OUR BEST 11 WORLD CUP KITS EVER

We’re nearly through group stage folks! It’s been a bizarro World Cup and I love it. All chaos and sleep deprivation aside, the lead up to Russia 18 has people chirping about kits and soccer fashion like never before. Thanks in massive part to Nike’s brazen “Naija” collection, which saw the Nigerian National team’s general release jersey sell out worldwide. Soccer kit’s are clearly transcending you’re average Joe with World Cup fever. So what’s led to all this? The kids that were raised on the over-sized, over-the-top and brash soccer design of yesteryear —are all grown up and creating things. It’s with this in mind that I decided to create a list of our (my) all-time best World Cup kits. A couple of rules before we get started 1. One kit per nation. It was a struggle between France 98 home and France 14 away, but only one made the cut. 2. The kit had to actually feature in a World Cup match. Yes, that England 90 third kit was brilliant, alas they never wore it in a match. 3. Lets argue!!!

 


11. Zaire 74 Home (West Germany)

Sponsor: adidas

Worn by: Mwepu Ilunga, Kakoko Etepé, Mavuba Mafulia.

The Story: Worn by one of the most controversial national team’s in the history of world soccer. The 1974 Zaire squad never received payment for their World Cup run and were nearly banned from returning home by their maniacal president. Complete shitstorm aside, The Zaire ‘Leopards’ rocked one of the most provocative kits of their era. At time when most team shirts were basic and unimaginative, but adidas turned heads with this one. The green strip was given yellow accents on a massive collar, three-stripes along the sleeves and the team badge which was enlarged then boldly blasted across the chest. Something like this had never been seen before and it sparked a change we really wouldn’t see until years later.

 

 

10. Holland 14 Away (Brazil)

Sponsor: Nike

Worn by: Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder

The story: Of all the entries I’m expecting this one to get the most flack and that’s ok. Yes the ‘Oranje’ are known as such for their iconic orange strips worn throughout the decades, but this gorgeous away number set it off with clean subtlety. The vibrant royal-blue was given a gradient treatment along with a faint, arrow print. Those orange accents seamlessly popped, especially on that over-sized team badge. This was one that killed  softly. There was also this dude named Robin van Persie who immortalized the kit when he scored a diving header en route to a 5-1 massacre of the defending World Champions.  There was a Puskas nomination, a myriad of memes, and large-scale murals in Amsterdam. Need I say more…

 

9. Italy 94 Home (USA)

Sponsor: Diadora

Worn By: Roberto Baggio, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi

The Story: Prior to 94 Italy’s kits were, much like their playing style, no-nonsense and simple. The World Cup in the States brought a new wave of panache to shirt design and Diadora was very much on it. This time, the legendary ‘azzurri’ top was given a jacquard treatment. The Italian crest was incorporated into the fabric in an all-over print. Red, white and green triangles graced the collar trim as well as the sleeve cuffs for a subtle touch of nationalism. Add a clean 3D block numbering and you have the makings of a masterpiece. Yes, Roberto Baggio missed one of the most important penalties in soccer history, but he looked damn good in doing so, even with that dodgy ponytail.

 

8. Japan 98 Home (France)

Sponsor: Asics

Worn By:  Hidetoshi Nakata, Shinji Ono, Masashi Nakayama

The Story: France 98 was hands-down my favorite World Cup for quality kits and for good reason. Primarily because It was was the last World Cup prior to Nike and adidas dominating the landscape. It meant less templates and more eye-catching flavors. Case-in-point, the Japanese 98 home strip by Asics. Just like our previous entry we see jacquard employed, only with a more flamboyant stroke. Flames taken directly from Japanese-style tattooing were woven into the ‘Blue Samurai’ shirt. Those same flames where painted white and red then sublimated onto the sleeves to match that giant collar for accents that popped. I absolutely love when a national team kit incorporates an underlying piece of the country’s culture and this blue beauty is a shining example of that.

