Monday, August 2, 2010

Epic post! Ranking international soccer uniforms

A couple weeks ago, I posted a ranking of international hockey jerseys, and it quickly became the most popular article I've written on this blog so far. Naturally, the next step is to do the same thing with international soccer jerseys. The last major soccer tournament was of course the 2010 World Cup, with a staggering 32 uniforms to analyze. Let's get cracking.

32. North Korea (white away kit)

North Korea has switched kit manufacturers dozens of times, and lacks any sort of consistent image other than "we wear mostly red." North Korea isn't exactly interested in selling replica shirts to fans. They went with Italian manufacturer Legea for the World Cup, and sported a completely unremarkable get-up. On top of the amateur lettering and numbering, Legea didn't even put any sort of crest or logo on the breast, instead simply going with the country's flag. Poor design choices.

31. Nigeria (white away kit)

It was rumored the Nigeria Football Federation actually turned down this lackluster design by Adidas, but when the team arrived in South Africa, they were indeed wearing this kit which seems to be merely a generic green Adidas template with the NFF logo slapped on. This ranks ahead of North Korea because the white kit is at least a bit more interesting, with green trim on a still-boring white jersey.

30. Switzerland (white away kit)

I guess the Swiss enjoy snoozeworthy uniforms in all international tournaments, whether it be hockey or soccer. Another kit faux pas involving the country's flag instead of any sort of crest on the left breast, although it could have been amended if the white square border were eliminated since it's a red flag on a red shirt anyway. But unlike North Korea, they don't forget to include a logo as well--on the right breast. Swiss flag + Swiss Football Association logo + Puma logos everywhere = too busy.

29. Chile (white away kit)

Chile has used small American manufacturer Brooks Sports as its kit maker for a long time. Many Chileans are resentful of this relationship, and for good reason. Like two of the last three I've analyzed, it's a boring red shirt. The Chilean Football Federation has a great crest, but it's only featured as a shoulder patch on this jersey, with the breast being taken up by a lackluster near-flag logo. I appreciate when a team uses a manufacturer besides Adidas, Nike, or Puma, but not when the kits look like this.

28. Italy (white away kit)

This is almost the greatest kit of all time. It's Italy's classic blue jersey with a great crest and subtle green, white, and red lining on the collar. But then they had to add the watermark. If you look closely, you can see a watermark that covers the whole shirt, meant to be a gladiator's armor as some sort of allegory for footballers as warriors. But it just looks like fake abs. Once you see it, you can't un-see it. It's like when you're a little kid and you buy a Superman costume for Halloween with a built-in six pack. This shirt is the jersey equivalent of someone pooping on a delicious chocolate cake.

27. France (white away kit)

It's not a coincidence that two world soccer powers completely wet the bed during the World Cup. Italy and France imploded in South Africa, and they both also happened to wear horrific uniforms this year. Much like Italy, France has a smartly-designed crest, and their away strip is actually not bad at all. But the strange Transformers-esque red and white stripes on the stomach are inexplicable. It's like a 12-year-old kid in the '90s thought, "What would make this shirt look better? I know! Some arbitrary stomach stripes!" On top of that, the collar makes this look like a t-shirt.

26. The Netherlands (white away kit)

Strange, a team that made it to the final wore such an ugly shirt. As an 8-year-old kid watching my first World Cup in 1998, Holland was my team of choice because I loved the color orange. Maybe my tastes have changed, but what's more likely is the uniform has gotten worse. Orange is a tough color to work well into clothing. The Royal Dutch Football Association has a great lion crest, but the fact that it's on an orange background exactly the same color as the rest of the shirt makes this much uglier. Officially, the Oranje wear black shorts with the shirt that make the kit look cheap. Occasionally the team sports an all-orange look which is eons ahead of the orange-and-black look.

