Running in Rouge: Lower League Ingenuity at the Professional Level

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Detroit City’s 2018 will likely be best remembered for its historic friendlies against the likes of St. Pauli, Necaxa, and Frosinone and its continued record setting when it comes to attendance, the club’s top-level kits are often a forgotten element of its ever-growing profile and personality. Protagonist had the chance to speak with Detroit’s Director of Media, Lindsey Pehrson in order to find out more about Detroit’s 2018 rendition of the rouge and gold.

2018 was not the first time Detroit had a winning look, a huge part of this comes down to smart color selection, “our team colors are Rouge and Gold.  Secondary colors include White, Black, Grey, Navy and Verdigris.” That combination of rouge and gold has been the flagship for a long run of great designs. The combination isn’t just rooted in good design, however, and is tied to the history of Detroit itself. “One aspect of the history of the Detroit area is a connection to France.  The Rouge River flows through SE Michigan and the Nain Rouge still haunts the streets every spring.”

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Detroit’s 2018 kits, made by Adidas, were designed within the club per tradition, “We have always designed our own kits in-house.” This combines the professionalism of a global company like Adidas with the smart and free minded design of a fan-focused community club like Detroit City. This leaves us with a kit made by Adidas that doesn’t feel cookie cutter like many of the often-criticized MLS kits made by the same company.

The club doesn’t stop at a good pair of colors and has used traditional kit motifs like stripes, hoops, and buttoned collars to elevate their kits, again combining modern and authentic ideas with classic concepts found on kits for over a century. Pehrson explained that this combination of eras has helped the club visualize the professional look it strives for, “as a club we have always strove for a professional and timeless look for our kits. Hoops, stripes, collars, solids are all good examples of this aesthetic.”

One of the more interesting aspects of Detroit’s kits is that they stand out as an example for what soccer can be outside of the establishment while still utilizing big brands, in this case Adidas and Lyft. “Since our founding, we have only kitted out our players in two brands - first Nike and now Adidas - and we have been happy with the look and quality those brands have provided. As for sponsorship, strong partner relationships are a vital part to running a successful organization.  We built a great relationship with Lyft in 2018, and we are hopeful that partnership continues.  Any sponsorship agreement is multi-faceted, but an important aspect is ensuring a tasteful and professional presentation of the partner brand.” Detroit City’s success with brands of that scale shows that upper-pyramid clubs don’t have to have a monopoly on sponsorships of nationwide or global substance.

2018 was a great year for Detroit in many ways, but the club is far from done. With the Founders Cup and another shot at NPSL glory on the ropes, the club will surely aim to break new barriers with its next look. “Our 2019 kits will be our best-looking kits yet and will be the perfect look for making the move to fielding a professional roster.”

  • Dominic Bisogno