 

 

 

7. Jamaica 98 Home (France)

Sponsor: Kappa

Worn by: Robbie Earl, Frank Sinclair, Theodore Whitmore

The Story: Kappa has always held a special place in the hearts of soccer purists. It is a staple brand forever associated with the beautiful game and it has never been afraid to be audacious. A prime example of the said audacity, is the shirt worn by the ‘Reggae Boyz’ at France 98. An over-sized, bright-yellow backdrop was divided by a green/black, half-moon, zebraish print. The giant, floppy black collar was classic 90s flair and it ran to the upper chest where it was met with that iconic Kappa logo. This jersey was controlled chaos, which very much epitomized the gun-slinging heart and playing style of Jamaica’s only World Cup side to date.

 

 

6. West Germany 90 Home (Italy)

Sponsor: adidas

Worn by: Jürgen Klinsman, Lothar Mathäus, Rudi Vöeller

The Story:  Italia 90 was the very first World Cup that vaguely graces my memory. I was barley six years of age, but there were a few things I witnessed that profoundly impacted my tiny little brain. First, was my pops screaming like a complete psychopath at a television, second, was Tony Meola’s super mullet and third, was West Germany’s kit. I didn’t know it at the time but German’s had long been associated with beautifully efficient, technical soccer. Their plain white tops became regal and synonymous with soccer royalty. Prior to the 90s, nationalism was a bit complicated for many German’s. So for Italia 90 adidas created a shirt that was not only a sign of loud soccer fashion at the time, but it evoked a brilliant, seamless geometric design that echoed ‘Die Mannchaft’s” ethos. It was also the first time ever, that Germany proudly rocked the black, red and gold seen on their nations flag.

 

 

5. USA 94 Away (USA)

Sponsor: adidas

Worn by: Eric Wynalda, Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas

The Story: World Cup 94 was pure magic for anyone living in the States at the time. The teams, the colors, the rabid fans that infested our streets and of course the kits. While adidas used templates for the likes of Sweden and Bulgaria, they went completely HAM with that red-blooded American ‘stars n’ stripes’ pride..literally. The home kit flaunted red and white stripes, while the away used stars as it’s focal point. Both were obviously taken from our nations flag. You can argue that adi pandered to a soccer fanbase still in its infancy, but American’s love us some in-your-face nationalism, plus the latter of the two strips is legendary. A faded denim blue was dressed up with a gorgeous, elongated star pattern. Red accents came by way of the old (better) USMNT team crest, numbering and adidas branding. Tying it all up was a classically bold, white v-neck collar and sleeve cuffs which served as a clean frame to this gem of a kit.

 

4. France 98 Home (France)

Sponsor: adidas

Worn by: Zinidine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Marcel Desailly

The Story: Another 98 entry and Im sure another reason to argue with strangers on the internet. Yes, France always seems to be blessed with stunners but damn it, 98 was special. If it wasn’t the first, it was certainly one of the first national team kits to go back and draw design inspiration from a highly successful side within their history. With a new golden generation set to hit their peak, adidas dipped into its archives to the last and only time ‘Les Bleus’ had won a major trophy— the 1984 European Championship. That horizontal red line followed by three more white ones was taken directly from  Michel Platini’s 84 jersey then placed on a more modern 90s fit. The legendary blue shirt was baggy as all hell, with the thickest three-stripes along the sleeves which led into even thicker cuffs and a gigantic collar Cantona would’ve salivated over. King Eric didn’t play in 98, but Zizou and co. didn’t need him.

 

3. Croatia 98

Sponsor: Lotto

Worn by: Davor Šuker, Slaven Bilić, Igor Tudor

The Story: Lotto, much like Kappa, Umbro and Diadora is another brand that has lost it’s footing, but will forever be woven into the fabric of soccer shirt history. They are responsible for some of the most iconic kits in world football. My favorite of their remarkable catalog is the one worn by Davor Šuker and Co. when they stunned the world at France 98. Barely 7 years old as a nation, Croatia would somehow beat Germany and Holland en route to an unbelievable third place finish. This white, classically over-sized 90s kit somehow made a flowing, red-checkered print look fly as hell. The nationalistic design proved poignant as it was the first time a young nation had a team to root for—and damn was it a good one. It also ended up influencing every design to date, as every Croatia jersey since, has heavily employed those bold red checkers in some form.

