Wednesday, January 18, 2012

(capsule) Umbro

In culture, there is often a need to create definition and by extension, a dichotomy. With the amateur menswear writing proliferating on the web, one could say that some of these writers hold the conception that menswear is at war with streetwear. Zealots roll out with their guns and complain about men at work with a t-shirt and AF1s and make idealistic rules for people to abide by, no exceptions (take in point Ron Paul’s scary foreign policy - yea, it sounds great but...). This conception is attributed to a rebellion against the casual friday’s and dad jeans brought on by the dot com boom.

After wandering around (capsule) NY for a while, looking at the suppliers and the buyers, I can put that dichotomy at rest in my mind after doubting it for sometime. Streetwear brands next to workwear brands next to Italian brands; the only discrimination that defines the buyers and their brands is the amount of money their customers have to spend (and in this case, a lot). Shops aren’t going to limit their supplies to a certain set of people. They want every age and taste walking into their shop as long as their customers have money to blow and are looking to find their own definition in their garments. The buyer at (capsule) wants to sell clothes to people that care about clothing (hence the price point). He/she doesn’t care if you find yourself in a preset definition like Ivy or Workwear or if you make it up as you go.

Those guys who create these “objective” rules can tell you how to dress into a certain societal role. If you want that, then they’re making your life easier. If you define yourself, then you probably already define how you dress. Preaching to the choir.

Take this example to do away with that false dichotomy, Umbro (purchased awhile back by Nike) showed their streetwear collection, 1350, at (capsule). Umbro doesn’t seem like a brand that an idealist categorizer would take to, given their casualness.

I talked with the guys about how Umbro used to make many of the youth soccer jersey that kids like me would wear on saturdays and their re-invented Rio short. The new Rio short is longer than I remember, with a coin pocket. I asked if they would ever consider shortening the inseam but they said that their consumer isn’t really looking for a shorter inseam. I found this odd as we’ve seen the typical short inseam gravitate towards short rather than long. Shorts below the knee are usually only sold to college bros and high school kids. This doesn’t seem like the inseam that the market catered to at (capsule) would pick up on. They told me their price point, which looked to be around $40. Compared to the rest of the brands at (capsule), this was cheap.

I took a look at their site when I arrived home and it explained a lot. The look book gives off a punk soccer hooligan vibe, with heavily tatooed models wearing Umbro shirts and jeans, and perhaps the line was intended for the hooligan. The price point certainly backs up this theory, as I can’t imagine a soccer hooligan (there are a few in the states - usually packed tightly in a corner of an otherwise unoccupied MLS stadium) spending more than $40 on a shirt (unless it’s a team jersey) or buying a short that has an inseam of 6”.

Does Umbro really have the exclusivity that many buyers at (capsule) are looking for? Given the internet store powered by Nike, it’s not hard to get ahold of. Buyers certainly weren’t crowding the booth when I was around. While I can appreciate what the Umbro brand is doing (turns out my little brother, a soccer hooligan, picked up some of their gear a while back), I don’t think they were in quite the right place. Umbro seems like the sort of brand that would be very successful selling to fan shops and sporting wear shops rather than many of the shops that attended (capsule). They guys at the booth had a respect for the sport and the Umbro brand and I’d hate for their product to go unappreciated.

I snapped a pic of their old Man U replica (anyone else see that own goal? Ha).


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