Friday, 6 September 2013

James Taylor's Top 5 World Cup Shirts

There I was all set to create a Top 5 Kits article today and then I received this storming selection from James Campbell Taylor of the excellent site JCT. So sit back and enjoy a feast of kit loveliness!

Italy 1990

This kit will always be special for me, not least because it was the first I ever owned. What's remarkable is that it was the same shirt Italy had worn at the previous World Cup! The only difference that I know of (apart from variations of material based on climate) was that the red and green trim on the collar and cuffs was inverted, with red on the outside. But imagine a World Cup host today not cashing in on the occasion with a brand new kit! Unthinkable. In fact, the Italy shirt barely changed from '81-'91. Purists may opt for the cotton Le Coq Sportif version worn by Bearzot's triumphant '82 side (and it's hard to argue when I think of that Tardelli goal), but for me the "MADE IN ITALY" Diadora shirts were a more stylish fit worthy of the country they represented. This was the last major tournament before names and front numbers appeared on shirts, and the kit has a pure perfection for me. This was also before the FIGC allowed the manufacturer's logo to appear on the kit, a rule that was sadly lifted in 1999. The Azzurri had an excellent team that year too, and trooped out onto the Olimpico turf in dashing tracksuit tops (still trying to get one of these). As perhaps for many people my age, the summer of 1990 was a massive turning point for me in my appreciation of the game and all those other things that come along with it. In Italy they still refer to those World Cup matches as "notti magiche" after the official song of Italia '90.

Brasil 1986

Ironically when I bought my Italy kit in 1990 I'd actually had the intention of buying this shirt, only to find it had been replaced by the '90 version, of which I wasn't quite such a fan. Nineteen years later I finally got my hands on one through an ebay seller located in Malaysia. Sounds fishy, but I know a 100% genuine Topper jersey when I see one. Oddly I think Topper is actually an Argentine company. Like Italy in the same period, the Brazil kit saw minimal changes between '82 and '90, but '86 was always my favourite (although the '82 version could easily be number 3 on this list). Cool badge with the Jules Rimet trophy, great sleek fit and classic numbers too. Even the goalie shirts were great, with "B R A S I L" across the chest. Most of all I love the thought behind the colours themselves. A proper, deep sunshine yellow that darkens with sweat (the shirt is a polyester-cotton blend), forest green trim and shorts a sort of Napoli blue (not royal!) with the little stripes. That's my most consistent gripe with the modern Brazil kits, the yellow is too sterile, the green is too light and the blue is too dark. It's as if Nike's palette doesn't extend beyond the default primary colours that come with whatever primitive computer program they use to design their shirts. Yellow + green + blue = done. So sad.

Argentina 1978

I could have easily gone with the '82 or '86 versions (the less-celebrated '82 kit is probably the nicest if I think about it) but I'm including the '78 version for, well, obvious reasons. This was the last the last World Cup before I was born and I'm not sure if it was the handlebar moustaches, cynical tactics or the political situation in Argentina at the time but no subsequent tournament has been quite as... badass. Amid the ticker tape the hosts wore a now-classic shirt, but this was back when football shirts simply were what they were. I doubt kids in Buenos Aires were salivating at the prospect of what Kempes & Co. would be wearing at El Monumental — they just wanted the team to win. The tight fit, short shorts, long-sleeves and debut of the classic AFA numbers in the second round have sort of made it the model against which all future Argentina shirts have to be compared (I think it's why I liked the long-sleeved techfit version in 2010 so much... man, would I love to own one of those).

Spain 1982

The thing that irritates me most about Spain's recent domination of major tournaments is how suddenly the world is overrun with Spain fans. Where were these people when la Roja used to be routinely knocked out in lacklustre fashion at the quarter-final stage? While the team was less successful, Spain's kits in the '80s were glorious. I used to love the blue shorts (a similar shade to Brazil's actually) and black socks. So cool. I have a hunch that the black socks were a design feature imposed by Franco, which is why they were phased out, but I've never found any hard evidence to support this claim. The navy & navy short-sock combo adopted in the nineties was fine, now more recently they've started wearing red socks. It's just all so... bland and predictable. It's ironic that as kits become more elaborate and detailed so every trace of teams' personalities is being watered down and stripped away. Anyway, going back to happier times: the Le Coq Sportif kits worn in '86 and '90 were lovely, but you cannot beat the Spain '82 kit. I'm sure this outfit would be more fondly remembered by kit lovers had the team not flopped so miserably.

Mexico 1986

I've always been a fan of the Mexico kit, but I'm not sure why. Just always well turned out I suppose, even in recent years (except '98, which isn't so recent now). In 2002 they had a slightly darker green, and the away kit (while not used) was a fantastic burgundy with navy shorts like in 1970. In 2006 they had a cool chevron device on the front (later adopted briefly by Man U unfortunately) and fancy numbers. In 1978 their kit was manufactured by Levi's! Crazy! But if I had to pick one I'd go with '86. While a fairly standard adidas template what elevates the shirt is the wholly unprecedented and totally unnecessary inclusion of the word "MEXICO" above the number (where the player's name would go today). Circa 2005 Nike (then Mexico's kit provider) re-released a "version" of this shirt. There are probably a couple of other reasons why I love this kit. Besides loving that tournament (the long grass, the bright light, the saturated colours) there is also Manuel Negrete's goal against Bulgaria. Or maybe it's because I always think of this song.

So there you have it. I deliberately stuck to kits from the modern era, those pre-1970 didn't really change enough and are obviously too perfect in their simplicity. But surprisingly my choices represent a golden span of a mere twelve years. What's most interesting is that I've included the host nation for all four World Cups from that period! Proof that the hosts are always well-dressed I suppose — although that sequence came to an abrupt end in 1994. The hardest part was separating my appreciation for the kit itself from fondness for the team or era... I could have easily included Italy '94 or Brasil '82, and I am still grappling internally with my inexplicable exclusion of France's '78, '82 and '86 kits. So apologies that these choices are a little safe and hardly obscure. Maybe I should do an alternate list — the B-sides, if you will.

As I was compiling this list I realised that a lot of my favourite international kits are from European Championships. I feel another top five list coming on...

Huge thanks to James for a fine selection there...if you'd like to choose your Top 5 World Cup Kits (or any other tournament for that matter), drop us a line and let us know to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com...

More Top 5 World Cup Shirt lists as chosen by other people...

Chris O
Rich J
Al Gordon
Ed Carter
Rich Nelson
Steve Gabb


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