Best Kits in the History of the World Cup

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 2, 2013

Best Kits in the History of the World Cup

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    In more than 80 years of tournaments, the FIFA World Cup has seen some 393 different teams grace its hallowed halls through 19 separate editions of the competition.

    Aside from the talent that's been displayed as a result of that mass of meetings, there's also been a healthy collection of kits strutting the World Cup catwalk in that time.

    Some have been good, some have been bad, and there are without a doubt those that one wouldn't be unfair in labelling "ugly."

    This countdown is a celebration of the best of the bunch, with the 20th century taking a leading hand in the fashion ranks.

    Unless stated otherwise, all kits are in reference to a nation's home colours of that particular tournament.

Honourable Mentions

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    Romania 1994

    The best finish that Romania have ever managed in a World Cup finals came in 1994, and it's just as well that the nation chose to pick a particularly pleasing design that year.

    Yellow is certainly one of the trickier colours to make attractive—especially to the majority of male football supporters—but Adidas pull off the feat with aplomb in that year, with the red and blue shooting from the hip setting the jersey off nicely.

    That being the case, it seems obvious that the only way for Romania to better their 1994 quarter-final appearance is to hire the very best designer in the land, football quality be damned.


    Portugal 1966

    In 1966, Eusebio's Portugal were unfortunate enough to be drawn against an in-form England at the semi-final stage and were beaten 2-1 by the eventual winners at the penultimate hurdle.

    At least they looked fine in doing so, however, with the retro styling of plain maroon throughout their kit helped by a green neck and wristbands. Simple yet effective.

20. USA 1994 Away

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    Really, one might fall on either side of the coin when it comes to denim kits, but we're giving the United States the benefit of the doubt for their 1994 away jersey, which was nothing if not patriotic.

    Hosting the World Cup in their own backyard, a statement of intent had to be made by the USA. to the rest of the football community, and if this star-spangled number didn't get the job done, it's really quite difficult to think what might.

19. France 1998

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    As iconic as images come for the French football fan, Zinedine Zidane holding the World Cup aloft in 1998 is a picture that tells the story of one of the best sides the nation has ever produced.

    It's only suitable that Les Bleus get their say, given that they're renowned as one of the fashion capitals of the world, but this blue number with white and red stripes seared across the torso is one of Adidas' finest efforts to date.

    The dark tones of the shirt are made to pop by the white shorts, and the stripes running down the sides of both jersey and bottoms alike is a nice touch.

18. Nigeria 1994 Away

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    Some of the World Cup's African participants have made it their business through the years to make a statement when it comes to their strip.

    Nigeria did exactly that in 1994, when the alternative to their usual green strip was instead a tribute to a pair of pyjamas that wouldn't have looked out of sorts on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

    Regardless, we're awfully glad that the Super Eagles made their World Cup finals bow with a bang.

17. Belgium 1982

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    Back in the hipster spotlight once more for 2014, it's only right that Belgium be paid respect for a previously retro entry, their 1982 kit being a fashion master class.

    We're not completely sure as to the purpose of the yellow strips running from shoulder to thigh, but they look like lederhosen, and for that their design goes down as a success.

    In all seriousness, though, the V-neck approach can often be a winner, and here the Belgians really set their red colours alight with the addition of black and yellow trim around the fringes.

16. West Germany 1974

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    "The" iconic Germany kit for some, 1974's model is arguably the plainest to have ever existed, but it was undoubtedly one of Germany's most effective.

    White with black around the neck and wrists, this jersey was simple and to the point, completely befitting its West Germany wearers, who that year ran to their second World Cup title.

    In that vein, it appears their kit got the job done.

15. Cameroon 1990

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    The strip that's perhaps most famous for the dance that Roger Milla brought to the world while wearing it, Cameroon's 1990 effort is one of the best designs ever produced by an African nation.

    Called the Indomitable Lions for a reason, Cameroon went for a larger-than-usual feline-flavoured crest that year. The strip featured a very varied assortment of colours yet was pulled off to perfection.

    Bowing out of the competition at the quarter-final stage, the green, white and red of this kit made the African side one of the neutrals' favourite teams of that particular World Cup.

14. Italy 1978

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    The Azzurri have never been a side renowned for over-complicating matters on the pitch or getting awfully technical in terms of style. Their 1978 World Cup kit evoked that message in its easiest terms.

    "Blue and white" is all that's to be said of the strip, which was good enough to get Italy to the semi-finals of that year and eventually finish as fourth-place runners-up.

    The crew neck design seems quintessentially Italian in this instance and, as most of the players flaunt in the attached image, long sleeves looked pretty swish, too.

13. Zaire 1974

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    One of the most famous World Cup jerseys of all time arrived in 1974 thanks to Zaire, during what was the nation's only appearance in the finals of the tournament (not counting their withdrawal in 1978).

    Emblazoned across the stomach of both home and away kits was the leopard which gives the side their nickname, presumably in an effort to make some sort of attempt at scaring off the opposition.

    It didn't work as Zaire—now the Democratic Republic of Congo—bowed out of the tournament at the group stage.

12. Mexico 1978

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    The aforementioned V-neck designs can be moulded into some of the best but less common kits when done right. Mexico got it right in 1978.

