Best World Cup kits
Kits, glorious kits. The World Cup is about great players, great games, great teams and great stories, but it’s also about great garments. We’ve flicked back through the history books to pick out the 20 best shirts worn on the biggest stage of all.
20. New Zealand away (2010)
Egg-chasing is an appalling spectacle (who wants to see twist-faced, cauliflower-eared, testes-tweaking lummoxes lying in big piles?) but we’re happy to make an exception for the resplendent, Haka-yelling All Blacks.
So the All Whites can be forgiven for travelling to South Africa with a backup kit that was basically a tribute to their more competent sporting brethren. And in a strange way, it worked: New Zealand may have exited at the group stage, but they ended the tournament as the only unbeaten side.
19. Uruguay (1930)
There are few nations on the planet as synonymous with the World Cup as Uruguay, the inaugural hosts and champions way back in 1930.No country in the competition’s history has punched above their weight to the extent of La Celeste, who were not only good but also beautiful in their eye-catching baby blue 88 years ago.
Most of the photos from back then are in black and white, which obviously don’t do the Uruguayans justice. The above goes some way towards rectifying that.
18. Club Atletico Kimberley, France (1978)
After France and Hungary both bowled up for their fixture with white kits, Les Bleus ended up popping on the green-striped shirts of local lower-tier outfit Club Atletico Kimberley, who kindly passed on their tops to Platini & Co.
It’s the only time a club strip has been used at a World Cup, and France probably wished they’d borrowed it earlier: a 3-1 triumph over Hungary in their final group game wasn’t enough for them to advance after previous defeats by Italy and Argentina.
17. Argentina (1978)
Any Argentina kit could make the cut, in fairness, but the class of ‘78 looked the best, possibly because it was winter in Buenos Aires and beyond.
The long sleeves just served to make the home side’s almost-entirely-mulleted XI look incredible, and it’s probably even more memorable because the Albiceleste went on to the win the tournament as hosts.
16. Colombia (2014)
Oof – absolute eye candy. The diagonal stripes were stunning, and there are some cracking flourishes, including a subtly pictured Sombrero Vueltiao (popular Colombian hat) inside the blue panel and an Andean condor on the back.
It was best modelled by the sublime James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot and the Goal of the Tournament award as the breakout star of the best World Cup of the 21st century.
15. Croatia (1998)
An opinion divider, for sure: some would vote this on to the ‘worst’ list – but the box-fresh new Eastern European nation certainly made a statement at their first World Cup, with a chessboard-like recreation of their national flag.
It was modelled perfectly by Davor Suker and Slaven Bilic as they marauded all the way to the semis, with Suker scooping the Golden Boot for good measure.
14. Portugal (1966)
The reddest top ever created, we reckon – especially with the eyesight-bending big green numbers on the back. Portugal have struggled with the shade of their shirt ever since, but they’ll have to go some way to better this beauty from 1966.
Eusebio looked particularly magnificent, although he probably would have done even if he’d turned up in a bin bag.
13. Brazil (1986)
All Brazil shirts rule – but this pleasantly-collared effort, worn by Zico, Josimar, Falcao and the style-oozing Socrates – rules the hardest. The 1986 team weren’t quite as cool as their 1982 predecessors on the pitch, but there’s no doubt they looked the part.
Did you know, though, that Brazil haven’t always worn yellow? The colour was introduced following the 1950 World Cup, when the Selecao, supposedly champions-elect, were stunned by Uruguay in the final game. At least something good came of that defeat.
12. Denmark (1986)
Many of the Viking hordes that would pillage their way to the Euro ’92 title were here, and the Danes – one of the most entertaining teams at the 1986 World Cup, and widely viewed as genuine contenders to win the trophy beforehand – have never been profiled better.
Designed by Aarhus-based sportswear giant Hummel, its mix of chevrons and pinstripes suited Michael Laudrup, Jan Molby and Jesper Olsen to a tee.
11. Scotland (1978)
The much-fancied Scots had a shocker at the 1978 finals, although Archie Gemmill's chip of the Dutch keeper remains one of the tournament’s most memorable goals – and the shirt that adorned him was a delight.
Even the interlinking Umbro logos along the sleeve worked, while the choice of red socks was an inspired one. The kit certainly stood up to scrutiny better than the team.