 

2. Nigeria 18 Home (Russia)

Sponsor: Nike

Worn by: Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa, Kalechi Iheanacho

The Story: Of course it made it. Of course it’s one of the best kits of all time, don’t @ me! Actually @ me, lets fight! All silliness aside Nike and the Nigerian Federation completely destroyed these kits and the entire ‘Naija’ collection.  It’s not only that the jersey is vibrant and jaw-dropping at the core of it’s design, it obviously is. But the truth is it is much more than that. To paraphrase my man Justin Salhani ” It is the story. It’s because it ties back to their culture.” Nigerian players have always been adored for their flair, technical ability and genius on the ball. Legends like Ococha, Yekin and Kanu did it at the highest level, paving the way for ‘Naija’ —which stands for a future based optimism. Nike was very much aware of this as the jersey also draws subtle design from the first time Nigeria qualified for a World Cup in 94. The most hyped kit in history is a visual stunner that pays homage to Nigeria’s past, present and future. That is why it is one of the best ever.

 

1. Mexico 98 Home (France)

Sponsor: ABA Sport

Worn by: Luis Hernandez, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Alberto García Aspe

 

The Story: As an American born to Mexican and Salvadorian parents, my life-long support of the USMNT is quite complicated. The truth it is I grew up rooting against ‘El Tri’. In spite of this blasphemy, I still completely understood that Mexico’s 98 World Cup kit was the greatest national team shirt ever created. My list is rife with jersey’s that tell a story or incorporate a unique strand of cultural pride. Some subtle, some obvious — ABA Sport went the latter on this one. In many ways this kit was par for the 90s course. It was a big ol’ green shirt, that was accented by a massive collar which matched super-thick red and white sleeve cuffs. What elevated the strip was the Aztec calendar print which graced it’s entirety. It was an unprecedented nod to one of the most influential indigenous Mexican people ever. The Aztec were fierce warriors and even played a game similar to modern day soccer, which they called Tlachtli. Never has a kit more aptly represented the history, blood and ethos of its people. That is why it is the undisputed GOAT.

 

FC DORSUM X NIKY’S SPORTS POP-UP

It had been a little over a year since their last collection which left many a  soccer hipster parched for some freshness from FC Dorsum. With life, real jobs and failed relationships monopolizing their collective time, the “Mothmen” took a patient, more analytical route for their latest drop. This time around Dorsum would collab with Niky’s Sports on a pop-up that would last the duration of the World Cup.  Last night was the opening party and it was a damn good one.

A small,  vibrantly decorated space within Koreatown’s legendary Chapman Plaza hosted the soiree. There was music, free food courtesy of Beer Belly/Seoul Sausage and as you’d expect from any Dorsum shindig, the Henney was flowing freely. Soccer heads mingled with casual K-town locals throughout the night, while purchasing pieces from the new Dorsum collection as well as World Cup kit’s from their favorite National Team.

The FC Dorsum x Niky’s Sorts pop-up is open every day from 2pm-10pm throughout the duration of the World Cup. at Chapman Market Korea Town 3465 W 6th St. Los Angeles, CA. 90020.

Photos courtesy of Kevin Solis 

 

 

FORGET NIGERIA’S SHIRT, IT IS CHINA’S TIME TO SHINE

Apologies but this had to be done. I’m saying it; China’s new away kit is so much better than Nigeria’s home kit. There, it’s said. And I’m going to tell you why.

