Sartorial soccer: A brief history of the World Cup's best jerseys
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Best World Cup jerseys

Sartorial soccer: A brief history of the World Cup's best jerseys

Words— Ben Kriz

With the World Cup upon us, it's time to think about what really matters – the beautiful kits. There are many factors that make a soccer kit great – the colours, the design, the crests, the name and number fonts. And uniforms have had their own trends over the years, moving from the wide collars of the 70s to the baggy-fit, off-beat designs of the 90s to the more form-fitting looks we see today. But, ultimately, success on the field usually influences how we see a team's kit later on (in 20 years nobody will thinking wow remember when England didn't make it past the group stage in 2014 - great kit! ). So with that - let us look back on the greatest kits to grace the beautiful game’s biggest stage. 



The best




Brazil '70


Iconic. The working definition of an absolute classic. Canary yellow with green trim, blue shorts and white socks. Brazil won its third World Cup in 1970 with Pele and these shirts. You don’t mess with a classic, and Brazil has gone back to the same look year after year. You’ll get no complaints here.




England '66


Simple. Elegant. Red. White. Long sleeves and a rounded collar. England’s 1966 kit is one of the few instances when the away shirt beats the home. The Three Lions and Sir Bobby Moore won their first and only World Cup trophy wearing these beauties. England’s more recent kits have mirrored this classic with simple (some may say too simple) designs. This year’s squad is young and hungry but England supporters and their negative media may be waiting a few more years for World Cup glory.




West Germany '74\'90


There are really two eras of West German kits. Before 1982 Germany kept things, well...German, with a simple white shirt featuring black trim and black shorts. Lovely. Efficient. How could their opponents not be intimidated? Interestingly enough, the second era of German soccer is just as stylish as the first. The 1990 Adidas kits introduced the colours of the German flag and their famous three-stripe motif. They were very modern at the time and, all these years later, still look fresh. It was quite the year for the West Germans, as they went on to win their third World Cup in the same year as German reunification.




France '14


Leave it to the French to make a shirt that looks like it was bought at Galeries Lafayette. France is arguably among the best dressed, in striking blue and white shirts with haute couture club collars. Their away kit from the same year, with graphic Breton stripes, is also a winner. Honestly, I could include their 2018 offering as well. The French do it well. C'est élégant!




Croatia '06

Croatia has only appeared in five World Cups (as they first competed under the former Yugoslavia), but all these appearances have featured their signature red and white chequered pattern shirt, which was designed by the same man who created the nation's coat of arms. Their first two World Cup kits were overly complicated and missed the mark. Their 2006 kits, however, are what you think of when you imagine Croatian football: creative and aggressive. One of the best-looking kits in the world.




Uruguay ’50


Baby blue has never really struck fear into the hearts of opponents, but Uruguay did something right when they won the World Cup for the first time in 1930 and again in Brazil in 1950. This kit, with it’s v-neck and thick white trim, will be the inspiration for La Celeste’s World Cup 2018 run.




Netherlands ’74


The Netherlands' uniforms have always included orange, as it is the country's national colour (originating from the coat of arms of Dutch founding father William of Orange-Nassau). La Oranje’s '74 uniforms are simple, yet stylish featuring orange shirts with black stripes down the arm, white shorts and orange socks. The Netherlands reached the finals with these kits but failed to win. Still, the orange shirt remains a classic. You won’t see any orange this year – the Dutch, much like fellow mainstays Italy and America have missed out on this year’s tournament.




Denmark ‘86


The red and white details of this Danish kit reflect the colours of their national flag. Very modern and very cool (much like Danish furniture), the Danes made quite a statement at their first ever World Cup, finishing top of their group until getting knocked out by Spain in the Round of 16. Åh nej!




Argentina ’78


Argentina, like neighbours Brazil, have found what works and stuck with it. They've had the white and blue since their first World Cup in 1930, and have stayed with the white socks since '78. Argentina's colours are so iconic, they've become the team's nickname – La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue).




Peru ‘70


The sash is an underrated soccer uniform style. Peru pulled it off with swagger in the 1970 World Cup. The red and white sash has been their preferred shirt since 1936, after Paraguay had already registered red and white stripes. NPR once called the shirts "the beautiful game's most beautiful shirt", and that it "was retro even in 1970. And guess what, Peru are back in the tournament this time around for the first time in 36 years.




Nigeria ’18


While Nigeria might not win the actual World Cup, they’ve already won the World Cup of Getting a Fit Off. Looks at these! Their team outfits are equally amazing. See them all on display in what I’m calling Song of the Summer 2018.




And 3 of the....more interesting



United States ’94


America really decided to show the world that they’re AMERICA when it hosted the 1994 World Cup wearing this denim-inspired away kit. It was truly a far cry from the Yanks' beautiful 1950 home shirt. For a deep reading on the history of this inspired shirt, head over to Slate.




Zaire ‘74


Not only are these shirts an embarrassment, but the team didn’t exactly endear themselves to the world with their antics as shown here:



The less said about these kits, the better. History lesson: Zaire is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. 



Cameroon ’02


These sleeveless numbers made by Puma looked more like basketball jerseys than soccer shirts. Cameroon used the shirts before the 2002 World Cup, however, FIFA didn't allow Cameroon to use the same kits (even though there was nothing in the rulebook about being sleeveless). The new shirts included black sleeves, which barely helped them look more like soccer shirts.




Honourable mention



Although Canada has only ever qualified for one World Cup (Mexico, 1986), and failed to make much of an impression in footballing terms (they finished bottom of their group with no wins and no goals), gear-wise, Canada couldn't have been much better. Red and white with the three stripes – it's a very Liverpool-esque shirt. Unfortunately, they didn't end up playing like Liverpool. Maybe in 2026!




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