25. Greece (blue away kit)

Greece has a great crest with awesome Greek lettering, but it's ruined by the generic Adidas template. Oodles of MLS teams feature this noodly-trim design, from the Columbus Crew to Chivas USA, and I don't like it on any of them. What's the point? It clashes particularly with the Greek uniforms, because Greek aesthetic is characteristically so blocky, and this is so wavy and round. Perhaps the lines would look better if they were at right angles.

24. Australia
(blue away kit)

I appreciate that this is the first team on the list not to have a white jersey, but the Socceroos' shirts are pretty basic nonetheless. The three-color kits are almost just t-shirts. But the awesome (if a bit too complex) crest saves it a little. In general, Nike's current soccer uniforms for all its international teams are a bit simplistic, but they're all made out of recycled bottles, which is pretty net and eco-friendly. You'll notice, though, that all Nike international shirts feature weird little band-aids on the end of the sleeves. I'm not sure what those are about.

23. New Zealand (black away kit)

Speaking of people that are nearly Australian, New Zealand has got a pretty simple kit. The All-Whites are a play off their famous rugby team, the All-Blacks, and the soccer team's away kits are a reference to that. The national emblem, the fern, looks great on these kits, although I'm not sure why it needs the words "NEW ZEALAND FOOTBALL" underneath. A bit redundant, eh? I can't help but wish the Kiwis would wear their black uniforms as home kits, though--no other team wears a black home shirt, and it looks awesome.

22. Slovenia (green away kit)

Slovenia's uniforms would be unremarkable, but they're the now-famous "Charlie Brown shirts." In fact, they're meant to be reminiscent of Slovenia's coat of arms, depicting the nation's mountains. This zig-zag pattern sort of overshadows the shirt's crest, which is quite modern and classy. However, the green and yellow away kit looks even better than this white and green home one, and I wish they'd be reversed.

21. Honduras (blue away kit and third kit)

This is a much more successful example of a team using a smaller kit manufacturer. The large crest in the middle is bold and powerful, and the blue stripe above it makes the whole shirt stand out. But the blue and white-striped third kid is even better, incorporating these aspects as well as some classy stripes from the chest down. Now if only the team wearing this shirt were as good as the kit itself. In addition, the shorts feature a giant Times New Roman letter H, which some people hate but I think is awesome.

20. Slovakia (white away kit)

Slovakia is one of the only countries to feature its national crest instead of its soccer federation's crest (or national flag). It's a very simple, minimalistic uniform that I would hazard to call generic if the colors and logo didn't work so well--much like the uniform of Slovakia's national hockey team. It's how Adidas should have gone about designing its boring Nigeria kit. One tidbit of note is that there's a lot of confusion about the home vs. away kits. Everyone thinks of Slovakia in blue, but at the games this past World Cup where they were the designated "home" team, they wore the inferior white uniform. Huh?

19. Denmark (white away kit)

The Danes are quite the fans of this weird optical illusion thing across the chest. I'm not sure what it is, but it's nifty, and other than that, this is a pretty clean retro shirt. The crest of the Danish Football Association is interesting, because the font used in its lettering is almost Arab-looking. Unfortunately, Denmark's away kit is devoid of the optical illusion and vastly inferior, although it does feature some nice red lining.

18. Brazil (blue away kit)

Readers will complain that I've placed arguably the most recognizable sports jersey in the world all the way down at #18 out of 32. But although Brazil's current kit features the iconic yellow shirt with blue shorts, to me there's just something missing. If the crest is so famous, why does it need the word "BRASIL" underneath? The green stripe along the shoulders doesn't add anything. I actually prefer the blue away kit, because it features a subtle dot design that adds to the depth of the shirt when you look at it up close.

17. Paraguay (white away kit)

Paraguay's away kit is a soulless Adidas template, almost identical to Greece's shirt. But the home kit is a classic design, something that's been virtually unchaged as long as the team has been around. One thing I really dislike, though, is the solid block on the back for the numbers. A lot of teams do this, I guess because they think it makes the numbers easier to read, but as you'll see later on in this list, you can easily make a uniform with true stripes on the back and still be able to read the numbers.

