Adidas, we need to talk about the thin stripe across the shoulder blades of every kit you have designed for teams in the World Cup. Why is it there? Not got enough stripes on all of your kits? But it’s not just you who does this. Other kit manufacturers get too fussy, too.
It seems to be in our nature as football fans, sports fans, human beings, to get annoyed when anything changes. Team crests, for example. Arsenal’s cannon is facing the wrong way these days. Manchester United lost the words “Football Club” off their crest. Everton fans got riled up when their team’s crest was re-designed last year. Liverpool’s crest grew and grew over the years, and in that growth included–rightly–two eternal flames for the 96 Hillsborough victims. And with a new kit manufacturer (Warrior) the crest was pared back to a beautiful and simple Liver bird and L.F.C. But that meant we lost the flames. As a design, I prefer the return to a simpler crest, but as a fan, I wish the flames were still in there. But they are now on the back of the neck, either side of the number 96.
As someone whose work is vaguely design-related, though, I can also see that things need to change. A wee bit of tinkering, modernising, refreshing, seems like something we should be doing now and again. Cardiff City fans, rightly in my opinion, are resistant to their owner’s decision to change from blue to red shirts. That’s not a wee bit of tinkering, though. Which brings me to the World Cup kits.
The teams at the World Cup are representing their countries. And the sports manufacturers are fucking with things. Spain have red shirts and blue shorts. That’s how it is. But not this time. This time they had red shorts. England have dark blue shorts. But not this time (or last time, actually); this time they had an all-white kit. Germany are supposed to have black shorts. This time, they too are all white. Brazil, the home nation with the most iconic of all international kits should have yellow shirts, blue shorts, and white socks. But they’ve played their last three games with white shorts. That’s not Brazil. In this era of brand management, you would think that Fifa would understand that one of the key things about the World Cup is our ability to instantly recognise a kit. Yellow-blue-white: Brazil! Yellow-white-white: err, who’s that? These things are fundamental in our collective memory of World Cups. What is a World Cup if these memories, the history, don’t exist? (Well, aside from a way for Fifa to rock up into a country and scrape every possible penny from under that nation’s collective sofa.)
The design of kits seems all about letting the manufacturers do whatever they want. Within reason. I don’t understand why goalkeepers, who obviously need a slightly different kit, wear a uniform that is so often totally unrelated, design-wise, to their outfield brothers? If you mixed up the goalie kits and blurred the team badge, it’d be kinda tough to guess which keeper belonged to which team. Not only does this make for unnecessary ugliness, it seems to me to be missing an opportunity. I have no data for this, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume that of all the replica jerseys, the goalkeepers’ jerseys are the ones that sell the least. If Adidas and Nike and Puma, etc. gave it a bit more thought, there is a potential revenue stream there that benefits everyone. Make the goalie kit look like an essential part of the team, just like the person wearing that kit is an essential part of the team.
Maybe, though, my feet are just stuck in the mud. Maybe I just don’t want to accept change. And change looks good sometimes in hindsight. I remember disliking the the 1990 Germany home and away jerseys at the time. I look at them now and really like them. I can’t ever say I will truly dig, though, the Nike jersey for Portugal this time around. It just seems so cynical that the two tone stripes somehow pause to allow for a lighter red band wide enough for the Nike logo to appear unsullied on a plain background. Something they neglected to do for the country badge on the other side. It just seems to me, as design elements go, to be so disrespectful and so blatantly about promoting themselves. Or, maybe I’m spending too much time staring at a screen with moving images of football players on it. Maybe, right?