Edit, 19 September 2014: See our addendum to this interview.…
Whether or not you’re into soccer, you can’t escape it during the World Cup. So we at d.so thought it might be worth brushing up on the evolution of the football kit. How much do you know about that jersey you’ve been sporting?
1912 Irish Football Club, via Flickr
The classic football uniform first emerged in England as early as the nineteenth century. The traditional football “kits” have a short- or long-sleeved jersey top, shorts, sock, shin guards and cleats (primarily known as boots in the football community). Football uniforms are designed to keep the player cool while playing but also to identify the team and player. While the number on the back of the uniform used to identify the position of the player (1 for goalie, 10 for midfield striker, and so on), each player now has a career number which is more useful for the modern system in which players play multiple positions and there are more consistent b-lines and substitutions.
Back when cigarettes were part of sport uniforms, 1925, via
Each team has two primary uniforms, a brightly colored jersey, which is considered the team’s home jersey and lighter jersey, which is for away games. Teams wear contrasting colors in order for referees and players to distinguish each team. Some teams have a third uniform in order to prevent possible clashing. For instance, Italy has a green colored kit in addition to its blue and white uniforms. Goalies are also required to have a distinguishing uniform and are often outfitted in bright neon colors.
The main jersey has undergone quite an evolution since its origin. The changes in uniform are one of the best ways to track changes in soccer culture. In the 1930s, the soccer uniform shifted from a traditional jersey to a more formal, rugby style uniform. This shift is especially notable in Arsenal’s 1933 uniform which had large white sleeves and wide white collar. However, this uniform style recieved pushback from lower-class English soccer fans who believed that rugby was for the upper class and football was theirs. In the mid-twentieth century, the Continental style of uniform developed–which featured light synthetic fabric, common to athleticwear now–with short sleeves and a v-neck. This Continental style is the most popular for modern teams but the 2014 FIFA jerseys for Australia, Chile, Greece, Italy and the USA have polo collars inspired by the previous rugby style.
Fans first began wearing team jerseys in the 1960s when Leeds United’s white uniform (in the style of Real Madrid’s) was the first uniform that was commercially available. In 1973, Eintracht Braunschweig, a German soccer club, started displaying a logo from their sponsor Jaegermeister, and many other clubs soon followed suit. This was a huge shift in soccer culture. Sponsorship changed soccer from merely a sport to a religion and an industry. Individual players signed deals with sponsors. Brazil‘s Pelé was asked specifically to bend down and tie his shoes at the beginning of the 1970 World Cup to ensure the camera would capture the new design of his sponsored Adidas cleats.
The uniform as a fashion statement didn’t really pick up steam until the 1990s when David Beckham’s Manchester United uniform sold a million units. The 90s also saw a period in which players would take their shirts off in celebration, which was unfortunately banned by FIFA in 2004.
The current uniforms are designed by athletic apparel companies that lobby each club. Nike and Adidas are the most popular with ten and nine designs each among national teams, but other teams favor other companies like Puma, which makes especially tight uniforms. The uniforms are usually modeled on the countries’ national colors such as Argentina’s distinct light blue and white striped uniform–the colors are inspired by its flag. There are exceptions, however, such as Australia who wears green and gold, like the country’s other national sports teams or the Netherlands, who wears a bright orange away jersey, inspired by the Dutch Royal House of Orange and leading fans to nickname the team “ORANJE”.
Most uniforms include a crest on the left chest which usually features an acronym for the team’s football federation and a symbol of the country such as the Dutch Lions or the kangaroo and emu on Australia’s crest. The countries that have won a World Cup get stars above their crest. Brazil’s uniform features 5 stars above its crest, symbolizing its 5 previous wins, while defending champion Spain has one star above its crest symbolizing its 2010 win.
Brazil’s Kit, 2014: Now used exclusively to wipe away millions of tears, via
Some notable uniforms this year include Brazil’s alternate blue uniform, a color that hasn’t been worn by Brazil since 1950. Before they were changed to their current yellow and green, the Brazilian uniforms were blue and white. Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950, a World Cup which featured a Uruguay defeat of Brazil from a fluke goal made in the last eleven minutes. This defeat traumatized the Brazilians, who were expecting a second Cup win in a row, were considered the overwhelming favorite, and were hosting the cup. This defeat has been called “The Defeat” or “The Maracana Blow” by soccer fans ever since. After such a devastating blow to Brazilian soccer culture, the Brazilian uniforms were changed from their blue and white uniforms to the yellow and green uniforms worn today. Their new blue uniforms designed by Nike reflect not only style but years of Brazilian soccer history and culture. We will have to see if Brazil brings a different uniform to the 2018 cup in Russia after its semi final defeat this year.
Croatia vs. Brazil, via
In addition, this year’s notable uniforms include the Croatian bright red and white checkered uniform–one of the loudest and most noticeable looks on the field. The Croatian team almost broke FIFA’s rule that uniforms can only have four colors with their stand-out checkers. Many of the uniforms this year feature inlays such as the Belgium large crown inlay on both it’s home and away jerseys and Iran’s incredibly large jungle cat inlay. Japan‘s and Cote D’Ivoire’s uniforms are rare in that they are primarily bright solid colors with Japan’s jerseys in a bright neon yellow and blue and Cote D’Ivoire’s uniforms in green and yellow. The United States uniforms were criticized for being too simple and looking too similar to British uniforms, but most critics have welcomed a simpler design especially contrasted with the 1994 stars and stripes fake-denim uniform.
Pantofola D’Oro Leather Sneakers | Adidas German Kit | Boss German Shoes
River Island Plimsolls | Adidas Argentina Kit | Raf Simons Sneakers
Nike Free 5.0 | Holland Away Jersey | Onitsuka Women’s Sneaker
Which uniforms caught your eye in this World Cup?
References, Credit, Etc.
+ Baker, Alex. “Hidden Symbols of the World Cup Uniforms.” Yahoo! Sports. 19 June 2014.
+ “History of the Soccer Uniform.” 4 March 2013.
+ Lind, Andrew. “FIFA’s World Cup Uniform Guidelines are Intense.” SBNation. 4 June 2014.
+ Intro Photo via AFP/Getty
Disclaimer: There was absolutely no bias in the commentary,
editing or selection of photography in this post.