13 Distinctive Pro or International Soccer Uniforms from Throughout History
Like all forms of attire, football kits have changed with the times, cultures and progressing styles, often with both brilliant and horrible results.
The kit is the first impression of a club or national team's identity and often the first point of association, so clubs will often take serious stylistic risks to set their kits apart.
Sometimes, these work extremely well. Other times, not so much.
Here are a baker's dozen of the most distinctive and memorable kits, pro and international, good and bad, from throughout football history.
They may be hideous or supremely classy, but they are all unlike anything else the footballing fashion world had seen before.
If you have other favorite distinctive or memorable kits you'd like to share, have at it in the comments.
Leeds United's Smiley Face, 1970s
Legendary Leeds United manager Don Revie introduced the iconic "smiley face" badge in 1973, as retro of an image as it gets, with the bubbled letters "LU" in the badge appearing to form an animated grin.
With the smiley face, Leeds won a division title and an FA Cup and would be runners-up for the European Cup, so they had plenty to smile about.
The Dukla Prague Away Kit
Merseyside indie rock band Half-Man Half-Biscuit helped this kit reach cult status in 1985 with their B-side single, "All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit."
Before their dissolution in 1996, they won 11 Czechoslovak League titles and made the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1967.
Fans of the band can still be seen wearing this kit, with its distinctive nameplate and retro coloring, at gigs.
The Curious Case of the Terrible England Keeper Kit
This is one of those cases where "distinctive" isn't necessarily a good thing. England keeper David Seaman wore this bizarre mess of a goalkeeper's jersey during the 1996 Euro tournament, in which England was the host nation.
Not a good look when you're inviting all of Europe to the party, English kit designers.
The Three Lions would be eliminated in the semi-finals, but that awful goalkeeper kit will live on through all eternity.
Real Madrid, 1960s
Los Blancos earned their nickname and their place in football fashion history with these iconic all-white kits. No sponsors, no details, just a simple crest against a crisp, clean background.
As the likes of Ferenc Puskás and Alfredo di Stéfano donned these kits and wore them to European domination, they became a sensation, eventually other teams would try copying the look, most notably Don Revie's Leeds United.
Norwich City's "Bird Poo" Kit
Pro tip: If your team's nickname is "The Canaries," the best way to celebrate it may not be with an iconic but ultimately kind of gross kit that looks as if it had been used as a toilet by said birds.
US Men's National Team, 1994
The United States hosted the 1994 World Cup, and decided to celebrate their home pitch advantage with some seriously patriotic kits. Stars and stripes forever, y'all.
The 1974 and 1978 World Cups both saw runner-up finishes for the Netherlands, a team nicknamed the "Clockwork Orange" for its precise game, the embodiment of "total football" with Johan Cruyff and Neeskens at the helm.
The Oranje's bright, flaming-hot-Cheetos-orange kits are unmistakable, a symbol of the distinctive Dutch game then and now.
Jorge Campos' DIY Duds
It wouldn't really be a post about distinctive kits without a nod to Mexican keeper Jorge Campos and his amazing / garish neon homemade totally '80s duds.
The DIY jerseys made him a fan favorite at clubs in Mexico and the United States.
Barcelona is més que un club, and their signature kit is més que une uniforme.
The bold pairing of claret and blue stripes has become synonymous with the club and make its ever-evolving kit, no matter the arrangement of said stripes, one of the most recognizable and distinctive in football history.
Bill Shankly launched Liverpool's iconic all-blood-red kit, including the shorts and socks, in order to make his players seem more intimidating on the pitch.
His strategy must have worked, as in the years immediately following the launch of the kit, the Reds won two top division titles and their first FA Cup, and the kit has become one of the standards by which other EPL kits are judged.
As Shankly himself recalled:
"Our game against Anderlecht at Anfield was a night of milestones. We wore the all-red strip for the first time. Christ, the players looked like giants. And we played like giants."
Italian National Team, 1970
The Italians are passionate about their great contributions to art, their fashion and their football. The 1970 Azzurri kits, in which the Italian national team took a second-place finish in the World Cup, is an example of the combination of all three.
A simple deep blue shirt with the crest in the corner, the elegant getup is still one of the most recognizable and beloved international kits in football history, and cheap imitations can be found in souvenir stores all over Europe to this day.
The Caribous of Colorado
Distinctive and memorable aren't always good things, and it wouldn't be a rundown of the most distinctive without a nod to the only professional football kit ever to have fringe running through the middle of it.
The Caribous of Colorado (not the Colorado Caribous, mind you) were a North American Soccer League club that lasted only one season, finishing at the bottom of the league.
Not many can tell you much about the team, but what fans will always remember were the extraordinarily tacky uniforms they wore, with the "Western"-evoking fringe.
Brazil's World Cup Kits, 1953-Present
There is not a kit more recognizable in the world of football than the bright yellow shirts of the Selecão.
Donned by some of the greatest names to ever play the game—Pelé, Romário, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho—since its introduction following the fateful 1950 World Cup, the Little Canaries have been world champions five times, won three Confederations Cups and seven Copa América titles, although the most iconic version of the kit is the one worn during the 1970 World Cup.
The origin of the kits stemmed from the horror of the 1950 World Cup final loss to Uruguay. Fans thought the team needed more patriotic colors in their national kit, so a national design contest was launched.
The winner, a 19-year-old newspaper illustrator named Aldyr Garcia Schlee, chose the yellow shirt with green trim and blue shorts, a design praised for its harmoniousness, and a football icon was born.