for Villa, as it ushered in a six-year era in the ‘80s where Villa never wore their traditional home shirt, opting for four seasons of claret sleeves before the Hummel classic that eschewed traditional shirt design entirely (and looked great doing it). Villa, of course, would go on to wear a 1957 FA Cup inspired shirt from 1993 through 1995 that’s still popular today, while the 1999/2000 seasons (claret and blue stripes) and the 2001/02 campaign (solid claret shirt) were later times where Villa swapped their traditional kit for a different look.

The away shirt

I wanted to give long enough to the away shirt to say that it’s really good, clean and fresh. The tonal pinstripes are a nice way to draw back to Rotterdam without the explicit reference, and the collars and sleeve cuffs look really good on this shirt. Bonus points also for giving us FIFA players a change kit that, well, actually serves as a change when playing in game.

Picking some nits

Alright, overall, I really like these kits — but there are some things that bug me. First: the socks.

Above anything else, my biggest complaint with the Under Armour kits carry over to this year’s set — the socks feel like a complete afterthought. Each of the home and away shirts are meticulously designed, with key elements (collar and sleeve striping) carried throughout the designs. The shorts are largely a plain, blank canvas (which is fine and perhaps preferable), but then you get to the socks, which are at their best boring, and at their worst a mis-matched design.

The colour blocking on the home shirt works alright — the way that each element of the home kit is a different colour balances the palette helps — but I can’t help but feel a better-designed pair of socks like the original 1984/85 set would look better here.

I really dislike the away socks, though, and think the alternate white socks would work much better with this shirt. The problem for me is how jarring the white block at the top of the socks is — that single block of white on the socks draws more of my attention than any other element of the kit, which isn’t what should happen with the least-designed thing in the set.

The other thing that bothers me is that the tonal striping from the front of the home kit isn’t continued onto the back:

Again, this is really nit-picky, and that it’s tonal striping makes it a little more acceptable, but my biggest pet peeve in kit design is when shirts that are striped on the front are completely blank on the back. Villa’s shirt has unnecessarily done this, which bothers me a bit.

The verdict

Overall, though, this is good, solid design. I’m more than a bit of a uniform/kit freak, and I have to remind myself that any kit I nitpick is, overall, a really good effort. That’s what Luke 1977 have done here in getting out on the front foot with an impressive debut. Hopefully the Villa team this year can do the same next month.