The World Cup is here and yes, arguably, the competition between 32 nations from around the globe — 31 of whom have fought to be here over a sometimes gruelling qualification campaign — to determine who will be called the best on the planet for the next four years is the important thing.
But let’s not forget the kits.
A good kit can change your feeling about a team. If you’re a neutral, or your team have been knocked out, it’s not an invalid stance to choose a country to support based on how good they look. These things matter, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
So here they are, the home kits at the 2022 World Cup, rated.
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) July 8, 2022
It feels like there isn’t a huge amount to say about this shirt, which isn’t intended to be a bad thing or a criticism of Adidas.
It’s clearly really nice; clean, simple, classic — all those words that are usually intended to be compliments but could easily be interpreted as, at best, back-handed. But there’s not much of interest to discuss, is there? You can ponder whether black has any significant business being on an Argentina shirt, but they’ve been doing that for a while so… what is there to comment on?
It’s nice, it’s an Argentina shirt, see you in Doha.
— Socceroos (@Socceroos) September 25, 2022
At first glance, you might think that this is a fairly standard shirt, a basic block colour design livened up a little with some generic mottling. But no! Of course, there is a story behind that mottling.
According to manufacturer Nike, the design “evokes Australia’s ecosystems”, and “conjures the Outback’s rugged landscape and the country’s wetlands and forests”.
It does look a little like those butterfly paintings kids do, where they splodge paint on one half of paper, fold it over and it creates a lovely pattern that their parents are obliged to pin up on the kitchen wall. But it’s a pleasant enough way of adding a little variety to a shirt that could easily just look the same every time.
Se liga nos bastidores do ensaio dos jogadores com o novo uniforme da Seleção Brasileira! É com esses mantos que a gente vai em busca do Hexa! 🇧🇷🏆
— CBF Futebol (@CBF_Futebol) August 8, 2022
You’d have to work pretty hard to make a mess of the Brazil shirt, providing you stay roughly within the basic yellow/blue and green trim guidelines.
This one is fine, with a quite vague background pattern that is, it says here, inspired by the fur pattern of the mighty jaguar, a native big cat of the Amazon. Which is… fine?
Said pattern is such that you can’t really see it from any kind of distance, sort of rendering it pointless but also allowing maker Nike to say it has changed things up a bit and have a kit launch where everyone pretends to roar like a fearsome predator. It’s no classic, like in 1986, 1994 or 1998, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) September 20, 2022
Whoever it was that said this is the World Cup football shirt Guy Fieri would wear, hats off. There isn’t going to be a better summary than that. It’s also been noted that this looks more like something a darts player would wear than a footballer.
It’s the football shirt you’d buy from a stall at a rock festival, circa 2003. It’s the football shirt Bam Bam Bigelow would approve of.
It’s tempting to give it a semi-ironic thumbs up and file it under ‘so bad it’s good’, but that would be impossible.
It’s just bad, isn’t it?
The Cameroon kits are finally here. We think. It’s been some time since One All Sports, a local manufacturer, announced it had taken over the deal to provide their kits for this World Cup, but it was only a couple of weeks before the tournament that the designs were actually released.
And they still might not be actually worn, due to disputes with former supplier Le Coq Sportif. Anyway, the design is… not worth the wait. It looks a bit like a cheapish Transformers T-shirt — that background design is suspiciously similar to the Decepticons logo.
Still, while the design might not be much good, the thought of Vincent Aboubakar being able to turn himself into a large articulated truck is quite an entertaining one.
One TEAM ,ONE GOAL …Indomitables ! pic.twitter.com/opXWDGHJBT
— Les Lions Indomptables Officiel (@LIndomptables) November 5, 2022
It’s just a shame they can’t wear the shirts they had at last winter’s Africa Cup of Nations, because friends: they were beautiful.
This is interesting. Canada don’t actually have a new kit for the World Cup. They have decided to stick with the one they’ve been wearing for the last year or so, with manufacturer Nike reporting they are on a “different kit development cycle” to everyone else.
Given that every other country will have new duds for the tournament, it is pretty strange, and it’s difficult to reach any conclusion other than Nike just didn’t think Canada were going to qualify so didn’t align their schedule with the tournament.
Maybe this shouldn’t matter, but for their first tournament in 36 years, it just feels a bit like wearing your normal work suit to your own wedding. And as The Athletic’s Joshua Kloke wrote in September, people are not happy about it.
