Today, the 2013 Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey was unvelied, oddly with little fanfare compared to the Giro’s very social media driven campaigns to show off their creations. Now, once I’ve got uni finals and the like out the way, there is going to be an absolute barrage of Centenary Tour related articles on here on various subjects which are already in the offing, but here’s some quick analysis on the new jersey.
On first appearance, it’s not too disimilar from last year’s effort. It’s still made by Le Coq Sportif, who took up the baton last year after Nike quietly stepped away for reasons that don’t need much explanation, the sleeves are still way too long, and it retains the faux-collar that was also introduced last year, as well as the little French Tricolore on the rear collar. It’s also still sponosred by bank Le Credit Lyonnais, who changed their logo in 2006 from the blocky black text of the Armstrong years to a more stylised blue swish of initials.
Their are however some noticeable departures. The sleeves have been redesigned to get rid of the oversize cuffs, but more interesting is the various aesthetic details that have changed. For instance, the initials of the Tour’s founder and early mastermind, Henri Desgrange, which have been omni present on the jersey since it was introduced, appear at first sight to have been completely relegated from the jersey. However, on closer inspection, they’re hidden in the bottom left corner of the jersey.However, Desgrange has not been relegated too much. He now makes an appearance on the rear pocket of the jersey, along with the phrase ‘En 1903 Henri Desgrange creait le plus grand evenement cycliste de tous les temps’, translating as ‘In 1903 Henri Desgrange created the biggest cycling event of all time.’
The Tour de France logo has also been updated to be the 100 logo, rather that simply adding the year number as has traditionally been the case. It is noticable that the logo is still significantly smaller than in previous years: Indeed, many of the logos have been shrunk, and the LCL logos on the flanks have lost the illustrative swirl, although on some pictures, these are still there. This is presumably to give the jersey a greater percentage of yellow- Le Coq Sportif boast that this is the brightest yellow jersey yet, partially for a reason we’ll come to.
The most striking addition however is the large imprint in the centre of the jersey. At first, I had no idea what this was – it appeared to be a man’s head, and for a brief moment, it seemed that the race was paying tribute to Marco Pantani, famed for wearing his bandana. However, on looking it up, it turns out the imprint is in fact a Moor’s Head – the symbol of Corsica, which this year finally becomes the final French department to be included in the Tour. The symbol dates back to the 13th Century, when the men of Aragon defeated the Saracens, also known as the Moors, and so were gifted Corsica by the Pope, leading them to use the symbol to demonstrate their acquisition. When Genoa then took over Corsica, it was mostly forgotten, with the Virgin Mary being the nation’s symbol instead, until it was brought back in the 1736 before returning officially in 1755.
The Moor’s head as a symbol of Corsica is an interesting addition given it is meant to symbolise the unity of Corsica with France – it was first used by Corsican’s in 1755 but was banned in 1769 when under French Rule, whereby the image was edited so that the bandana covered the eyes of the man to symbolise the lack of freedom that Corsica now had and thus as a mark of protest. As General Paoli cried ‘The Corsicans want to see clearly. Freedom must walk by the torch of philosophy. Won’t they say that we fear the light?’ Novely, when Britain took over in 1794-96, the unblinded version was used, but the symbol was eventually readopted in 1980.
This is an odd move by Le Coq Sportif – the malliot jaune has never traditionally had any imprints, not so long as I can remember, this instead being a concept the Giro has dabbled in more. The Giro though has only used images of cyclists, whilst this is a political symbol. Still, it will only be present on the jersey’s people buy, or should I say most obvious – when riders wear it, the symbol will be obliterated by sponsor rectangle imprinted onto the jersey.
Remember how this is the ‘brightest’ yellow jersey ever? Well, Le Coq Sportif have cleverly thought of a way to make it even brighter. As we all know, the finale of the Tour will be played out under lights in Paris, as the capital shows off it’s reputation as the ‘City of Lights.’ Le Coq Sportif have thought this through, and as such, claim to have incorportated a range of ‘reflective details’ into the jersey. Unfortunately, what these are is not immediately obvious, but we can make presumptions – the silver ‘100’ in the Tour de France logo, for instance, is presumably such a detail, and is one of a few certain logos, such as the Le Coq Sportif logo itself, that look to be raised rather than printed, so it makes sense that these are the ‘array of reflective details’ we will see in Paris.
Overall then, Le Coq Sportif have produced an innovative malliot jaune that seeks not only to accentuate the unity and Frenchness of the event but also to appeal back to the history of the race. That collar, for instance, harks back to the ‘Golden Age’ of cycling. Some sites are claiming that it’s homage to Le Coq Sportif’s first jersey in 1951, but given it was on the 2012 jersey, this doesn’t really work. They haven’t tried to imprint themselves too much on the jersey, instead showing a respect to it as a symbol and an icon of cycling, and it will no doubt sell like hot cakes.