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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

World Cup fashion: the real winners over the years 

World Cup strips are firmly on the dull side of predictable, but there have been a handful of outstanding looks over the years

A Nigerian football supporter wearing the nation's replica home shirt during the international friendly match between England at Wembley. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
A Nigerian football supporter wearing the nation's replica home shirt during the international friendly match between England at Wembley. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

I am not going to lie to you, I am not the world’s greatest football fan, mainly because I hail from a fashion background and the outfits are just so, well, drab.

While it would be unfair to hark on about the importance of cut and matching colours to skin tone, there is no denying that, all too often, World Cup strips are firmly on the dull side of predictable.

The only saving grace of the near-identical tops (which make it hard for a lay person like myself to tell the teams apart) is the high-tech fabrics used. However, tedium has not always been the driving force behind football fashion. There have been a handful of outstanding looks over the years, as a quick round up of our five favourite World Cup strips reveals.

Nigeria, 2018

Nigeria's Oghenekaro Etebo in action against England ahead of the 2018 World Cup. Carl Recine / Action Images via Reuters
Nigeria's Oghenekaro Etebo in action against England ahead of the 2018 World Cup. Carl Recine / Action Images via Reuters

When the tournament kicks off on Thursday, one team will stand out from the crowd. Nigeria. A two-toned fiesta for the eyes, the strip comprises a striking chevron pattern (cleverly echoing the country’s textile history) against a lime green background that is completely uplifting. A serious note comes from the no-nonsense black-on-white of the sleeves, but overall, we hope they score, because we cannot wait to see the celebration dance to match.

West Germany, 1990

Klaus Augenthaler in Germany's 1990 strip. Bongarts / Getty Images
Klaus Augenthaler in Germany's 1990 strip. Bongarts / Getty Images

For the World Cup in 1990, West Germany paraded out in a white shirt that embraced its sponsors wholeheartedly. It used Adidas’s famous three stripes as the main design, here transformed into a tri-coloured flash that zig-zagged across the chest. It conveyed such a sense of barely contained energy, it is no wonder they went on to win the tournament.

Argentina, 1986

Diego Maradona shields the ball in Argentia's 1986 World Cup winning kit. Michael King / Getty Images
Diego Maradona shields the ball in Argentia's 1986 World Cup winning kit. Michael King / Getty Images

It may be linked to Maradona’s notorious “Hand of God” episode, but it would be unfair to blame the outfit for that (yes, I am English. Yes, it still rankles). Featuring baby blue vertical stripes on white, the lines were broken only by a simple white band around the neck. Jet black shorts reminded everyone what a formidable force Argentina were, and that it deserved the trophy that year (almost).

Brazil, 1986

Zico, left, sports Brazil's kit in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City. Mike King / Allsport / Getty Images 
Zico, left, sports Brazil's kit in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City. Mike King / Allsport / Getty Images 

In clearly a good year for football style, Brazil took to the field in a block of sunshine yellow, offset with a natty green collar. A simple V-neck with neat, short sleeves, it was pleasingly simple and still remains one of the most memorable strips ever produced. At the time, it became de rigueur for every England fan (once England had been knocked out) and was so coveted that everyone – even me - wanted one.

Peru, 1978

Peruvian forward Teofilo Cubillas runs between Polish defenders during the World Cup in 1978. AFP Photo
Peruvian forward Teofilo Cubillas runs between Polish defenders during the World Cup in 1978. AFP Photo

Where to start explaining the glory of this? A pure white ground, simple, full-length sleeves, and then, kapow, a blood red diagonal from shoulder to hip. Nothing, not even the tidy V-neck and elasticated wrist can distract the eye from that powerful slash of red, which ran across the heart of every player. In a movie, such an outfit would guarantee the title, but sadly life has other ideas.

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