As for the kit itself… you struggle to come up with anything at all to say. It’s just… a red shirt with a small bit of detail on the sleeves. Clean, simple design? Yes. Boring? Also yes. Irritating for all involved? Most definitely.
🇨🇷 ¡𝙋𝙤𝙧 𝙚𝙡 𝙝𝙤𝙣𝙤𝙧 𝙮 𝙡𝙖 𝙜𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙖! 💪
👕Oficialmente nuestros uniformes para el Mundial de Catar 🔥
— FCRF (@fedefutbolcrc) September 15, 2022
Ah, yes, lovely. There really is a fine line between simple and dull, but New Balance have demonstrated that’s a tightrope you don’t have to fall off.
There’s nothing fancy here: the body is red, there’s a thick blue band on the sleeves and a thinner white one on the v-neck collar. Very little messing around, and it ends up looking just about right.
Might they have wanted something a little more individual for a tournament that only comes around once every four years? Maybe. Will they look back on this in years to come and regret it, like an ill-advised teenage haircut at your school prom? Definitely not.
— HNS (@HNS_CFF) September 22, 2022
It must be quite a delicate business designing a Croatia home shirt. Firstly, it’s a classic, an aesthetic joy that allows anyone to wear checkerboard clothing without feeling like they’re in a ska punk band. But at the same time it is symbolic of a nation that had to fight bloody hard to simply exist, even though we’re essentially a generation removed from the worst of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
This one may prove divisive, given that the checks are sporadic and seem to disappear at random intervals, making it slightly resemble a 1980s computer game, but we here in The Athletic’s Football Shirt Appreciation Bunker give it two thumbs up. Trying to add variation to a classic is a tricky thing, but they’ve pulled it off here.
This shirt carries with it a message.
We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives.
We support the Danish national team all the way, but that isn’t the same as supporting Qatar as a host nation. pic.twitter.com/7bgMgK7WzS
— hummel (@hummel1923) September 28, 2022
An interesting one, this. Do we rate the design, the pure aesthetics of the shirt, or do we rate the political statement that the design and those aesthetics represent? Well, let’s try to do both.
We’ll start with the shallow bit: it does look pretty good, doesn’t it? A nod to the kit Denmark won the 1992 European Championship in, but like a variant on a blackout strip — a redout, if you will. You wouldn’t want every kit to look like this, but it stands out pretty nicely.
And now for the statement.
There was plenty of understandable backlash to Hummel’s announcement that it “didn’t want to be visible” during the World Cup in Qatar, which is controversial for reasons laid out in this article, but much of the negative discussion carried the tone of the old ‘And yet you participate in society…’ meme.
There’s an absolutist line of thinking about this World Cup — that you should boycott it, have absolutely nothing to do with it, and anyone who pays any attention to it is essentially marked as some sort of collaborator. Hummel’s stance was met with much of this: if the firm believed in the idea so much, it should just withdraw from the tournament, etc etc.
But surely the maker of Denmark’s strip is taking a pragmatic stance. While the idea of everyone having absolutely nothing to do with this World Cup is a nice one from a moral perspective, it’s not especially realistic.
It’s a World Cup — if you held it in downtown Mordor, people would watch it.
So you do what you can to voice dissent, to ensure the ills of the Qatari regime are not sportswashed, to remind everyone of the things they should be reminded of. You do what you can, and Hummel is doing what it can.
Rating: it feels a bit trite after all that to give a mark out of 10, so we’ll skip this one
With all this Ecuador news floating about we should probably show these off.
The manufactures really went the distance with this two 🤭
— Subside Sports (@subsidesports) September 16, 2022
The block colour on the shoulders of a football shirt, like polyester epaulettes, was a favourite design in the mid-2000s, and thus it’s easy to make it look pretty dated. But for some reason it works here, maybe because this particular shade of yellow and this particular shade of blue complement each other quite nicely, with little hints of red to add a small splash of variety.
Pretty good, relatively unspectacular — the kit equivalent of someone you meet, find perfectly pleasant but then forget the instant you leave their presence.
All about the details 🔎 pic.twitter.com/3MTyOTFENC
— England (@England) September 21, 2022
It’s been a strange year in England. 2022 has seen a change in Prime Minister after it became clear the old one had flouted lockdown regulations, then the new one stepping down after 44 days in office, plus the lasting impact of COVID-19 starting to become clear, energy prices skyrocketing and a financial crisis looming, outbreaks of monkeypox and the strange collective experience of a monarch who’s been around for 70 years passing away.