    Relying on a strong foundation of their usual green, white shorts and trim add more conventional flair to this World Cup strip, with just the right amount of red thrown onto the stripes for good measure.

    Patriotic until the end, Mexico's shaggy-haired stars of that year couldn't win a single point in the group stage, however, so it was back to the drawing board.

11. Holland 1978

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    Orange is a colour that's not to everyone's taste, but Holland nonetheless make things work in their favour tournament after tournament, with 1978's edition being a particularly attractive number.

    The black decal of the shirts is contrasted by the white shorts with orange decal on the bottom half, Adidas once again giving a lesson that less is more when it comes to football jerseys.

10. USA 1950

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    Due to the age of the shirt, we were unable to find a colour entry of the United States' white, red and blue strip, which goes down as the finest that the Americans have ever produced.

    White foundation was made to look extremely snazzy thanks to a striking red sash across the front of the kit, something that clubs such as Ajax and River Plate have continued to bring to the masses.

    The USA may not have the best record when it comes to their World Cup finals, but at least they can brag about looking good at most, regardless of their finish.

9. England 1966

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    One of the most memorable strips ever to have appeared at a World Cup, England's controversial triumph over West Germany in the 1966 final came outside the conventional white of the Three Lions.

    Instead, Bobby Moore hauled the World Cup trophy above his head dressed in a plain red with white shorts and red socks, a "look" that England have been trying to recapture ever since.

8. Chile 1962

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    Again, due to the age of the clip, Chile aren't done true justice by the attached video, but 1962 saw the South Americans do something that not every nation has been capable of in a World Cup finals: They somehow managed to make the flared collar look good.

    True to tradition, Chile's jersey was covered in red, while the navy shorts and white socks gave the impression that 10 walking, talking flags were out in action.

7. West Germany 1990

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    From the simple to the not-so-simple, West Germany would again triumph at the World Cup finals in 1990, this time in a considerably more complex look than that of 1974.

    Doing away with the basic white, Die Mannschaft chose to instead splash a bit of colour on their kit, as the black, red and yellow of their national flag was introduced with an edgy pattern across the chest.

    It clearly worked for the triumphant Germans, reminding us just how far things have come in shirt design over the last two decades. 

    Decide for yourself whether it's been for the better.

6. Denmark 1986

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    Denmark's first ever appearance in a World Cup finals was marked with a bang, as the Danes modelled one of the finest shirt entries of that year.

    The offset stripes of the red-and-white jersey were very much a different direction at the time, the black neck trim being a nice addition, too.

    However, to avoid looking too close to pink, the more tempered red shorts add a much-needed strength to the kit, which goes down as a risky but rewarding approach.

5. France 1986

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    France also happened to model a very favourable design at the 1986 World Cup, and if the classic short shorts aren't enough to bring out your vintage side, the sight of Michel Platini jumping for a high ball surely should.

    Blue top, white middle and red bottom, this kit was a mishmash of country colours but ultimately a winner, Adidas yet again showing their strengths in retro designs, albeit not altogether retro at the time.

    The shortened collar and shoulder stripes also make the plain blue of France slightly more intriguing, with the side being good enough for a third-place finish that year.

4. Argentina 1986

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    Can we see a pattern emerging here?

    It was clearly a good year for kit design in 1986, and Argentina jumped aboard the fashion train with several of their tournament opponents, Le Coq Sportif contributing what is and probably will remain their finest World Cup shirt to date.

    Classic in essence, the baby blue and white stripes of the Albiceleste are really brought out by the blazing yellow of the country's crest, in a kit that looks as far away from the scientifically enhanced jerseys of today as one can get.

    Diego Maradona seemed to like it in any case, leading his country to World Cup ecstasy.

3. West Germany 1990 Away

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    The kit so hip that kids are now buying replicas to wear to the discotheque.

    Green has been and currently is a staple of the Germany kit selection, used in tribute to the DFB, Germany's football federation.

    Combined with the almost mosaic style of white patches in 1990, the colours aided the team on their way to World Cup glory that year, though the kit ever so slightly resembled a Christmas tree.

2. Brazil 1970

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    This is the first kit that will come to the mind of many when the competition is first mentioned, as arguably the most memorable of Brazil's five World Cup wins came in 1970.

    It was also in that year that the Selecao donned their simplest-ever design—yellow with green collar and armbands may not have sounded particularly exciting, but throw in a pair of blue shorts and you've got a winner on your hands.

    Scoring 23 goals in Mexico that year, a team containing the likes of Pele, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto and Tostao couldn't have looked more stylish if they tried.

1. Holland 1974

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    And only just beating out that Brazilian team of 1970 is the Dutch team of 1974, whose orange-and-black kit may not go down as smoothly with some as it will with others.

    With what seems to be a giant crest when compared with the logos of today, the Oranje's strip looked particularly vibrant during this competition, and the black of the shorts and shirt stripes works perfectly in contrasting its brightness.

    The Netherlands are still yet to claim a World Cup tournament, and on this occasion slipped to a 2-1 defeat against West Germany in the final, but it was undoubtedly one of their most attractive failures ever.