Anyone who knows me, or has caught sight of me out in public, knows that I’m the last person who should be held up as any sort of authority on the subject of fashion. As the saying goes however, I may not know much about art, but I know what I like. Or more precisely, I know what I hate. And I’m here to tell you I’m decidedly unimpressed with the shirts the representatives of the land of my ancestors will be wearing at the World Cup this year.
To me, the Azzurri shirt is something hallowed, to be respected and cherished as any national team shirt should be. There’s even an argument to be made that fans shouldn’t wear them. The national team shirt is something you should have to earn, not buy from an online store. But on the other hand, there is nothing like getting your hands on your nation’s special World Cup kit the moment it is released, wearing it with pride during the tournament as the ultimate badge of support, then being able to show it off as a prized piece of memorabilia after the tournament – particularly if your team happened to lift the trophy, as mine did in 2006 (and I have the shirt with only three stars to show for it).
Football is the world’s game. There is no sport more popular on the planet and there is no tournament bigger than the FIFA World Cup. Each nation’s national team is their nation’s representatives to the world. Given the importance, esteem and mana the shirt of a national football team carries, there is a responsibility to make it special. Not a tacky collection of bits and pieces thrown together by a committee of crayon wielding kindergarteners. But a simple garment, like a national ensign, that denotes class and taste. Which is why I was slightly horrified when I saw this:
I mean, look at it. I hardly know where to start, but the buttons on the collar are as good a place as any. Why? What purpose could they possibly serve stuck there like testicles on a banana split? The placket is about 10km too long and resembles a fly on a pair of bad trousers with the top button left undone. There appears to be some kind of magic eye puzzle going on in the middle… Maybe when you squint the right way it turns out to be a Puma executive laughing his arse off at how this design ever got accepted by the FIGC. The white lines down each side look like someone thought “it’s not busy enough, we need more unnecessary faff! I know, let’s add two completely pointless wavy white lines on either side that will draw even more attention to our fans’ beer guts!” And the skin tight fit – don’t even get me started. It might look good on 20 year old football players but I only have one ‘ab’, and covering it skin-tight lycra does not a family show make.
All this is rather disappointing. Especially when you look at what some of the other countries have done. For example, look at what Nike have done for the Dutch! Only two colours, white and different shades of orange. The crest looks beautiful and retro, and the v-shaped almost origami design of the material, the way the light catches it as it fades out of light and dark orange, it’s simply sumptuous. Here’s how you can make something very simple, yet interesting and original.
Germany’s shirt is also very tasteful and elegant. I love the use of white in the crest and stars and the v has interesting colour and texture without being overpowering. This shirt has a bit more ‘bling’ than the Dutch but not for its own sake like the Italian.
Take a look at Uruguay. This makes me want to cry. It’s Puma like Italy’s and contains similar fundamentals but, even though it’s not my favourite, it’s on the whole much better than ours. The collar is much simpler and the lines going right down to the hem actually makes them look more like a serious design element rather than the afterthought they appear to be on Italy’s.
Argentina have gone quite bold. The black Adidas stripes, sleeve hems and crest outline make the shirt stand out quite well. Not a big fan of the stripy sash thing going through the middle. Would be better off without it in my view but none the less a solid effort.
Iran’s is quite stylish. I’m not usually a fan of gimmicky things embossed into the fabric but I’m quite taken with that leopard…
So those are some countries that in my opinion have got it right, let’s look at a few others who have got it wrong…
Brazil’s home strip (right) is an example of how simple can sometimes equal boring.
France’s looks like something you might wear for a day out on your luxury launch in Monte Carlo. Not really a football shirt…
Portugal’s is specially designed so that if you run it over a barcode scanner at the supermarket you’ll get a five percent discount on sick bags.
If you do the same with Spain’s, you’ll get five percent added on to your purchase of any corduroy product.
If you wear the USA’s to any golf club you will get a complimentary membership and a free pair of plus fours.
Not an easy design brief to take Croatia’s distinctive checks and do them justice. This misses the mark somewhat.
Cameroon. Bob Marley and the Whalers called. They want their acid trip back.
Still waiting for England to release theirs. Rumour has it that it will be completely white. Will be interesting to see how they pull it off. Could either be a classic or a snoozefest.
The rest are all fairly run of the mill. They can all be seen here at Footy Headlines, which, incidentally, is where I nicked all the above photos from. Head over there and let me know your impressions. Which ones are your favs and which ones are to good taste and decency what Rafa Benitez was to Inter? I’d be interested in your opinion because after all, it’s all pretty subjective isn’t it?
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.