‘Shut up and take my money’: Charlotte FC fans clamor for release of team kit designs

Charlotte FC development academy team poses at a new turf mini pitch installed at The Apartments at Sailboat Bay in East Charlotte as part of the team’s “Pitches for Progress” initiative earlier this year. Fans hope that the simple white and black kits the academy team wears won’t be what the MLS team dons in their inaugural 2022 season.

Charlotte FC development academy team poses at a new turf mini pitch installed at The Apartments at Sailboat Bay in East Charlotte as part of the team’s “Pitches for Progress” initiative earlier this year. Fans hope that the simple white and black kits the academy team wears won’t be what the MLS team dons in their inaugural 2022 season.

In the 19 months since the team was first announced, Charlotte FC has already developed passionate fans.

Everything that other, more established fan bases have, Charlotte FC’s fans have started — YouTube channels, geographically diverse supporters’ groups, community initiatives and even rivalries against other teams.

This may seem strange, considering Charlotte FC doesn’t have a roster yet.

The team, set to kick off in 2022, only just revealed its coach this past week. The squad has six players, none of whom are attackers. Even if it could field a side, the team wouldn’t have jerseys to play in — kits aren’t set to be publicly revealed until November.

“It’s all just pure hope,” said Charlotte FC fan William Wells in response to what it’s like to cheer for a team that doesn’t exist.

Wells is a member of the Mint City Collective, the largest of Charlotte FC’s fan-run supporters’ groups. Though named after Charlotte’s “Mint City” epithet, the group has chapters all across the Carolinas, including in Wells’ native Caswell County.

“You know, there’s no there’s no tradition yet,” Wells continued. “The team hasn’t had a massive heartbreak failure yet. It’s all optimism, I think.”

And one thing the nascent team’s fans have been clamoring for, maybe more than anything, is that darn jersey. Wells said it’s the same reason that Charlotte FC-branded scarves and T-shirts flew off the shelves — people want to be connected to the team brand, or what exists of it.

“I want my overpriced piece of polyester, too,” Wells said.

How might Charlotte FC’s jerseys look?

So far, the team has kept mum about what any of its jerseys will look like, but there are a few things we know.

For one, local Charlotte bank Ally will be the main jersey sponsor, meaning their logo will likely sprawl across the chest of all of the players. We also know the main colors of the home jersey will be blue and black — staples of any sports team owned by David Tepper, who owns Charlotte FC and the Carolina Panthers.

But as any soccer fan knows, that still leaves much to the imagination. Will the jerseys have any patterns or images to represent Charlotte? Will there be special designs on the sleeves or arms? Will there be stripes on the sides, in keeping with the Adidas templates the MLS uses? Will the club ever use its secondary crest?

And while fans will have to wait until November for an official answer, they’ve been more than happy to create their own. A quick Google image search of “Charlotte FC jerseys” will show you some of the hundreds of designs the team’s supporters have created. From those designs, a few stand out.

One of the most popular design ideas has been a blue-and-black checkerboard pattern on the home kits, reminiscent of one of Charlotte’s first professional sports — NASCAR.

“It’s something not a lot of teams around the world take advantage of,” said Russell Varner, another member of Mint City Collective. “The Croatian national team is arguably the only team in the world that really does a good job of the checkerboard.”

That Croatia design gained new prominence in 2018, when the Eastern European team and its striking red-and-white kits made it all the way to the World Cup final, losing 4-2 to France. To Charlotte FC’s fans, that same design could be just as meaningful in the Queen City, while also being one of a kind in the MLS — something the fans are craving.

“I’m not even the biggest NASCAR guy,” said Varner, 33, who has lived in Charlotte since he was 10. “I would just love to see us embrace uniqueness.”

Any ‘Mint City’ variations?

There are dozens of ways Charlotte FC’s kits could be unique, and fans have thought of nearly all of them. In keeping with the Mint City moniker, another popular idea has been a mint-colored away kit or third kit, similar to the Hornets’ “Buzz City” City Edition jerseys.

There have also been talks about using the team’s secondary crest. While the primary crest is a standard logo featuring a crown, the secondary one takes inspiration from the antique-looking crests used by European teams like Chelsea and Scottish side Rangers, with the acronym “CLTFC” written in highly stylized calligraphy.

“In my opinion, I’d like all that, too, but I’d just like it to look clean,” said Lee Hannibal. Hannibal runs Charlotte FC Fan TV, a YouTube channel and Twitter account meant to give a voice to the club’s fans — giving them a public platform for discussion about the team as a whole, but also creating unity through events like trivia nights.

“I don’t want the kits to be too busy,” Hannibal continued. “Otherwise, I think that kind of distracts from what you’re trying to get across.”

Hannibal was born in England and moved to Charlotte when he was 13. Though his voice is distinctly Southern now, he still catches himself saying words like “football” and “squirrel” in a way that sounds more like the Queen’s English, not Queen City’s.

It makes sense, then, why Hannibal would want to keep the kits clean. As a supporter of the English Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur, he’s used to the sleek white home shirts Spurs are known for. To Charlotte FC fans like Wells, though, going the way of a traditional white kit — the ones the Charlotte FC Academy teams are playing in — is a mistake.

“When their academy players have been playing, it’s always been in plain black or plain white,” Wells said. “And I’m like, ‘My God, I hope they’re not this.’ Why not come out, the new kids on the block, and have something totally unique, you know, in a world of sameness?”

Fans say: Give us the jerseys already

That push for uniqueness only goes so far, though. At the end of the day, Hannibal acknowledged the truth about the team’s kits — no matter what they look like, the fans want them, and they want them now.

“The soccer community is starving here in Charlotte, man,” he said.

Fans have their preferences for what the jersey should look like — from the checkered print to the mint-colored design to saving a spot for the second logo — and they’ve made those preferences known by posting their own ideas all over the internet.

But having an official jersey, even a plain black-and-white one, is something that can’t be replaced. It’s a unifying force — a symbol showing that on game days, as Charlotte FC takes the field, its fans will be wearing the same shirts, cheering and fighting alongside them.

When that kit comes out, people will buy it.

“I’m almost like that Fry (from Futurama) meme,” Wells said. “ ‘Shut up and take my money.’ That’s about how it is.”

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