And now this shirt. Have the English not been through enough? Is it necessary to pile this indignity onto everything else? How much more suffering can there be?
Is this an overreaction? Are we taking the design of a football shirt that we just have to look at for 90 minutes at a time and are not forced to buy too seriously? Well, yes, obviously, but still: that’s a bad shirt.
— Nike Football (@nikefootball) September 22, 2022
The blue is a shade or two too dark. You can get away with that when there is some other detail on the shirt, like the lighter blue sleeves from four years ago, or the red stripe across the chest that their previous kit had. But this is too monotone, not much beyond the golden cockerel to break up the deep blue that somehow makes it look like something other than a football shirt.
This is one of those very subjective things, and I can see why someone would think this is a nice, classy design, but it just doesn’t look like a France jersey.
#ZusammenEins sind wir nur mit euch! 🖤❤️💛
— DFB-Team (@DFB_Team) September 30, 2022
The instinct is to recoil, to declare that this simply isn’t a Germany kit, that it looks like a training top from the late 1990s and that the retro influence on football shirt design has simply gone too far. But the more you look at this, the more you picture Kai Havertz slinking around in this little number, the more you warm to it, the more you think it somehow works.
It’s not as good as some of their shirts past, and ideally you’d want to see more prominent red and yellow elements, but this is a kit that grows on you.
New Ghana Black Stars @pumafootball Jersey
— Kafui Dey (@KafuiDey) May 30, 2022
Oh, yes please, mother.
This is a lesson in how you keep things clean and simple without being dull.
Shrewd use of trim colours can make a shirt, and Puma was handed a great set of them by Ghana’s flag. This white jersey with the red, yellow and green on the sleeve, badge and collar that really pop is a delight, and while the shirt of the Black Stars featuring a black star in the middle of the chest might be a bit like the moment in some films where they say the title, it works perfectly.
📸 Images from Iran’s 1-1 tie with Senegal. The friendly was played in Austria. pic.twitter.com/ACmDHpfGsX
— Persian Soccer (@prznsoccer) September 27, 2022
After Hummel, here’s another local manufacturer in Majid, which is always good to see.
This kit is a bit of a hodgepodge, with a few half-ideas scattered over a shirt shoved together to form one slightly disjointed design. There’s the swoosh from left to right; there’s the diamond background pattern, but only on the upper chest area; there’s the green and red trim, on the collar and a bit on the shoulder.
It’s all fine, sort of, but looks more like the contents of the designer’s notebook than a finished product.
Home and away Japan shirts as we head for 2022 World Cup! pic.twitter.com/12UYB0FFo5
— Japan Football Shirts (@JLeagueShirts) August 29, 2022
If you stare at this shirt too long, eventually you’ll see a sailboat. But, on the upside, there’s every chance that the reason you’re staring at it is because the shirt is a beauty — a jazzy design which stays just the right side of nostalgic nod to designs of the past, without going overboard and just being a copy of something that came before.
Arguably the main drawback of the home shirt is it’s not the away one, which is even more of a peach.
We’ll get to that soon when we run the rule over the alternate outfits.
Mexico release their home kit for the 2022 World Cup 🟢 pic.twitter.com/VmQi5QUzq8
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 9, 2022
It’s good… possibly.
Green always stands out because it’s a relatively unusual colour for a football shirt, and the red Adidas stripes on the sleeves are a nice point of contrast to the white, which has historically been Mexico’s predominant trim colour. But there’s something about the darker green detail on the top half of the shirt that is a bit off.
It’s probably that this will just make every player in the Mexico team look like they are sweating profusely from the first minute of every game which… will be a bit off-putting. And what happens when they actually do start sweating?
— Ryan Cooper (@RyanJCooper8) May 30, 2022
This (bottom right in the tweet above) feels quite… uninspiring. Possibly because it’s not so much a reference to the shirts Morocco wore at the 1998 World Cup, more an almost direct but somehow inferior copy. It’s like that shot-for-shot remake of Psycho that was made in the 1990s: a facsimile of the original, but made worse.
There are small variations (the stripe across the chest doesn’t go as far onto the arms as the 1998 version, for example) but they are not sufficient to mark it out as different enough.
— Nike Football (@nikefootball) September 25, 2022
Why in the name of Michael van Gerwen is it so shiny?
I can’t really work out what they’re trying to do here, and I’ve been staring at it for about 15 minutes. Is there a pattern in the background there? Something identifiable? Is it meant to be a lion or something?
