These days Jürgen Rank stirs the emotions of an entire nation. No matter where he goes, with whom he meets or which TV channel he turns on: it’s very likely that there are people engaged in passionate discussions about the work he actually finished around a year ago. He has always known this moment would come and he’s been looking forward to it for a long, long time - He’s tired of keeping his secret. For months now, Jürgen Rank has been eager to share his pride, knowing full well that not everyone would agree with him.
Now, that this moment has finally arrived, Jürgen Rank strolls through the streets, listening subconsciously to what passersby are saying, triggered by some of ‘his’ magic words such as ‘jersey’, ‘all white’ or ‘German national team’. Jürgen Rank works at adidas and is - together with his team - responsible for designing the adidas federations’ jerseys for the FIFA World Cup 2014™ in Brazil... Including the one for his home country, Germany.
Football stars won’t be the only ones sporting Jürgen’s creations. Thousands of people will wear his designs to support their teams, with millions more embracing them as their own. The jersey is not simply just a product, it is pure emotion. It can become an icon of glorious victory or the handkerchief that soaks up the tears of defeat. One thing is for sure: it will be remembered – As with all the jerseys before it.
For over 50 years, adidas has been one of the German Football Federation’s (DFB) closest partners. Not only are DFB jerseys the topic of passionate discussions, they’re typically top-sellers. In 2010 for example, adidas sold more than 1.2 million replica jerseys worn by the team in South Africa - a number that will be of particular interest again next year.
When Jürgen listens to people disputing the jersey’s design, he handles it confidently because listening very much forms the basis of his decisions: Over the course of the past two years, the adidas team has conducted surveys among key target groups, as well as gathering feedback from players, federation representatives and many, many others.
This is what motivates Jürgen and his colleagues. When it comes to a nation’s football jersey, almost everyone has an opinion – and quite rightly so, as at the end of the day it’s these people who will be spending their money on them in order to show their passion for the team. Every single detail matters: Every carefully placed star above the DFB’s crest, every colour and every aspect of the pattern can bring back memories and set emotions free. This is why Jürgen and his team begin the process of creating these jerseys very early on to ensure that these highly technical garments come with the flair of national passion.
In the following interview Jürgen Rank and Christian Binger, another creative mind behind the German kit, talk about their sources of inspiration.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU DURING THE DESIGN PROCESS OF THE NEW DFB JERSEY AND HOW WAS THAT INSPIRATION EXECUTED?
Christian: Well, at the beginning we had to answer the most important question: “What does the national team want to express with this jersey, short: what does it stand for?”
Jürgen: For us, it quickly became clear that this should be definitely more than just a football jersey. We started seeing the World Cup more as the EXPO of Sports, the ultimate platform on which not only all the different teams but also their fandoms and home countries get to present themselves. What should Germany bring to Brazil? What does the German Team stand for?
SOUNDS INTERESTING, DID YOU FIND THE RIGHT ANSWERS?
Christian: We certainly did! But first of all even more questions popped up. Questions like “Who are we and what are Germans actually like?”
So what we did was we went outside on the street, equipped with microphone and camera and questioned young people about their opinions and beliefs all through the country. We met teenagers as well as youngsters of our national team. Furthermore we visited a university to consult experts regarding the development of the German identity.
SO, WHAT ARE WE GERMANS LIKE?
Jürgen: One thing crystalized very quickly: the World Cup in Germany 2006 has changed the whole country outside-in and inside-out. Almost all of our respondents named this event as THE key moment.
It is viewed by many as a completely fresh start, a new approach to the German national colors, a new self-esteem completely without being hyper-German, the feeling of unity amongst our players, etc. This, by the way, is also true for myself. Before the 2006 World Cup I would have never dared to write a huge THANK YOU GERMANY on a t-shirt. After the event this seemed like just what the doctor ordered and matched the demands perfectly. Nobody cared that we only finished third, we celebrated nevertheless, bigger than ever before, showing how much this country had changed.
WHICH NEW VALUES ARE NOW DISPLAYED IN THE NEW KIT?
Jürgen: The values we came up with fit the national team as well as the “new” Germany per se.
Displayed are the passion for the game, self-esteem and high quality.
The graphic on the chest symbolizes this self-esteem and shows an interpretation of the flag in nuances of red, standing for irresistible energy, radiated from both, the team and the new generation.
The lines of the graphic stand for integration and teamwork, the different curriculums of each player as well as their heritage and backgrounds. The same can be said for all the people supporting this country regardless of their origin.
The high-grade crest communicates quality, seen in the innovative game of the DFB boys and the very typical German love for details and precision.
AND THE LOVE FOR THE GAME?
Jürgen: …is emphasized via the most refreshing element of the new kit, visually giving the team wings and inspiring the effortlessness of each player.
The white shorts complete the whole appearance to a statement of class, elegance and pure passion.
BUT ISN’T IT A BREAK WITH TRADITION?
Christian: We have worn white/white at the World Cup in 1970 and 1974, winning the latter so this really is no break with tradition but a good omen.
A LAST QUESTION: DOES THE DESIGN HAVE TO PLEASE EVERYONE?
Jürgen: It’s a bold and young design and if you see the players exiting the tunnel next to each other, you’ll understand that this is not a design for boring people with doubts but one for movers and shakers. I would say: no, not everybody has to like it. It’s designed for those people who really want to be passionate makers, and I believe there are a lot of them in Germany!
THANK YOU FOR THE INTERVIEW.
But the German jersey is only one of many federation kits adidas has launched this season. And even if football and the fan culture behind it play an especially strong role in Germany, the other nations are not less emotional about their teams’ jerseys.