About a month ago, the WNBA released a whole new set of jerseys for the league. In collaboration with Nike, the whole kit got a revamp from the ground up. There are now three categories of jerseys: Heroine, Explorer, and Rebel. The Rebel line is the fun aunt of the set, while the Heroine and Explorer are your more standard white and dark options, respectively. With preseason games about to kick off, I wanted to take this moment to reflect on the whole batch.
The WNBA is, not coincidentally, celebrating its 25th birthday and unlike a lot of folks this age, this change is not a quarter-life crisis. The changes are solid and stable, not quitting their first real job because they haven’t “made their mark yet” and heading off across the country to find themselves before it’s time to settle down. No, the designs are a marked improvement–returning numbers and scaling back advertising on the front. Though I appreciate all the new looks, I will, of course, be pitting them against one another in a ranking, similar to what I did with the NBA City alternates.
This time around, I will be ranking the whole set as a unit rather than the different lines individually. My metrics are still completely arbitrary, don’t worry. No matter what the rankings, I do want to say that I LOVE the choices made here. I would take any of these over almost all the NBA alternatives because there is some real heart stirred into these colorful concoctions. When clothing is combined with messaging it becomes something more–something powerful. Yes, this is a ranking, but it is also a celebration. Here we go:
- Indiana Fever
(Images show Explorer and Rebel jerseys as released by Nike. The Heroine alternatives are primarily white versions of the Explorer.)
I’ve got a fever, a fever for the weirdest product tie-in. The only cure is to quote another, only tangentially related, TV property. Indiana suffers a mighty blow from my decision to rank all three lines as a unit. The Heroine and Explorer designs are gorgeous. I love their simplicity and the richness of the color combinations. I am not down with the Rebel Stranger Things look. It is jarring and really quite odd to me. I honestly have wondered about how I would feel if the Celtics had a Cheers-themed jersey, and now I have my answer. Maybe as a one-off jersey, but if Indiana wears these semi-regularly…count me out.
- Chicago Sky
I cannot shake the clunky feeling I get when I look at these three jerseys together. It might be the wide pinstripes, I’m not sure. While every other uniform design choice feels modern, this strikes me as dated. Except for the Rebel iteration. The jagged lines and blue on blue on blue color scheme is decidedly bold. I have read that that might symbolize the shattering of the glass ceiling, which is a fantastic touch. Yet, with so many other great contenders, this unit had to slip.
- Atlanta Dream
The Dream are purely victims of the strong competition. I have nothing really negative to say about this group. I love the side stripes on the Rebel version and the Heroine design is as clean as it gets. The red Explorer version is nice. Easy to wear. They all work together as a unit. The deficit comes from a lack of a Wow-Factor.
- Dallas Wings
Dallas was so close to a masterful jersey set. I like the complementary nature of the Explorer and Heroine kits. However, I do prefer the next team’s use of a neon accent a little better. I love the symbolism of the Rebel jersey. The concept comes from a WWII plane manufactured in Texas and flown by Women Airforce Service Pilots. Unfortunately, the actual specifics of the jersey are not as interesting in reality as the story behind it.
- Minnesota Lynx
I cannot help but mentally compare this set to the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA. The choices run so parallel–obviously intentionally–it would be hard not to. The Lynx win that battle hands down. They found a subtle way to use the neon green accent–a phrase that has never been written before, I’m sure. The Rebel jersey is paying homage to a musical soul of the Twin Cities that I was not aware of. I like the design though!
- Los Angeles Sparks
I am a big fan of the palm tree/spark logo. Such a clever way to evoke so much about the place and the team. I appreciate the use of vibrant colors…until we get to the Rebel design. I like this black alternate more than I’ve liked the black alternates of other teams. I usually wish that teams with such vivid color options pushed in that direction rather than just diluting it into darkness. Still, I like the stars on the side panels.
- Las Vegas Aces
Top tier team name, right here. Not just in the WNBA, but in all of sports. The Heroine and Explorer fits are good, not great, hence falling right in the middle of the rankings. The Rebel version is awesome. Now that is how you do a black alternate. Sure, it helps that it is a natural fit with the card theme, yet the subtle patterning and the gold accents are special.
- Phoenix Mercury
I have never liked a gradient jersey until this one. That in and of itself is quite the accomplishment. It is one of my favorite designs in the entire league. The flip side of that coin is the Explorer kit, which reminds me of an energy bar that tastes like someone mixed chalk into a Hersheys. Is that oddly specific without any real rationale? Sure is.
- Washington Mystics
Once again, the Rebel version reigns supreme. I think the marbling on the white Heroine jersey is a cool idea. The red Explorer one is…a basketball jersey? It’s ok? But the heavens opened up when I saw the Rebel. You could fill a book with all the powerful symbolism jam-packed into this jersey. The color scheme is that of the 2017 Women’s March. The pink stripe represents the path taken by that and other historic marches in DC. The gold stripe even has the words of the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) printed on it! I’ve never seen anything like this.
- New York Liberty
I know the Liberty have been using that aged-bronze color for a while, but I freaking love it every time. It is such a unique hue. Using the torch in varying locations on the different wordmarks is quite creative. The accents on the black and the white versions really flow with the rest of the design. Having the word “Equality” displayed across the chest is a strong statement. I love everything about these.
- Seattle Storm
The reigning champs only reach second place here. Taken individually, they might not have all rated out in the upper echelon of my arbitrary matrix. Together is where they shine. Green and yellow are a classic combination. The swooping shoulder blocks feel both retro and modern at the same time. The Rebel option is drastically different, while also not feeling like it belongs to a different team entirely. It strikes me as a wholly unique way to represent a city and a team at the same time, with hints of grunge and stormy skies. The Explorer fit is my favorite. It feels electric. Everything about it pops, without being cartoonish. This group really benefited from my decision to rank them as a whole.
- Connecticut Sun
This is by far the most cohesive set in the league. Each fit works with the others, while still being different enough to be interesting. While that cohesion was not a requirement, and in fact I like when there is variation in styles, I love each of these choices. Seeking the input of a group that has been the victim of genocide before choosing to represent them on a shirt one might wear to play a game is crucial. I find it hard to express the value I see in the fact that the Sun are owned by the Mohegan Tribe and can represent themselves as they choose. The symbols along the stripes represent the history of the Mohegan people and the wordmark on the Rebel jersey is the Mohegan word for “Sun.” Aside from that, I’m also a big proponent of complimentary orange and blue as well as really pushing the boldness of the team’s color palette. They nailed both the big and the small details here. Congratulations!
Alright, folks, there you have it. Do you agree with my assessments? Hit us up on social media if you have something to say about it. Have a great day!