Sauntering onto the world’s biggest soccer stage encourages countries to find what visually defines them as nations and translate that to a shirt. Of the 32 teams slated for this summer's World Cup in Brazil, some do so boldly (here’s looking at you, Iran), while others take a more French-like sophisticated approach.
Here’s a rundown of the aesthetic choices, both home and away, of the nations competing in colorful Brazil (except for Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose jerseys are not due out until June):
A gentle green. That best describes Alergia’s away design that flies in the face of the wild colors we’ll see from other nations in Brazil. The nearly all-green kit in the same green as the nation’s flag and comes with subtle white stripes on the sleeves and collar with the federation badge and national emblem both on the chest. The home look reverses the away, with an all-white shirt featuring just a hint of green.
There’s no deviation from Argentina’s famed sky blue vertical stripes on its home uniform, but a new reflective pattern gives it a visual effect meant to simulate a flag waving in the wind. The team’s crest gets a gold outline to set it apart. White shorts and white socks, also with sky-blue stripes, complete the look. The hallmark blue of Argentina stays in the away kit, if you don’t mind it minced together with tons of black. The differing tones of blue used in the away kit prove the same as in the alternative jersey of the national team in previous World Cups. The black uniform pairs with blue shorts and socks.
Inspired by the 1974 kit, the year the team made the World Cup for the first time, the new Australian home jersey features a yellow top with a green collar and green shorts. The Johnny collar joins a new shield that replicates the shape of the crest worn in 1974. The all-blue away kit has some slight touches of yellow.
The Belgium crest gets blown up on the home red with the crown from the emblem enlarged into a watermark on the front of the uniform. Yellow and black, taken from the country’s flag, serve as accents. The black away kit features a sash-like red and yellow stripe that includes black lines
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
While not officially released until early June, leaked images of the Bosnia and Herzegovina kits show a home white with blue accents and an away blue with white accents.
WILSON: Bosnia-Herzegovina out to write new history at World Cup
Color is part of Brazil’s tradition, a feature we get treated to more in 2014 with a home yellow and away blue. The blue features tonal stripes and tiny geometric circles and diamonds taken from the country’s flag. Blue gradients of the stripes add to the look, while blue in general is meant to symbolize the county’s beautiful ocean coastline. Blue socks pair with white shorts to finish off a look that also features a custom font derived from street posters. The traditional home yellow shirt and green shorts joins a first-time ever third kit for Brazil, an all-green—almost black it is so dark—look meant to pay homage to both the nightlife and lush landscape of the country.
That black graphic print overlaid across the entire Cameroon home green comes from the national team's nickname, the Indomitable Lions. The print features a lion, the country shape of Cameroon, stars from the country’s flag and a football field graphic. While not as wild, the away kit isn’t exactly subtle, a fully yellow shirt with red accents and a roaring green lion emblem.
With a collar inspired by classic Chilean uniforms, the home red gets all patriotic when paired with blue shorts and blue and white accents. The Chilean national flag also finds its way on the nape of the shirt. The away kit offers a white base with long, vertical blue stripes and red accents, sticking in the same color spectrum.
The home yellow mimics the country’s flag, but blue stripes on the shoulder and diagonal blue stripes across the front offer a distinct look. Detailed graphical features include the popular Colombian “Vueltiao Hat” crest on the front, Andean Condor wings on the back and new white shorts. The away red mimics the Colombian looks from the 1990s and also includes the condor on the back. All the white accents and shorts are meant to symbolize the country’s search for peace.
The home red jersey has contrasting blue flowing stripes and a few strokes of white to bring in all the colors of the national flag while using red predominately to symbolize passion, joy and energy. The team has added gold trim and embroidery. The red shirt pairs with blue shorts. The away jersey is in the same design, but with a white base with red stripes and blue trim.
The World Cup wouldn’t be complete without the red and white checkered home look of Croatia. The country first used the checked pattern in uniforms in 1990, although it has been part of the coat of arms since 1499. The red and white home look pairs with white shorts. The away blue doesn’t leave the checkered pattern fully behind, with the red and white checks across the shoulders and sleeves and down the sides of the shirt and blue shorts.
The England home kit is more than just all white: it also shines. Pinstripes are engineered into the fabric, white satin tape on the shoulders offers shine and the famous three lions crest has a metallic weave to give a shimmering effect in the light. The entire look, from the white to the V-neck collar, was inspired by the 1970s. The red away kit also has a subtle pinstripe design, but this time with a graphic interpretation of St. George’s cross on the front that plays as an optical illusion that can be seen only from distance.
The traditional Ecuadorian colors of yellow, red and blue play strongly in the home yellow shirt with blue accents. The away blue uniform has yellow accents. The side of the yellow shirt has red and blue design elements and features a watermark around the crest.
France’s flair for fashion is plenty evident in an away white kit with the “Mariniere” classic design motif that features a tonal gray mariner stripe and also a stand collar. The crest worn in 1958, enlarged to boot, inspired the new design. The look pairs with midnight navy blue with a denim effect found in the top, an inspiration taken from the French town of Nimes, the birthplace of denim. The away socks are white. The story of denim builds even stronger with the blue home kit that mimics the look of denim, all with a white collar and white shorts.
The home white uniform features an angular design in red and black across the chest meant to harken to the architecture of Germany and play on the national flag’s colors. Germany will go all white for the first time in history with its white shorts and socks. The red away kit will sport buttons, three of them. With plenty of black, the uniform’s red is meant as a nod to Rio de Janeiro’s Flamengo district.
