Puma, you’re all stuck. Nike, what have you done in the United States and Canada? Adidas, you’re making some style waves.
With millions of dollars at stake in retail sales, this year’s World Cup in Qatar has football fans sizing up the jersey – and what to buy. So far, no runaway winner could earn icon status like Nigeria’s bright green, chevron shirt sold out in minutes at the last tournament in 2018.
Which kits certainly don’t dazzle in the eyes of some hardcore fans – and some outspoken players? Nike’s effort for Team USA, which failed to qualify four years ago. An enlarged and simple country crest sits centrally on white home shirts perceived as bland, as opposed to classic. Nike moved their swoosh logo to both sleeves.
A blue neck graphic has led to mocking comparisons to the Stay Puft marshmallow man of “Ghostbusters” fame. And the USA away kit includes ice-tinted black Rorschach spots against royal blue.
“It’s ugly,” said 33-year-old fan Ryan Bender of the former. “The ones on the outside look like training shirts.”
Bender is a longtime soccer player, youth coach, and jersey collector in Los Angeles. It had few niceties in general for many of the kits from the big three outfits: Nike (13 countries), Adidas (7) and Puma (6). This is particularly the case for the range of front boxes, shields and other containers where numbers will go courtesy of Puma on away kits for Senegal, Morocco, Uruguay and more.
Puma is particularly angry with Switzerland’s QR symbol. The overall idea, Puma said, was to highlight the number of players. It’s also been compared among curmudgeons to the iPhone’s calendar icon.
“There is a lot of lack of creativity there. And to be honest, a lot of them look like jerseys you’d find at a roadside store,” Bender said of Puma’s kits.
While Bender has a few favorites, and he’s not the only one who mocks American jerseys, not everyone is a hater at the World Cup draws every four years on jerseys. . The top three companies are joined by six other brands with one country each. Nike, Puma and Adidas have made the use of recycled materials a priority.
“The Nike and Puma kits are stunning,” said Aron Solomon, 55, of Montreal. “Nike did a great job of bringing clean lines and just the right shade of color. For example, the Qatar home kit.
It referenced the host’s maroon kit with a jagged line of white triangles lining the sleeves in a design evoking the country’s flag. Think shark teeth.
Denmark have bitten Qatar by unveiling a black shirt to go with two other kits. The black shirts, with the logo of the manufacturer Hummel faded, pay tribute to the migrant workers who died during the construction work of the tournament.
As for his own country, Canada, Solomon doesn’t care that the rejuvenated Reds will take to the pitch for their first World Cup appearance in 36 years wearing the same template-based kits they’ve had since June 2021. The jerseys are traditional red and white with a maple leaf crest.
Like some American players who speak publicly about their outfits, Canadian defender Sam Adekugbe is disappointed.
“I just feel like every team should have a new kit for the World Cup because it’s a symbolic event. I don’t hate it, but I would have liked to have a new kit, just because it is something to cherish,” he told The Athletic.
Nike cites a different design cycle for Canada as the reason the country is going without.
Solomon doesn’t like Adidas-designed shirts, especially home shirts from mighty Germany, where he lived for four years. It features a fierce wide black vertical stripe down the center against a white background as a tribute to the country’s 1908 home shirt.
“It looks like they’re wearing a bib,” he said.
The Adidas shirts of four-time World Cup champion Germany, as well as Argentina, Mexico and other countries they have outfitted, feature the company’s signature triple-line trim on the shoulders in different colors. Kind of like sports shoulder pads.
Perhaps the most polarizing kit in the competition is Mexico’s away look, which some consider too flashy and others think it will last like Nigeria’s shirts last time out. The cream white kit has an all over red design of Mixtec art outlines to celebrate Mexico’s fighting spirit. There’s a nod inside the back collar to the pre-Columbian deity Quetzalcoatl (so named by the Aztecs), aka the Feathered Serpent.
“Those are my favorites from the whole tournament,” said Khloe Lewis, 27, a soccer fan from Somerville, Massachusetts. “I love the pattern and the contrast, but also that it’s inspired by historic and traditional Mexican design.”
As a hot topic, the World Cup kit debate often rages among fans yearning for their own shirt identity.
“The kits reach the emotions. It’s something that’s close to people’s hearts and it makes them very, very vocal about them,” said Mateo Kossman, senior product manager for the Adidas football apparel team who worked on the Mexico shirts.
On November 20, when the World Cup kicks off, football will dominate at the Das Beer Garden sports bar in Jupiter, Florida. Growing up in Caracas, 44-year-old co-owner Alex Marquez started playing the Beautiful Game as a freshman. He puts down roots for the United States, Venezuela and Spain, the latter country of origin of his parents.
Marquez is pleased with the classic Spain home shirt in red from Adidas, worn with navy blue shorts and socks. The away kit – with travel generally being more adventurous – is another story. It has light blue swirls with faint number lines on a white background and the bright colors of the country’s red and yellow flag for the shoulder stripes in a grand show of disharmony.
“It’s like the thing that goes around a baby’s crib,” Marquez said of the whirlwinds.
The Four On Four blog called the look exquisite, calling the wavy design a “geometric jellyfish pattern.”
Argentina have changed it, in terms of color, for their away shirts. Adidas released a classic white and blue striped home kit, but for the first time in the country’s history changed to a vibrant purple for the away shirt. It depicts the May sun and its long rays from the country’s flag, although the rays and a background design look like flames. Purple is meant to represent gender equality, as well as overall diversity and inclusion. And the Adidas triple lines on the shoulders match!
How has purple played among World Cup fans?
“Like everything we create, it’s important that the story is understood and told,” said Andrew Dolan, a senior product manager at Adidas who worked on the Argentina shirts. “I think everyone appreciates what we’re trying to do.”
At 10, Zain Ennaoui is a small fan with big opinions on football shirts. About the new purple for Argentina, which has shaken some football fans, the fifth-year student from Brooklyn politely said: “It’s good in its own way.”
Zain supports Morocco, where his father is from, but he too enjoys extravaganzas outside of Mexico. He understands that most of the shirts among the 32 countries heading to Qatar have cultural significance. That said, South Korea’s many-coloured away kit (black with yellow, blue and red brush strokes) is a tough sell for him, despite his nod to Taegeukgi, the symbol on the country’s flag. .
“It’s like someone thought it was a good idea to get a paint gun and spray it everywhere. It didn’t work,” Zain said.
It’s a draw on which the look of the United States is more downright despised by critics. Soccer-obsessed Footy Headlines ranked the Canadian tragedy low on the scale of Nike’s efforts. American shirts were second to last.
“Looks like you’d wear it to a Grateful Dead concert,” Kent Gethmann, 38, of Spencer, Iowa, said of the blue and black away jersey.
That, the idea of lending street life to World Cup clothing, might just be the point.
“I would,” Brandon Williams said of the same American kit.
He is a menswear stylist in Los Angeles for celebrities and star athletes, but not yet footballers.
“I would wear it oversized with hoochie daddy shorts (they’re really short), white Nike Air Force Ones and a rear snapback,” Williams said. “I’d throw a sweater over my shoulders like Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and I’m ready for Sunday brunch.”
—Leanne Italy, Associated Press