16. South Korea (white away kit)

The Taeguk Warriors have a sweet tiger crest, and the entire shirt features a stunning tiger print watermark. Other than this design, it's a fairly simple shirt, so it looks much cooler up close than on TV. Usually, I don't think blue on red without any sort of white buffer looks good (see: Russia's national hockey team jerseys), but the fact that it's mostly red with just a little blue trim and a blue crest makes it work excellently on this kit.

15. Ghana (red away kit)

The Black Stars wear a classy white shirt, with an eponymous black star subtly watermarked on the right shoulder. But I don't understand why they wear this. The away kit, red with gold stripes, is stunning. If it were the home kit, Ghana would probably be in my Top 5. I understand the importance of the black lining, though, which leads me to wonder why Ghana doesn't maybe wear a black home shirt. There is so much wasted potential here, but it's still a classy kit.

14. Algeria (green away kit)

There's a certain motif here of Puma creating kits for African teams where the home shirt is a sleek-but-not amazing white home shirt, and a breathtaking, colorful away strip. The home jersey has a cool desert fox lettermark on the right shoulder and the green/red lining looks great. But the away shirt, green with red and white pinstripes, is superior in every way. It's a wonder why this masterpiece of a shirt isn't the home choice. Ghana and Algeria face nearly identical jersey crises. Hmm.

13. Serbia (white away kit)

Serbia's design of a white cross on red, while reminding me of Denmark, sets it apart from everything else. While the crest is a bit redundant (a logo of a white cross on red, on a jersey which is a white cross on red). The blue band-aid things on the sleeves add a nice soft third color which is not found on the rest of the jersey. The predictable white away jersey does not quite live up to the home strip, but that's okay with me when the home shirt looks so great.

12. Uruguay (white away kit)

Uruguay has the best flag in the world. So how to recreate that imagery in soccer jersey form? The sky blue color stands out, and the Suns of May watermarked all over the jersey are both awesome and friendly! One aspect I take issue with, though, is the badge. Normally, a team wears stars above their badge for every World Cup they've won. Uruguay has won two, but they wear four stars, representing the two Olympic gold medals they won before the World Cup existed. I think this is BS. Make it two stars, and this would be a better kit.

11. England (red away kit)

It bums me out that England was the only country at the World Cup with a kit made by Umbro. Umbro's overall products are smarter than any other major kit manufacturer. England went retro this year, with a perfectly designed, clean home kit. The red away shirt is even more striking, featuring great white cuffs on scarlet shirts. The famous Three Lions crest is ancient and meaningful, and should never be changed from how it looks here. I especially love how the single star (representing England's only World Cup title) is stitched in the same color as the shirt, making it more humble and subdued.

10. United States (blue away kit)

This one grew on me. When it was first revealed, I thought the diagonal striple looked dumb, and the much bolder blue away kit looked superior in every way. But the more I see this, the more I love it. The stripe is very subtle, and can't really be seen from far away on TV. It's a little reference to the kits the U.S. wore in the 1950 World Cup when a bunch of American amateurs defeated the highly-touted English squad. My only issue with the U.S. jerseys is the crest. It's "US" in big blocky letters, and a soccer ball. Couldn't we use the righteous "Don't Tread on Me" logo?

9. Portugal (white away kit)

Portugal has always had classy uniforms. Their badge is ancient and medieval-looking while still retaining simplicity, a key factor for crests. The big green stripe across the chest makes the whole shirt harken back to the Portuguese flag. I also really like that the white away strip isn't just a color palette swap of the home kit--it's a solid, classic jersey in its own right. Portugal takes advantage of Nike's minimalist design style better than any other team.

8. Mexico (black away kit)

As a U.S. soccer fan, I'm predisposed to dislike El Tri, but even I must admit their kit this year is stylin'. It's got Mexico's classic shade of green and its eagle crest, but the devil's in the details. The shirt features a creative feather pattern playing on the national symbol of the country. The black away jersey is a different beast entirely, and it integrates green, red, and white detailing in a smart way to create a distint-yet-relatable secondary strip.

