Over a century ago a small store specialising in imported baseball and golf equipment opened in Osaka, Japan. Frustrated with the quality of the imported goods, the store owner Rihachi Mizuno successfully sought out local factories who could manufacture to a higher standard – these domestic goods were labelled with the family name, giving birth to the Mizuno brand.
Saturday 25th November 2017, Arcul de Triumf Stadium, Bucharest – one of the less heralded autumn rugby internationals is being played between Romania and Tonga. But for Mizuno this was a proud moment. Both squads are fully kitted out in Mizuno apparel and 85% of all players that have taken to the pitch are wearing Mizuno boots. Both nations will wear the kit alongside Namibia at the 2019 Rugby World Cup – making Mizuno the second most-worn brand at the global event.
Each set of kit has been designed and produced to the highest of standards, with the most intricate attention applied to a nation’s training and match day uniform. How does a player want to feel as they walk onto the pitch ahead of 80 gruelling, combative minutes? They want to feel proud. And they want total confidence that their kit will hold up to the challenge ahead. At Mizuno we believe that uniform is critical – look good, feel good.
The match day shirt is always the key piece – it needs a perfect anatomical fit so that there are no loose areas to grab hold of. It needs to breathe to withstand the heat and sweat generated during a game. It needs to be tough and survive almost an hour and a half of contact. Other detailing is critical – the comfortable seams, the pocket for the GPS tracker, the shaping around the neck.
The training and match day kit also brings its own set of challenges. Rugby players are often bigger and taller than your average man or woman – they often have longer legs, requiring bespoke training leggings/pants, and broader shoulders, requiring sizes beyond the standard ‘extra-large’. All of this is achievable and available from Mizuno’s teamwear category.
That’s the rugby look and feel taken care of from the ankles up, but the other critical element of a rugby player’s kit is footwear. Midway through the 2017/208 Aviva Rugby Premiership and over 30% of all players are wearing Mizuno boots. It’s a welcome return to form for Mizuno. It’s the brand’s strongest position in the sport since the 1980s when their strength of product led to partnerships with the mighty All Blacks and Harlequins F.C. The success has been driven by the brand’s focus and philosophy on quality leather boots. Why leather? Because leather is extremely comfortable, malleable and supportive. Hugely important factors in any sport. The argument that leather is too heavy is no longer relevant – Mizuno’s flagship shoe, the Morealia Neo II weighs in at an incredible 180g. It’s a welcome antithesis to the stream of plastic-based footwear products that have flooded the market over the last decade.