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The World Cup kicks off on Thursday, June 14, which means that those of us who prefer to spend our weekend afternoons inside sort-of-gross bars will have something exciting to watch for these specific four weeks of midsummer. And if you don’t know a lot about the non-American kind of football, it also means that we’ll be seeing a lot of unsettlingly attractive men wearing a wide array of shirts.
My first thought upon seeing this year’s jerseys, however, was that they ... sort of suck? I mean, if I were designing jerseys for the 32 best soccer teams in the world, my mood board would be a mashup of, like, vintage superhero uniforms and some weird Gucci-esque floral print. Instead, about half of them are basically just big red shirts!
But as it turns out, there is a reason most soccer jerseys are dull as hell. According to the soccer staff at SB Nation, it’s partly because fans, especially in the historically dominant European nations, are incredibly conservative. “Old fans freak out if you try to do anything interesting,” one explained. Another one, to whom I will grant anonymity for anti-@ing purposes, simply said, “All sports jerseys are boring; don’t @ me bro.”
So it makes sense that this year’s sole interesting jersey is from Nigeria, and that the one that’s caused the most controversy is Spain’s (some people are saying the purple looks like the color of the Spanish Republican flag from 1931 to 1939).
But as for the rest, here are all the teams’ home jerseys in order of how non-boring they have managed to be. Much like the chances for your favorite team winning the tournament, keep your expectations low, folks!
32. Costa Rica
The most basic in a sea of basic big red shirts. The most interesting part of this jersey is the number 16, which is not even really that interesting of a number!
Considering the German brand Uhlsport designed just one of this year’s World Cup soccer uniforms, one would think it would focus all of its attention on creating something memorable. It did not. Tunisia’s jersey looks like a ringer tee with slightly better moisture-wicking technology.
30-22. South Korea, Serbia, Egypt, Morocco, Denmark, Russia, Panama, Portugal, and Switzerland
Actually, a lot of teams’ home jerseys are just big red shirts. Denmark’s has some Hummel chevrons; Russia, Morocco, and Iran have some Adidas stripes; and Panama did something funky with the collar. But the jig is up, FIFA: That’s too many red shirts!
Okay! So Iran’s jersey is also highly boring, but at least it’s not all red! It’s based on Adidas’s Tabela 18 template, which Footy Headlines described as “most likely to be used for lesser known teams than the biggest clubs in Europe.”
This particular photo’s insanely beautiful lighting is perhaps unfair; it makes England’s jerseys — shirts, as they would call them — look far more interesting than they are. Indeed, they are not. (England also calls uniforms “kits” and cleats “boots” and the field “pitch” and therefore should be banned from the sport.)
An example of how boring soccer jerseys are is how this barely gray fade makes the Polish home jersey that much more exciting. The team hasn’t been to the World Cup in a dozen years, and apparently that diagonal line represents Poland “cutting through this summer’s tournament.”
Going to refer to this uniform as the Knütstorp because it looks like something I have come across at an Ikea. It is exactly what one would expect from a Swedish soccer uniform, and little more.
Meanwhile, Uruguay’s sunshine motif looks like something I have come across at a Limited Too in 2003, which is fun. In reality, it’s “un sol para Atlántida,” a sculpture dedicated to the Uruguayan painter Carlos Páez Vilaró, and the team is nicknamed “the Sky Blue.”
It’s the country’s classic soccer uniform (the stripes have been worn since 1908), but if you look closely, the light blue stripes sort of fade in and out like a partly cloudy day. That’s nice!
I like to imagine that this is sort of what the US team’s jerseys might have looked like if they had made the World Cup. But they didn’t, and fan favorite Iceland probably won’t win it either :(
In a sea of red, white, blue, and yellow, Mexico’s deep green jerseys are a pleasant respite. Like almost all of Adidas’s creations this year, it’s also a retro throwback, but unfortunately it doesn’t include the incredible Aztec designs of the 1998 jersey.
13. Saudi Arabia
The two tones of bright green on this jersey are a reference to the green in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s flag and are a nice pop of color, but it’s the lookbook Nike released that makes them look extremely cool.
Though the Telegraph calls the pectorally adjacent stripes “nipple-troublers,” I like to think of them as flirty arrows that accentuate the players’ enormous muscles. The 1990 versions on which they’re based were better, however, especially when paired with Carlos Valderrama’s platinum curls.
If you look closely, Senegal’s jersey has a subtle motif of a lion’s head on it, a reference to the team’s nickname, the Lions of Teranga, which puts the three tiny lions on England’s logo to utter shame.
Not only does Germany have the world’s hottest goalie (sincerest apologies to the world’s formerly hottest goalie, Henrik Lundqvist), it also has white home jerseys that aren’t completely white. It would have been better if it had taken some more of the color from the 1990 West Germany jerseys on which they were based, however. Those things were dope.
Although I respect the fact that Brazil is showing up as though they’re attending one of those dorky daytime raves, the shockingly bright yellow color needs a fun design element.
The French national team, who have extremely French personal styles, also have extremely blue jerseys with sleeves that look like waveform images. Do they correspond to “La Marseillaise”?! Maybe!!!!
It’s come to my attention that the Australian team’s nickname is “the Socceroos,” which sounds like an AIM screen name that my middle school boyfriend would have had, and is very charming to me. The bright yellow color on the home jerseys is fine, but it’s the animal-esque shoulder stripes that make it actually cool.
To be fair, Spain’s jersey is also a big red shirt, but with the added fun of an uproar: Though the Spanish football team’s home colors have traditionally been red, yellow, and blue, a funny thing happens when you mix red and blue together: purple. And according to the Associated Press, some people have accused this year’s World Cup jerseys of using the same purple of the flag of the Second Spanish Republic, which is still used by groups who oppose the monarchy today. Adidas, for its part, has said that there are “no political implications in the shirt,” and that it’s a throwback to the Spanish team’s 1994 jerseys.
What’s fun about the traditional Croatian red-and-white checkerboard pattern is that when it’s on a soccer jersey, all the players end up looking like medieval jesters.
The Japanese national team’s jersey color references the nickname of the team, Samurai Blue. The dotted lines were inspired by traditional samurai armor, which is very groovy.
Peru’s diagonal stripe motif isn’t particularly new, but it does look cool, like a Brownie sash for people who are the very best in their country at a particular sport. There’s also a rather luxurious gold trim to the stripes.
The best jerseys of this year’s World Cup are, of course, Nigeria’s. The black, white, and neon green chevron shirts were so popular when Nike released the design in February that 3 million people preordered the $90 shirts, which sold out in stores in literal minutes. Called the “Naija,” a nickname for the “new Nigeria,” the shirts feature zigzags that are a reference to an eagle’s wings in flight (the Nigerian national football team is known as the Super Eagles). The shirts are also an homage to the team’s jerseys from the 1994 season, the first year the country qualified for the tournament.
Nike football design director Dan Farron said, “We built this kit and collection based on the players’ full identities. ... They are part of a resoundingly cool culture.” Huh! It’s crazy what happens when the people who are in charge of making a thing look cool decide they want the thing to actually look cool. (Spoiler: It ends up looking cool!)