It’s not clear, and thus it makes it look like a shirt fashioned from the off-cuts of a 1970s silk bedsheet taken from a heart-shaped rotating waterbed, of the sort a sitcom lothario would have in his Las Vegas boudoir.
The final shirts in the release.
Qatar, Poland, Canada and Saudi Arabia. pic.twitter.com/F9JVMDniL2
— Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts) September 15, 2022
There has never been a flashy Poland shirt.
That might not be true, and I can’t be bothered to look it up properly, but it feels about right.
There has never been flair to a Poland shirt: they’re always practical, sensible, basic — what Graeme Souness might call a ‘son-in-law’ of a shirt. Maybe it’s to fit with the perceived (and broadly inaccurate) stereotype of Poles as a practical, slightly severe people who don’t take kindly to frippery.
The sole concession to ‘out there’ design on this are sleeves that might be a bit grey rather than white. Wowzers! Psychedelic stuff, man! Someone put a leash on these renegades, they’re out of control!
— Nike Football (@nikefootball) September 24, 2022
Ideally, one should not criticise innovation. By definition, trying something different means taking a risk, which requires bravery, even if ‘bravery’ is a slightly odd word to use in the context of a football shirt.
Anyone who attempts to move away from the orthodoxy should, in theory, be applauded. But it’s also important to be honest when something is crap, and let’s face it, this half-and-half Portugal kit, with two triangles of colour stitched together, does not work.
You know how in some niceish hotels they make the bed really nicely and fold one corner of the duvet over in a sort of triangular shape? That’s what this basically looks like. Fine for a night at the DoubleTree, not so much an international football shirt.
An A for effort and intent, D-minus for execution and aesthetics.
The final shirts in the release.
Qatar, Poland, Canada and Saudi Arabia. pic.twitter.com/F9JVMDniL2
— Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts) September 15, 2022
When it’s your party and you’re choosing what to wear, do you want to announce yourself flamboyantly, or not show off too much, keep things simple and let the festivities speak for themselves?
The answer to that might depend on whether you’re Elton John or not, but in the case of Qatar it seems they have gone down the understated route for their outfits, a cookie-cutter Nike number with the crest and the manufacturer’s swoosh in the middle, and the rest of the shirt is… well, just… red.
It’s difficult to come up with any sort of opinion on this either way: it’s just… there.
This is the new Saudi Arabia Home shirt by Nike. In white with grey patterning throughout depicting palm leaves and falcon feathers, the 2022-23 release also features a neat green crew neck.#SaudiArabia #nikefootball #footballshirt #nike
— FootballShirtCulture.com (@footballshirt) September 16, 2022
This is pleasant enough, but I’m not sure why Saudi Arabia have essentially copied Newcastle’s third shirt. Ho! Just a little joke there, Newcastle’s fans.
Actually, it’s not that much like the solemn tribute that the Geordie boys unveiled earlier this year — that’s a plain white number, whereas this one features a palm leaf motif, a pattern on the background of the main body which, purely from an aesthetics perspective, looks rather nice.
Still, it does have that problem suffered by all white shirts with this sort of pattern — that from a distance it just looks like a slightly dull, grubby grey colour, a bit like a set of white shirts that have been washed with a black sock. You might say it hasn’t been ‘SPORTSWASHED’ very well. Honk honk! Honestly, the laughs we have.
— Ryan Cooper (@RyanJCooper8) May 30, 2022
Woof. This (on the left in the tweet above) is an excellent little number, incorporating the best elements of Puma’s current design trends without the weird bits, like the massive numbers in the middle of the chest which appear to have been confined for this tournament to the away kits.
Admittedly, the designers have been given a significant assist here, as is the case with all countries that have a green, red and yellow flag: those colours always pop wonderfully against the bright white main body, and are used very nicely here on the collar — a sort of tapering v-neck — and cuffs.
Sergej about wearing the captains armband last night.
God damm we have the most likeable group of players that are so easy to cheer for.
— Serbian Football (@SerbianFooty) September 25, 2022
Serbia have had a proper good wash and brush up for this tournament. Not only do they have the standard new kit but a brand new crest too; this features a two-headed eagle, so looks undeniably cool, but also separates the national association from the national team.
That new badge also has a gold trim, which is reflected on the shirt with the cuffs, manufacturer’s logo and a bit on the collar. It’s possible Puma also included the gold so the players looked and felt fancy, which would be an equally acceptable reason.
