This summer, it will be twenty years since a World Cup that lives long in the memory for all kinds of reasons – and which, for my football-watching generation, is probably still the most otherworldly brilliant World Cup that there’s been in our lifetimes. USA ’94 had lots that was fascinating and unusual about it – but for an aficionado of 1990s football kits, it’s the most concentrated explosion of the decade’s characteristic combination of elegant inventiveness and overwrought insanity.
Over the next three weeks, then, we’ll be looking at all the kits worn by the twenty-four competing teams. We start this week with Groups A and B, including both the hosts and the eventual winners…
The infamous “denim” kit is perhaps the most enduring visual image of the tournament. The idea of two kits based around the stars and stripes of the US flag is inspired, but I’m not entirely sure why Adidas also tried to work that bizarre denim-inspired colour scheme in. The star-spangled away kit is the more famous (worn as it was for all three group games), but I actually think the striped home shirt – only worn in the defeat to Brazil, where it was paired with red shorts in a much better combination than the ghastly denim blue in the above photo – is a much classier effort.
One of four teams to use Adidas’ then-current “stripes on the midriff” template (although that was only four out of a whopping ten teams wearing the German manufacturer’s kits at the tournament). The nation’s colours are a slightly tricky combo to get right on a kit, and I’ve never been especially keen on yellow shirt-and-shorts pairings – I think the away kit pulls it off a bit better.
A lovely, understated (surprisingly so, for the time – and compared to Lotto’s other kits for this tournament) pair of kits from Lotto. The all-white away kit is maybe just a little too
lacking in any distinguishing features, but the home outfit is extremely smart.
Indelibly associated, of course, with the tragedy of Andres Escobar. A relatively plain effort by Umbro, although the fabric featured a shadow pattern based on the Colombian badge. The away kit, meanwhile, is a simple palette swap. Something about the blue shirt and red shorts combo doesn’t quite seem to come off, however.
Umbro’s last kit for the ’94 champions wasn’t popular with everyone, perhaps due to being a slightly wishy-washy shade of yellow; but I like the badge-based shadow pattern a lot, and the collar looks good too. The blue kit, meanwhile, is arguably more iconic than Brazil’s away kits tend to be, thanks to being worn for the famous Bebeto “baby” celebration against Holland.
A terrific example of how template kits can still be made to look good and distinctive. The home kit benefits (compared to the likes of Romania) from only having to mix two flag colours together, as well as having blue rather than yellow shorts. The white away, meanwhile, is just majestic. Interesting to note, too, that neither kit uses the Adidas flashes on the shorts the way others of its type do.
Cameroon only wore their home kit for their three matches at the tournament, so we were denied the opportunity to see this sensational effort
get an airing. It’s doubly disappointing given how weak the home kit is – Mitre’s shirt has none of the iconic brilliance of Adidas’ 1990 kit, and mixes a rather unpleasant, almost pastel shade of green with muggy detailing and the bizarre decision to have the player numbers in a black font.
Reebok’s only representatives at the World Cup, Russia can – perhaps – be excused this lamentable pair of kits by the fact that it was their first tournament as an independent nation, so they were still restablishing their footballing identity. The home kit is better than the away – not least because it doesn’t just look like it’s fallen off the back of a Croatian lorry – but neither really works especially well, and both look rather uncomfortably like the players are wearing collared shirts under pullovers. Kudos, though, for pre-empting the 21st century trend for squad numbers to be displayed on the breast rather than centre of the shirt front.
Next week: Groups C and D give us Germany, Spain, Korea… and those Nigeria kits.