England Tops The List;
Slovenia ... Not So Much
By BRUCE SHOLL
One Great Season
The World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world, separated by four long, grueling years. In between you have qualifying matches, league championships, inter-league rivalries and friendlies, all of which afford you many opportunities to rock your favorite T-shirt, sweatshirt or cap while you cheer on your squad.
But the World Cup is the pinnacle of every nation's aspirations. First, you're lucky if your country even gets in the mix. And if your squad happens to be that lucky, it hires someone, or a team of someones, to take the colors of the country and design a home and away uniform for the national team.
BIO: Meet Bruce Sholl
Throughout the history of the Cup, there have been many iconic uniforms, objects of pride worn with heads held high. As often as not, these same kits are subject to ridicule and scorn, leaving you wondering just how people get paid to reduce the image of their country to fodder for global laughter in such a complete fashion. Other than an athlete's name, there is nothing more identifiable than the uniforms they wear: Johnny Unitas eluding tackles on the field for the blue and white Colts, Babe Ruth in Yankee pinstripes and the red and black that defined Michael Jordan.
Team colors complete the image we associate with our heroes and, in an act which we think bonds us with our favorite players, we, too don the jerseys and team colors of our favorite squads, win or lose. Some famous athletes you wouldn't even recognize without their jerseys on, or wish you hadn't. Sometimes, you wish people would stay home and not support your team at all.
All of this to preface my picks for the best and worst kits in the World Cup:
England: From the land of Savile Row, these unis evoke a traditional feel worthy of the team that invented the sport. The solid red away kit is a throwback to the team that won it all on home soil in 1966, and fans are hoping these will help repeat the feat.
MORE: Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers
Germany: Since Adidas is based in Germany, pride is on the line to deliver the best they can dream up. The home jersey has an understated black-red-gold stripe bisecting their patch, adding a touch of color without distracting. Well placed, it's a subtle way to inject the jersey with the national colors. The away blacks with gold numbering has a formal appeal, with red accents on the shoulders and neck. Tough to beat.
New Zealand: New Zealand may be best known for its stellar rugby squad, the All-Blacks. And keeping with this well-known look is a plus for what is sure to be one of the weakest eleven on the playing field. I'm a big fan of simple, solid color palettes and these do not disappoint.
Serbia: I'm sure I'm not alone in my enthusiastic approval of the Serbs' home kit. A deep red with an offset white cross, and accented with a blue stripe on the sleeve, this look has to be a favorite for best kit. It's a perfect example of how a perfectly designed kit can draw in new fans for your team. Serb fans have something to look forward to when their team takes the field ... finally.
Ivory Coast: Not quite sure if I love the textured image of the elephant on the jersey, but I can let it slide. Great use of color in both the home and away kits. The plain orange looks great and the green-striped aways are worth complementing. All around, the Ivorians rock a superb, well-rounded kit. The elephant in the badge is well designed also.
Slovenia: I'm not a fashion designer or expert by any means, but what kind of image does Slovenia want to project with these uniforms? Are the zigs and zags representative of something specific? Mountains? Is Slovenia mountainous? They're distracting and simply quite odd, like most Slovenians I know.
Chile: The worst thing I can say about this kit is that it evokes absolutely no emotion from me. Kind of like that Chilean Rioja I picked up last night at the corner bodega: bland and left an unsavory taste in my mouth.
Honduras: The big "H" plastered on the front seems odd to me. A smaller "H" somewhere else on the jersey would have served it better, giving the badge more prominence. I can only think it's so large because the Hondurans are trying to hide a larger, deeper secret: the Rain of Fish.
Japan: I'm usually impressed with the Japanese. I love a good Ramen, flush with Udon noodles and fish cakes. Sushi and Sashimi are a staple in my diet, as they should be in everyone's, in my opinion. Akira Kurosawa was a brilliant director, "Seven Samurai" being one of my favorite films. Also, check out Battle Royale, a brutal tale of wayward kids in a battle for survival. Oh, and this kit is shameful.
Algeria: Maybe it's the shade of green that angers me, but I just can't find a way to like this kit. I do give the Algerians credit for not being afraid to exploit a national color, but I think they chose the wrong one. Perhaps the red in their flag with some subtle green striping would have been better. Anything would have been better.
For a fantastic look at the branding side of the uniforms, brand specialist Steve Susi wrote an excellent piece on who the real winners and losers are. Keep in mind that lots of time, money and testing went in to creating each team's uniform. Whether you love or hate the current look of your squad's kit, it's once again time to put personal taste aside and support your country. Even if you happen to look like this.