7. South Africa (green away kit)

South Africa's Adidas strip is well-desgined for a lot of the same reasons as the Mexico kit. The country's signature gold color is accented with an intricate collar pattern. For hosting their first World Cup, South Africa clearly put a ton of effort into their uniforms. The green away jersey looks just as sharp, and features a watermark design own the chest and stomach in the shape of the South African flag.

6. Japan (white away kit)

I should dislike this jersey. It features the Japanese flag as well as the word "JAPAN" as well as the Japan Football Association badge. I should say it's too busy. But I love it. It looks very smart together, and the little red stripe in the middle of the chest is a nice touch. There's a feathery watermark all over the shirt that makes the Blue Samurais look much more detailed from up close, while still maintaining a solid image from afar. The fantastic JFA crest just completes the image.

5. Cameroon (yellow away kit)

Cameroon's kit is Puma's Ghana/Algeria dilemma done right. Not only is the yellow away kit (with red pinstripes) fantastic, but the green home kit is fantastic as well. The fact that it's worn with red shorts and yellow socks makes it look even greater. The Indomitable Lions, as they're known, feature not one but two lions on the shirt: one on the left breast and one as a Lion King-style watermark on the right shoulder. As a matter of fact, writing this post made me realize how much I really love this kit.

4. Argentina (blue away kit)

Argentina executes the concept of the striped shirt perfectly. Unlike Paraguay that has an ugly block on the back for numbering, Argentina makes the numbers legible while retaining the stripes, and looks sharper as a result. The crest is perfect, the shade of blue is perfect, this is nearly impeccable. It's interesting Argentina employs a dark blue away kit, as this makes them one of the only teams to feature home and away kits that primarily feature different shades of the same color.

3. Ivory Coast (green away kit)

Ivory Coast has all the great things I said about Cameroon's kit, but even more so. I love this shade of bright orange. Maybe this is how the Netherlands should have done their uniform? I don't think so, though. This is uniquely African. The green and white-hooped away kit is just as stunning, and the elephant imagery throughout is boisterous and fun, with an awesome pachyderm crest, and an elephant wailing on the watermarked right shoulder.

2. Spain (blue away kit)

It's no wonder Spain won the World Cup. They've got a great uniform. The dotted line collar. The magestic crest. The bright red. It's perfect. It's a good thing they don't use the Royal Spanish Football Federation logo, which sucks. The dark blue away kits are smart as well, but the all-dark secondary strip doesn't work too well. If they wore red shorts instead of blue with the blue shirts, the away kit would be just as intense as the home strip. It's sort of ironic, because Spain won the World Cup wearing these inferior blue shirts, and after they won, they switched to brand-new red shirts... with a star newly emblazoned above the badge.

1. Germany (black away kit)

I know it's simple and white, but Germany wears the perfect kit. An iconic gold eagle crest upon a thin reserved-yet-strong stripe down the left side of the shirt speaks more than a loud, out-there shirt ever could. The strategic use of black throughout the strip is intelligent and well-placed. The jet-black away kit is like an expensive German automobile, with fancy detailing on a sleek jet finish. This is an image that will last for decades to come. It's fitting Adidas, by far the smartest kit manufacturer in 2010, completes their coup with the company's home nation taking the top spot.



    I'm so proud of you. Also, I'm surprised you didn't mention the away team jersey looking like an SS uniform. It's classic. :)

  2. Uruguay is the best probably, although I prefer the version worn during qualifying to the one worn in the finals.

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  4. What an impressive post you have shared with us. I would like to appreciate you for sharing this useful and informative post with us.

  5. Great post. I actually prefer Holland with black shorts but agree about most of your other points.

    My favourite world cup kit was the 'Africa Unity' kit chosen as third kit for most of the African nations. The sky blue merged into a brown base representing the earth and sky. Class.

  6. The design of Germany's jersey look very simple and yet so elegant. I'm also a huge fan of their club.