⚽️ | Fresh kits!
South Korea unveiled their new home and away kit they will wear during the World Cup.
— Visubal (@visubal) September 20, 2022
The home kit is perfectly fine. It’s red, it’s got some slightly odd patterning on the sleeves, it’s got one of those false-collar things in black. It’s fine. Perfectly acceptable, perfectly adequate, no problems with it at all.
It’s just when you put it next to the shirt on the right, another we’ll get to in the away kit rankings, it looks at best like the plainest of Janes, the most ‘meh’ jersey ever, absolutely nothing to get excited about at all. Which is a pity. Maybe if they’d just released a stinker of an away shirt it wouldn’t be so, but here we are.
Our World Cup Home Kits on pitch just look 𝙎𝙊 good 🤤 pic.twitter.com/1KTYZmhtt5
— adidas Football (@adidasfootball) September 28, 2022
This is another design that really smartly uses nostalgia — a series of nods to shirts of the past without fully copying them.
It’s a bit like the shirt from Spain’s 2010 World Cup triumph without being exactly the same, it’s a bit like their Euro 96 one without being exactly the same, it’s a bit like the Euro 2000 kit without being exactly the same.
You could make an entirely cogent and sensible argument that the stripes on the shoulders of a Spain shirt should be that golden yellow colour, rather than dark blue, but this all works as a piece: there’s enough yellow in other elements of the trim to ensure it’s not completely lost, while at the same time providing some contrast with previous years.
— kitstown (@kitstown) May 30, 2022
Once again, Puma have come up with an absolutely wonderful design for a home shirt while dumping a load of horrible template-based efforts into the change strip.
This is a lovely bit of a business, which has a sort of late-1980s vibe, a bold choice given the ‘retro audience’ (essentially blokes in their mid to late thirties) are a bit young to properly remember that. The horizontal stripes across the chest and shoulders, gradually becoming thinner then disappearing as they approach nipple height, look tremendous, and there’s something about the cuff on the short-sleeved shirt which lends something lovely to it.
— Souhail Khmira (@SKhmira) September 29, 2022
There’s a semi-regular theme throughout football history about using kits as psychological weapons: the old thing about Celtic’s hoops supposedly making them look bigger and more intimidating, or Don Revie changing Leeds United’s kit to all white to evoke the glamour and dominance of Real Madrid.
For this World Cup’s Tunisia kit, Kappa has gone with a background design apparently based on ‘the Armour Of Hannibal’, the Carthaginian military ace who famously invaded Rome on elephants.
Will Denmark, upon seeing that design ahead of the World Cup opener between these two on November 22, think, “My god, this team have the spirit of the infamous 210BC Battle Of Herdonia — we don’t stand a chance”? Probably not. But the pattern is quite nice, so…
La Celeste. 🇺🇾
— PUMA Uruguay (@PUMA_Uy) May 30, 2022
Oooh, nice. Plain, but nice. Say what you like about Puma, it has nailed the collars on its home shirt designs this year.
It feels like they have slightly altered the shade of blue that makes up most of this shirt, which along with the white v-neck collar and the white band around the arms, gives it a distinctly retro feel. And, in this case, the retro is specifically the shirt they wore at the 1950 World Cup — if you’re going to evoke something, it might as well be the last time you won the whole thing.
— Nike Football (@nikefootball) September 26, 2022
Another one to have gone for the 2002-era retro nod, with the sort of wing-shaped blue detail just beneath the neck.
Nike says these white jerseys “draw inspiration from the United States’ diversity and storied legacy across a variety of sports, leagues and associations”, which… erm… seems like quite a stretch for a white shirt with a few red and blue bits on it. But apparently there are elements of basketball and hockey design in this, which is a nice idea but does feel slightly odd for a sport that is still attempting to escape the shadows cast by some sports historically much more popular in the US.
Also, what’s the deal with this being basically the same as a Paris Saint-Germain training top?.
“The Dragon on my shirt is all I need.”
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) September 3, 2022
A belter. This is how you dress for your first World Cup in 64 years.
You could nitpick and say there’s not enough green, but there’s some on the collar and those stripes underneath the armpits work nicely. You could also say it’s a bit too similar to the Japan shirt, but the fact this is red on red rather than blue on white means it looks slightly less like a magic-eye painting.
When Adidas get it right, it really, really gets it right. And Adidas has really, really got it right here.
(Design: Sam Richardson for The Athletic)