Hot off the press, or rather out of the oven, Providence City FC’s new Treat Yo’ Self kit is finally here in all its glazed and sprinkled glory. We sat down with PCFC founder Jason Rego to discuss the evolution of the kit, his design process, and what the future holds for his club.
When we think of the top kit designers in the United States, a few instantly spring to mind. There’s former Nike legend Matthew Wolff, whose 2018 Nigeria kit has yet to be topped. There’s Forward Madison’s Cassidy Sepnieski, whose Drip kit completely broke our brains earlier this summer. There’s Icarus FC’s Robert Smukler, whose custom kit company consistently churns out quality bangers. And then there’s Providence City FC’s Jason Rego.
For someone who isn’t a designer by trade, Rego has quite the CV when it comes to kits. Since founding the club in 2015 he’s put out several iconic shirts, from the outrageous HAMR kit to the more recent Good Night Lights kit. And he’s showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. We caught up with Rego recently to talk about his latest kit drop, what he makes of the kit trend in the U.S., and what he looks for in a good kit.
Urban Pitch: So, first things first, the new Treat Yo’ Self kit looks gorgeous. Can you walk me through the kit design and what inspired it? I mean obviously donuts, right?
Jason Rego: Our sponsor PV Donuts, they’re not like your typical Dunkin’ Donuts. They’re artisan donuts — they’re essentially custom like our kits. And they constantly drop new donuts every month. Their ask this year was to emphasize the pink in their logo, because last year we emphasized their PVD blue and green.
I didn’t really know where I was going to go with it. I didn’t want to copy the ombre that we did last year — I wanted to incorporate that pink and make it pop. What I really wanted to do this year was highlight the sprinkles, because we didn’t really highlight sprinkles on last year’s kit. The highlight was more just the color and the ombre.
And one thing led to another — I did my raw sketches, a little write up, and collaborating with INARIA, and they came back with two different prototypes. And this prototype was their little spin where they added the glaze to it. I honestly think this one’s going to be a fan favorite versus the one I sketched up. It was closer to last year’s, if not more of a classic kit. I think a lot of my designs are like your stereotypical — I’m not going to say professional kit — they’re just not as wild as INARIA’s.
So, an example would be the Klondike kit is way more of my influence, and the Good Night Lights kit is way more of INARIA’s influence. That’s why INARIA is the perfect partnership, because they add a lot of stuff I wouldn’t think about or that’s just not my style. But I want to appeal to the Rogues, not myself. Because I don’t make the kits for myself.
That’s funny. From the outside looking in, I would’ve guessed that comparison would’ve been switched, with INARIA clamoring to do the Klondike kit and you coming up with the design for the Good Night Lights. Especially since they’re the ones having to make your sketches into a reality.
There’s no one better than INARIA to work with on kit customization. Just the fact that they put input into my design and give me feedback and actually help with the digital design, is huge and takes a lot of man hours away. And that was one of the huge deciding factors when teaming up with them. And the fact of them adding their flavor to it helps the whole process and the vision of Providence City and where we’re going.
Because obviously the kit design’s cool and it helps get everyone’s attention, but what that attention does is essentially help us grow and accomplish our bigger objectives and continue winning on the pitch and getting the best football team possible. And the more people watching us and supporting us along the way helps grow the club. I’m not a traditional owner in the sense where I don’t have deep pockets. I’m only 27 and still paying off my student loans, where you have very wealthy football owners paying a few million to join leagues. So, I have to be a little more strategic in the way I fund the team and the way it grows.
Sounds like a great relationship. Since we’ve segued into it, how important is the kit manufacturer? Because I noticed you switched from Hummel, with whom you produced the HAMR kit. What’s behind the change, and which one have you enjoyed the best or would you keep doing kits with?
Personally I think for Providence City FC, long term it’s always going to be INARIA. It would be real tough for anyone to come in and be able to replace what they do. Because it’s not just the design level, it’s also the relationship level too. They’re definitely very personable and I’ve developed a strong relationship with them.
And for Providence City, I think INARIA is that perfect medium where they’re not a tiny, one-man shop, but they’re not a huge entity that doesn’t really care about our club. So, I think those factors play a huge role, where they have the customizability down and they care about the details we care about, and they have the eye for design and they like us.
Whereas Hummel, they didn’t do anything for design. I literally had to do everything from start to finish. And it was actually a pain, and they would get credit for a lot of our designs. Which is fine, I don’t give a crap about who gets credit. But they had nothing to do with the HAMR kit design. The artwork is from Revival’s artist, AJ Paglia. He does all the beer labels for Revival. And I made the most minor of tweaks to make it into a jersey. So, the fact that people associated it with Hummel was interesting, and I just wasn’t happy about that because the true artist was AJ. He doesn’t like to take credit for anything, but all of Revival’s artwork is AJ Paglia. He’s definitely a great designer.
I have to say I love those Portugal kits you did with Icarus too though…
Totally. So that is my 7-a-side team, FC Providence, which is slightly different. There’s a lot of the same players that play on Providence City, but we’re not as competitive. I don’t really focus on winning with that team. It’s basically a social team where I get to see my friends because life can get busy between my 9 to 5 and running Providence City FC. FC Providence fulfills that void where I still have my relationships and I get to see people and use soccer an excuse to hang out afterwards.