Tonal prints and oh, that collar. The away all-red has a patterned black graphic, similar to Cameroon. The home white doesn’t stay all white, with an oversized collar that features the gold and black of the colorful Black Stars’ national flag. The stars and football field graphic also plays on the sleeves.
Simple and classic, both for home and away. The new home white look has a blue polo collar and deep blue cuffs with a white stripe. Pair that with white shorts and white socks. The away is a complete reverse, with the blue and white swapping places.
The unique blue—the same color found in the country’s flag—isn’t the only thing a bit different in the Honduras World Cup aesthetic. The Honduras emblem is an oversized H, which includes the lettering Honduras as well as the five stars taken from the country’s flag, a singular take on a soccer emblem you won’t see from any other country. The home white features blue accents while the away blue goes opposite.
Oh, the beauty of the Asiatic cheetah. Whether a white home shirt with red and green trim or an away red uniform with green accents, both looks from Iran feature a giant silhouette of an Asiatic cheetah, an endangered species found only in Iran. The elephants and condors of other nations have nothing on the cheetah.
In a design said to mimic Italy’s fashion-rich culture, the new Italian kits have a tight tailored look and intricate detailing. The new blue home shirt pairs with white shorts and blue socks and offers up white accents and the Italian crest. A new font joins a “tailored looking crest.” A slim collar completes the look. The white away shirt, paired with blue shorts and white socks, features subtle blue vertical pinstripes.
All green and all orange. There’s not a lot of deviation from the plan for the Ivory Coast look. The flame orange home shirt has printed panels on the shoulder, sleeves and underarm with a depiction of an elephant, also the team’s nickname. Represented with an illustration and a written word, the landscape of the country appears within the graphic. Expect the same with the all-green away look.
The deep blue of Japan’s home kit features 11 lines spreading out from the emblem and national flag to symbolize “Enjin,” or the act of going into a huddle. But about that away uniform, that same Enjin design gets bright in a new neon yellow, a head-to-toe look that will stand out in Brazil.
Mexico’s home green is said to have a “superhero look” to inspire energy. The bi-tonal green gives way to an angular graphic across the front—akin to a costume a superhero might wear—in red and white with the team’s crest squarely in the center. The away kit goes a completely different direction, dealing largely in reds and blacks meant to pay homage to the classic jerseys of 1930 through 1958. Red is also a key color in the country’s flag.
Netherlands is celebrating its football association’s 125th anniversary with a new crest with an enlarged white lion, a symbol used on Dutch kits since 1907. The new home kit gives us the traditional orange look we know so well, a completely restrained and simple design with only white trim on the cuffs, if a player chooses to turn them out. The solid orange top pairs with white shorts and orange socks. Dutch designer Wim Crouwel created new name and number fonts for the uniform. The away blue features an isometric grid pattern of interlocking chevrons that start bright at the top and go darker until ending in purple at the hem. The color comes from the country’s royalty and flag. The blue/purple shirt features orange accents and pairs with purple shorts and socks.
With all the shades of green you’ll see in Brazil this year, Nigeria certainly has one you won’t forget for its all-green home look. Nigeria has left its traditional green for a lighter, more vibrant variance to match Brazilian culture. The white away kit moves away from green and uses red names and numbers, a direct reflection of the color bordering the Super Eagles’ crest.
The dark red home kit features a tonal design of dark red and bright red across the top half and sleeves. The varying stripe sizes combines into a graphic, which combines with a V-neck collar and green cuffs. Art Deco has inspired the new custom fonts. Dark red shorts and socks pair with the home. The away white jersey offers a stand collar and blue cuffs with blue shorts and white socks.
The red and gold—seen in the stripes and double-headed eagle crest—of Russia’s red home kit play off the national flag’s colors. Russia has really played up its space achievements, with a written tribute of “Conquerors of Space” on the red shirt and satellite photos (seriously!) of earth taken from the Russian space satellite Electro-L outlined and then modified into a light blue semicircle across the top and shoulders of the away white. The image is said to be the same perspective the first man in space, Russian Yuri Gagarin, saw in 1961. White was chosen due to its use as the color of choice for space suits.
Playing off the yin and yang circle symbol found at the center of the Korean flag, the red Korean jersey has those interlocking shapes at the top of each sleeve in blue.
Tradition be damned. The defending champions celebrate that distinction by using gold stripes and a golden crest on their head-to-toe red home look. But the away has none of that. Spain will feature an all-black kit with neon green—known as “electricity”—accents throughout. There’s no tradition there.
As nearly everything in Switzerland, the design of the national team’s uniform is fashioned after the Swiss flag. The home red has white lines running vertically down the left and right side of the torso and a subtle tonal embossed Swiss Cross across the main front panel. The red shirt pairs with white shorts. The away combination offers an opposite look, with a white shirt and red shorts.
The home and away looks of the U.S. national team couldn’t offer a starker contrast. The home white kit goes all white, save for faint gray pinstripes and a slight red trim, and offers a white polo collar. A new angular font gives a bit of additional personality to the classic look. There’s nothing classic, except for the American flag, of course, about the new away kit, a crew-neck jersey with three horizontal bands mirroring the colors of the flag. The upper torso and top of the sleeves, which houses the team crest on the chest, feature blue. A white chest band extends over the middle of both sleeves while the remainder of the top is red. Red continues for the shorts and socks.
The team’s nickname, La Celeste (the sky blues) comes to life with a home blue shirt paired with black shorts. The May Sun, a key piece in the country’s national flag, is embossed behind the team crest and the blue and white stripes on the sleeves represent the stripes from the national flag. The cut collar comes from Uruguayan football history. The away kit closely resembles the home look, but goes all white, from head to toe, with sky blue accents.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.