Nigeria’s shirt has dominated the scene since it was revealed back in February, and rightly so. It’s a fantastic kit. Not only is the shirt good but the whole release was solid and Nigeria and Nike worked wonders on the products and reveal itself. It’s skyrocketed Nigeria into the forefront of the kit scene for this World Cup, even though they have next to no chance of taking home the gold. However, they have won the kit game. The shirt sold out within minutes online when it was released, huge queues formed outside NikeTown in London, and other stores and the resell value of the shirt near tripled online (much to the disgust of us football fans, eh? People cashing in on our growing culture).

But let’s discuss overall kit releases this year – not just within the World Cup. And that’s where the Nigeria kit plummets back down to Earth and tastes the loss it has been handed by the King: China Away.

The China kit is a perfect juxtaposition of adventurous yet exquisite. It’s a near perfect shirt, in my opinion. Albeit, China isn’t good enough to even qualify for the tournament, but their kit game is, in my opinion, one of the best. Ranked 73rd in the World rankings, with President Xi Jingping pumping in investment to the infrastructure of the Chinese game, the nation is yet to see any sort of improvement regarding their country’s team. But what a wonderful kit to use that makes them look less of an average footballing side. They may not be very good, but at least they look slick doing so.

A wonderful design is used on the kit; paying tribute to the country’s history and culture, using an exquisite dragon graphic. This was a very bold move, regarding that it could have either went two ways; incredibly bad or spectacularly brilliant. And it went the way of the latter. Combining this with a one-color design in a wonderful black with neon green detailing, the kit pops. It works. It’s so good. I can’t stress that enough.

I mentioned something about the kit being ‘near perfect’ earlier in this piece. Now, I say this based one thing: that DAMN neckline. I’ve argued this on twitter for weeks, ever since it was first revealed and now it needs to be addressed here. If Nike didn’t ruin every kit, even the Nigeria one, with this silly neckline then maybe we’d have a lot of kits regarded better than they are being said to be right now. I know I certainly would rank a lot of Nike’s kits higher if it wasn’t for this. And the fact they’ve put it on this China kit, a kit that so magical, is just upsetting. I’d still rock it though.

It’s a kit that rivals some of the best, and if China were good enough to get in the World Cup, then it would (or at least should) be getting the recognition that Nigeria has been and more. It deserves that, even if they haven’t made it to Russia. It’s just that good. A kit made for the culture. A kit made of us football kit gurus to swoon over. A kit made that is just, to put it simply, incredible.

IS THIS NIKE’S BEST CAMPAIGN FOR WORLD CUP 2018?

We’re talking about Nike’s efforts for the full Nigeria National Team’s 2018 World Cup collection – of course. While the sportswear giant has come out with a solid roster of releases for all its sponsored teams for the upcoming global soccer event, it’s safe to say that the buzz surrounding the Super Eagles’ collection is by far Nike’s greatest – the fact that there were three million pre-sale orders for the home kit alone pretty much affirms that. But why is it so great? It’s all about the concept, or rather the ethos behind the campaign. And there’s one word to sum it all up: Naija.

“Naija” is a new term that both Nike and Nigeria’s youth are pushing that represents the spirit of contemporary Nigeria. While the West African country has had its fair share of the negative stigma, it’s often easy to forget the greatness, creativity, passion, and love that comes from its people. Naija is meant to help people see all of that and then some. Spearheaded by the Super Eagle’s young-aged team (the majority of the players are under 25), Naija – or at times referred to as “For Naija” – embodies not only the Nigerian youth’s spirit but also the identities and characters present in the youth-filled team.

This ethos is also pretty evident in the actual design itself, an energy-infused imprint courtesy of Nike Football Design Director Dan Farron and team. “We built this kit and collection based on the players’ full identities. We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture,” Farron states. But while it’s obvious that Nigerians today understand the new cultural pulse within their country, the same can be felt on a global stand-point, thanks to the diaspora Nigerian communities found the world over. “Naija fashion radiates, and its food is celebrated from Brooklyn, New York, to Peckham, London. In the United States and England, along with other locales with large Nigerian populations, the exuberance of Naija culture is resounding — spurred by family, friends, and football,” Nike explains about the collection.