10. France (1982)
Michel Platini may now sadly be part of the puffed-up FIFA profiterole brigade, but back in 1982 he and his France team-mates were a sight to behold – a swaggering Gallic midfield cockerel (can cockerels swagger? We’re saying yes).
And a swaggering cockerel also adorned the greatest-ever Bleus top: pinstriped, an Azure shade as deep as the Mediterranean, and a rampant rooster with ‘FFF’ stamped underneath. Clucking marvellous.
9. USA away (1994)
An opinion-divider: some might say that the USA over-egged this particular pudding by producing a jersey emblazoned with massive stars and faux denim – it might as well have guns, beefburgers and ‘MURICA, F*CK YEAH!’ slapped on the front.
We’re a sympathetic bunch here at FourFourTwo, though, and frankly we admire the Americans’ gusto. Best worn by 9ft strawberry blond killing machine Alexi Lalas.
8. Mexico (1978)
Mexico’s tricolour-inspired effort for the jolly to Argentina couldn’t have been sexier. It was made by Levi’s – a very rare jaunt into sportswear for the jean-makers – and was supremely modelled by Leonardo Cuellar, the massive-haired and bearded midfield general who looked like he’d just come from doing a bong backstage with The Grateful Dead.
This was a World Cup to forget for El Tri, who fell at the first hurdle after losing all three group games. No one could argue with their attire, though.
7. Zaire (1974)
Zaire didn’t have a great campaign in ’74 – they got humped 9-0 by Yugoslavia, and are best remembered for Joseph Mwepu Ilunga’s demented run out from the wall during a Brazil free-kick.
They did at least turn out pretty slick, thanks to a vibrant garment with a strapping wildcat depicted on the front. It’s a classic World Cup kit and one which is often unfairly overlooked.
6. Belgium (1982)
The Red Devils have had some knockout tops over the years, including a few numbers that were half-shirt, half-playing card, but their effort from 1982 – in which the shirt stripes psychedelically weave into the shorts – takes the prize.
They weren’t any old stripes either: inside the yellow lines were multiple prints of the Admiral badge, which the firm must have been delighted about.
5. Holland (1974)
Johan Cruyff was impossibly cool in 1974 - he permanently looked like he was disembarking a speedboat on the French Riviera, ciggie on the go, having just fathered all five members of The Strokes.
He was also the best player at this World Cup by a country mile, and modelled the best kit – but gave it a hipster twist by tearing off one of the Adidas stripes, because he was sponsored by rival firm Puma, somehow making it even better. The finest Oranje shirt ever – and that’s saying something.
4. England third kit (1990)
Umbro’s design department went wild for overlaid diamond patterns in the late '80s – they must have got a new stencil in – and the results were often revolting.
But this one somehow came up as a classic: worn with supreme pop star insouciance by New Order frontman Barney Sumner in the World In Motion video, one look brings back the agony and ecstasy of England’s dramatic Italia ’90.
3. Soviet Union (1966)
1966 wasn’t just 'all that' because of big Geoff Hurst and the lads. It also boasted a superb Soviet Union side, who were a little unfortunate to lose to Germany in a semi-final at Goodison Park.
The CCCP (which stands for Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, but you knew that) did have the best tops, though: brutalist Commie letters emblazoned on a blood-red top.
2. West Germany (1990)
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The Mercedes Benz. Stark Bauhaus architecture. That Kraftwerk song about Robots. Wind of Change. All worthy contenders for Germany’s greatest ever cultural contribution.
But let’s face it, none of them are as good as this football shirt, which is the most Adidas thing ever, and was worn by Teuton titans like Voller, Klinsmann and Matthaus on their way to glory in Italy.
1. Peru (1978)
The masterpiece that always sits proudly atop every best kit poll, and probably always will. It is effortlessly magnificent: a crisp, brilliant white, with understated Adi badge and sleeve stripes – but a massively overstated badge and a bold sash that would have done the Reverend Ian Paisley proud.
Revolutionary and intimidating, it’s no wonder the designers of Los Incas current kit have stuck with a winning formula. The Peruvian red sash isn’t just the most evocative kit of all time, it’s also the best the World Cup has ever seen.
Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).
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