All Blacks Jersey
Few people know the first jersey worn by a New Zealand national rugby team overseas was blue – and not just that, but a blue of various shades and hues.
Even more curious, the fern frond that was embroidered on to the garments was gold rather than the silver emblem that is so widely-recognised as being part of the ‘Kiwi’ sporting brand today.
It was 1884, across the ditch in Australia, when members of New Zealand’s first internationally-touring rugby team wore blue.
Their individualised necklines and various sleeve lengths were a far cry from modern-day jerseys, where the silver fern is precise right down to the tiniest of measurements.
First Official Jersey
In 1893, just over nine years after that first international match, the first official All Blacks jersey appeared – and it was indeed black.
The New Zealand Native team, comprising mostly Māori players, had also worn black on tour in Great Britain and Australia a few years earlier in 1888-1889.
Perhaps it was because black was the easiest colour to get 25 jerseys in – or maybe it was simply because it wouldn’t show the dirt after multiple games.
Records show the All Blacks’ Captain, Thomas Rangiwahia Ellison (who also played in The Natives), proposed to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union in 1893 that the team’s uniform be a “black jersey with silver fernleaf, black cap with silver monogram, white knickerbockers and black stockings”.
Why the silver fern?
More than 1,200 rugby players have proudly worn the silver fern icon since it first appeared on the breast of an All Blacks jersey, as have thousands of other New Zealand sporting heroes and the country’s armed forces.
To Māori, the elegant shape of the silver fern – ponga in te reo – stands for strength, resistance and enduring power.
Ferns are not unique to Aotearoa, but when British colonists arrived in the 1800s, they were in awe of the breadth of species found growing across the land. The silver fern – a species found only in New Zealand – became something of a marketing symbol for the fledgling country at the bottom of the world.
Speaking to the media in 2014, former All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw (2001-2015) touched on one of the biggest evolutions of the jersey in the past few decades – it’s size.
“I’ve got my very first jersey hanging on the wall [at home] and it’s about three times the size of them now.”
The jersey worn by The Originals, who toured Britain, France and the United States in 1905, was actually relatively fitted compared to those that followed.
Among the jerseys provided to The Invincibles in 1924 was a baggy, scratchy woolen garment more akin to farmer’s workwear.
Adidas brought in the high-tech and lightweight fitted synthetic jerseys worn by players today.
A Jersey of Quality and Innovation
Anti-grip technology, second skin integration. Engineered zonal stability zones, two-way stretch carbon weave. This is the kind of language used to describe the modern day All Blacks jersey.
Adidas has been charged with kitting out the New Zealanders for more than 20 years, a responsibility it takes extremely seriously.
A lot of information is closely guarded by the company and the developers and manufactures it works with, but the phrases above reveal the thought, innovation and technology that goes into the team’s high-tech garments.
Performance is a key focus; hence the focus on anti-grip technology and two-way stretch fabrics; however, the aesthetics of the uniform is equally as important.
A well-designed jersey can give a team a psychological edge, for example, by enhancing players’ physical stature, drawing attention to their biceps and helping them to present a strong and unified “force of black”.
After all, a psychological edge can make or break a team.
Buy your own All Blacks Jersey
Ever wanted an All Blacks Jersey with your own name and number on it. Visit the All Blacks Store within the All Blacks Experience to purchase your own personalised jersey.
Emblazoned with players’ names, numbers and match dates, All Blacks jerseys quickly become collector's items depending on the significance of the game or mana of who wore it.
Rugby clubs, mega-fans and museums around the world have tracked down at least 15 jerseys from The Originals era; the most valuable being one worn by skipper Dave Gallaher in the 1905 tour, who was killed in action in World War I. Gallaher’s jersey was bought at an auction in London in 2015 by Saracens Football Club owner Nigel Wray for a staggering £180,000.
The New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North has an astonishing collection of rugby clothing and memorabilia, including rugby jerseys from late Victorian times up until the present. It welcomes visitors and is open 361 days of the year.
Modern Jersey Timeline
An evolution timeline of the modern-day All Blacks jersey
Adidas revealed a massive reinvention of the All Blacks jersey in 2015, with regards to fit, fabric and a modernised aesthetic. The striking jersey formed part of ‘the blackest kit of all time’ and featured two-way stretch carbon weave technology, with a streamlined silhouette. The uniform also featured shorts made using jersey fabric for the first time ever.
Much like the 2015 jersey, the 2017 one was designed to be like a “second skin”, which replicated the movements of players’ skin. Based on player feedback, adidas introduced a new four-way stretch ‘Triax Digital Weave’ fabric for additional strength and even better freedom of movement. It also integrated ‘chassis technology’ within the jerseys to enhance player posture.
After two more years in the lab, adidas introduced a game-changing seamless woven jersey in 2019, with an ergonomic pattern that perfectly contours to each player’s physique for an unbeatable fit. No seam means no weak points and the jersey is 25% lighter than previous designs, allowing for increased player speed and acceleration.
New Zealand Rugby Museum
The New Zealand Rugby Museum, based in Palmerston North, is a museum dedicated to the sport of rugby. With a phenomenal collection of memorabilia, it is the place to learn about the history of the game
All Blacks Store
The All Blacks Store within the All Blacks Experience is home to All Blacks for retail with every product in the Adidas All Blacks range on sale. Conveniently located in Auckland's city centre.