So, that’s where FC Providence plays a role, and because I’m Portuguese, a lot of my friends are Portuguese. And we just grew up first generation here. So, I was like, “It’s about time I make Portuguese kits.” And those two are the ones that came to mind. There’ll definitely be more Portuguese influence going forward, but those two are the most recent.
So, that’s how I do the Icarus stuff, it’s with my 7-a-side team just to keep it separate from Providence City FC, because we are signed with INARIA for two years. Which — just transparency — I plan on teaming up with them long term.
Getting back to the Treat Yo’ Self kit, this is the second one you’ve dropped, can we expect this to become a yearly thing?
Honestly, I think so. PV Donuts, from a character standpoint, they align with us in many ways, where they’re still a young business like us, and they’ve got the PVD vibes where they’re focused on creativity and appealing to that audience. And I think we align perfectly. I guess the only way we wouldn’t is if our club goes to USL, and they just can’t obviously sponsor at that level because the funds get a little wild at that level. But as long as we’re amateur, I don’t see us not teaming up.
Now obviously the response to the Portugal kits and the Good Night Lights kit seems to be a hit, especially on Twitter. What do you make of the growing affinity for jerseys, particularly in the U.S.?
I don’t see it as growing myself because I’ve been a kit nerd since I was 8 years old. But I mean, what you see when something’s a hot commodity is a lot of people try to hop in and make a quick buck, and a lot of crappy stuff happens. And I think that’s where we’ll be able to stand out and continue doing what we’re doing, because we’re not just dropping shit to drop shit. I actually care about the design.
A lot of clubs think like, “Oh, Providence City does that, we’re going to do the same with our kits.” But there’s a lot more thought that goes behind just dropping some half-assed kit and making money.
I would say the first two-and-a-half years we didn’t make a penny. If anything, the first few projects were a loss. And now whatever my profit is, it literally goes into the next project. So people, they lose sight of realistic expectation. I think that’s the only detriment to it growing in the U.S. per se. But I mean, kits have always been popular. They’ve always been a fashion statement in soccer since the ‘80s. And I would say in the U.S. they’ve always been a thing. You could probably go back pretty far and find so many famous people just wearing soccer jerseys as clothing, and they might not even be a supporter of the club.
— Urban Pitch (@Urban_Pitch) May 26, 2020
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— Urban Pitch (@Urban_Pitch) May 26, 2020
When you sit down to design your kits, do you start out going like, “OK, I want to do something that nobody’s ever done before?” That’s not the aim, right, but it ends up like that?
Yeah, exactly. I couldn’t tell you how I get there. It sucks.
It’s like I say all the time, the best players don’t make the best coaches. Ask Messi to teach you how to be like Messi, he can’t tell you. His explanation’s going to suck, and he can’t coach you to get there. And I’m definitely not the Messi of making kits, but I’m just trying to explain my process. Because I’m not a designer by trade, I studied finance. I do a lot of raw sketching and just basic stuff.
INARIA comes in and helps me out with digital. So, it’s not like I’m some talented graphic designer, it’s just — I don’t know, I’m a glorified project manager? You can call it what you want. But yeah, I’m just lucky to be in the spot I’m in, and I just take risks, I guess. (Laughs.)
It shows, and I feel like it’s a good thing. Every Providence City FC kit I’ve seen embodies risk which is, depending on how you look at it, probably stressful from your standpoint. I’m imagining you’re looking at sketches like, “Are they going to like this one? Is this too far?”
Yup, absolutely. It’s definitely stressful. But my favorite feeling is packaging the kits and shipping them out. The amount of places our kits have been is just mind boggling. I still can’t believe it. I just didn’t even think it was possible in my brain. It’s just very interesting and humbling.
Final questions for you, what are you looking forward to in the future? When’s Providence City FC joining NISA or USL? What do you make of the trend of lower league clubs in the U.S. using sites like WeFunder to go the supporter-owned route?
(Laughs.) There’s no set date. Long-term vision, I mean ideally our top team would be in one of those leagues, right? It just hasn’t been something appealing enough to do.
So, I’m not in a rush to go anywhere right now, I just want to keep building what we’re building. It’s a good thing. The people involved are phenomenal, from the players to the supporters to people on social media. We have a great group and everyone believes in the mission, and I want to stay true to that mission.
So, say we go to NISA or USL, it just has to make sense how we do it. And I mean from an idealistic perspective, as soon as I started this club, in my mind I wanted to be a supporter-owned club. It seems to be, like you were saying, a hot commodity right now. For us to do it right in this instance, it doesn’t make sense. I would honestly want to be getting 500 home fans a game to even think about it.
Because I want that ownership to be local. I don’t mind, and I’d love for the social media people to own pieces of the club, but I definitely want to have enough of the core where the owners are local and they’re at the games and they feel the environment and they get to know the players. So, from that perspective, I don’t think we’re ready to be supporter-owned.
Like I said, I’m so busy just building out what we have at the moment, and I’m focused on the good we have now, so I’m not too worried about what the future has in store.
But yeah, I’m building the foundation so when we make that jump, the club’s not going to fail. It needs the legs to stand on, so that’s what I’m more focused on at the moment. So, nothing set in stone, a bunch of ideas always going through my head, and I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. There’s nothing major coming — well that’s at least planned — but hey, who knows what’s going to happen, right? Plenty of opportunity. Absolutely.
Interview edited for clarity and brevity.
Photos courtesy of Jason Rego and Providence City FC.