It’s even felt here in Los Angeles within the Kicks to the Pitch office we call home, where Nike was gracious enough to send us the kits along with the collection’s Superfly and Vapor cleats that continues both the design and Naija concept. From that, we’ve put together an exclusive closer look at the offerings. The collection as a whole actually offers more than that, and actually more than your typical Nike World Cup release. It consists of a home kit, an away version, pre-match and training apparel, jackets and the aforementioned Superfly and Vapor soccer boots, which officially drops today – the only sad thing about the boots is that they won’t be worn be worn by the Super Eagles during the World Cup, but they can be worn by you with them in spirit! Check out our photo shoot throughout, then head over to Nike.com to grab yourself what we consider as Nike’s best campaign for World Cup 2018.

NIGERIA WC KIT: HAS THE HYPE BECOME A REAL STRUGGLE?

I have had a real problem ever since February. As many of you might remember, February was the time Nike chose to officially reveal Nigeria’s World Cup collection. In its entirety, the offering blew me away. I simply cannot remember feeling the same way about any other World Cup release in my lifetime.

The collection had that instant pull yet ironically Nike has kept us at a distance from it. When the collection was presented, I wrongly thought its release was imminent as in previous World Cup cycles where Nike has often used the month of March to release all of its federations’ kits. It was only after reading Nike’s press release on the collection itself that I became more concerned and puzzled. The press release did not make any mention of a specific release date even though Nike’s subsequent press releases on national team kits have. I would argue that release dates are the whole point of these press releases.

I, therefore, sought answers. Initially, I relied on social media and my usual go-to sources for new kit intel. I couldn’t find anything and to make matters worse, it seemed as if no one was willing to offer any answers either. I remember reaching out to Soccer.com a few months later. I had already prepared myself for the disappointment though as I have never had any success in getting real answers to my questions anytime I have reached out to them or any other customer service representative at other major soccer retailers. As expected, all Soccer.com could tell me was to stay tuned to their social media platforms.

It was only a short while ago that I finally found something on Twitter. It was a response from Nike revealing that the release date for this collection would be June 1st. This tidbit of information should have provided some relief yet I still find myself being consumed by this subject still.

With the release now only a matter of days away, I find myself more concerned with the question of whether I’ll be able to get the kit at all. As I said before, Nigeria’s kit release is unlike any other. It seems everyone wants it whether it be the casual or more passionate fan. At the same time, Nike will not make things any easier. While in previous years fans had a few months to buy their favorite kits before a World Cup, the window for this is now severely limited to a few days. The decision is none other than a deliberate attempt from Nike to have us feed into the hype. Unfortunately, we have no other choice as I, like everyone else, wants to have this kit by the start of the tournament.

As much as a marketing move, the delayed release date is also a smart business decision. Nike has ensured that people will pay the suggested retail price for the Nigeria kit which was likely not the case for adidas’ World Cup home kits. Out now since November, many fans have surely capitalized on some sort of discount ranging from 15% on the adidas website to the 25% to 30% off discount some soccer retailers here in the US had around Christmas time. Fans now will be lucky if they get free shipping but of course, the real concern for me is not so much price, but whether Nike and its retailers will be able to adequately meet the demand considering it will indeed be high. Again, they have not left themselves much time for this as every fan will want to have their jersey by the start of the tournament two weeks later.

Now, some of you may have noticed that I have not expressed any concern on whether the kit will live up to its hype. Despite obviously having more than enough time to dwell on this possibility, I have no doubt that the Nigeria kit will be everything I imagine it to be in person. Before I worried that Nike would make the mistake of not offering the match version of this kit as it has done with its smaller federations. Here is perhaps where you might be better able to understand the craze I’ve been driven to as I have found myself closely examining press release photos just to verify that Nike will most likely offer match jerseys. Recent reports for the demand of the jersey should also confirm this.

Still, the wait for Nigeria’s jersey has not been easy. I know many people surely share my struggle so please comment below on how you feel about this jersey and how you have coped with its long-anticipated release.

Images via Nike.