[Editor’s Note: Today we have the second and final installment of Bernd Wilms’s survey of the Euro tourney’s uniform history. We pick up the action in 1988. — PL]
By Bernd Wilms
1988 (host: West Germany; winner: Netherlands): This was the year shirts got busy, with marvelous Holland stealing the show in all-orange (although the replicas varied slightly). The uni-related moment of the tournament came after the Germany/Holland semi, when Ronald Koeman, following the traditional post-match shirt swap, celebrated with his vanquished German foe’s shirt. Germany themselves debuted the look they’d sport in winning the World Cup two years later. The Soviet Union bowed out in a loud Adidas template. The Republic of Ireland pioneered the practice — still active — of selling sponsorship for replica shirts only. To this day, it’s banned for actual game jerseys in national team play.
1992 (host: Sweden; winner: Denmark): Denmark orchestrated the tournament’s most famous upset in shirts bearing names on players’ backs. Euro 92 was the first tournament to mandate these. By 1994, they were the law at the World Cup, in the Premier League, Champions League, and UEFA Cup, with officials hoping to drive viewer engagement and merchandise sales. All major European leagues would follow suit by the end of the decade. Numbers also came to the fronts of shirts for the first time, including those of a miserable Commonwealth of Independent States team. This innovation stuck in national team play, but not in club soccer.
1996 (host: England; winner: Germany): The excellent Kire site has an authoritative and beautifully illustrated overview for this tournament. One further item of note was the introduction of sleeve patches bearing the tournament logo, which became standard at all major tournaments post-2000, and the UEFA Fair Play logo, replaced in 2008 by the “RESPECT” patch now used in Champions League and Europa League play.
Another uni moment came in a pre-Final press conference, when injury-riddled Germany famously sent out coach Berti Vogts with fully mocked-up infield player jerseys bearing the names of backup goalkeepers Oliver Kahn and Oliver Reck, so as to illustrate the state of emergency the team was in. While the moment doesn’t survive online, Reck kept his jersey.
2000 (host: Belgium/Netherlands; winner: France): Adidas decided on polo collars and sleeve accents for this year’s kits but made more of a lasting impact by standardizing the number design across all teams for the first time. Nike took note and since the 2002 World Cup, manufacturers with multiple teams in a tournament (Umbro excepted) have attempted to further impose their brand on viewers through rigorous standardization of number design. In terms of design, only Italy, rocking a beautifully designed and tailored retro look, really stood out.
2004 (host: Portugal; winner: Greece): The only innovation here came when Nike decided that the number on the front of the jersey could be further exploited for branding purposes. Accordingly, circles around the front numbers became a defining visual element, as did front bibs and off-color back name areas for some teams. This was also the tournament where Adidas committed the original sin of assigning Germany a basic template rather than a custom-designed jersey, a faux pas not yet repeated at the Euros. UEFA, meanwhile, contributed further to standardization by introducing rather improvised-looking captains’ armbands. These had previously often included national colors.
2008 (host: Austria/Switzerland; winner: Spain): Kit overviews from this tournament are available here, here, here, and here. It’s not that this wasn’t a good or aesthetically pleasing tournament. But just like in 2004, this was well into the era of kit launches, corporate harmonization, etc., and accordingly there’s no romance to documenting a tournament whose design was already well-promoted at the time.
It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Adidas expanded the front numbers branding arms race to include standardized front number positioning. Puma countered by introducing lowercase NOBs. Also, UEFA decided to get preachy with armbands, including a “Unite Against Racism” message that was prominent throughout the tournament.
As you can see, the further commercial expansion of the European Championships into the slick UEFA EURO has coincided with a clear trend toward using team kits as vehicles for creating brand recognition. While this year’s kits are very nice-looking, at least to my eye, there’ll always be something romantic and non-replicable about the sight of teams doing battle with dodgy squares of tape on their shirts, or mismatched lettering, or even just the old long-sleeves-and-short-shorts look.
By Brinke Guthrie
Try as I might, I haven’t been able to get into the NHL lately. But way back when, I was a Cincinnati Stingers fan and the WHA was the hottest thing on ice (yes, that’s a cliché). So let’s see some WHA stuff, OK? Here’s a Winnipeg Jets patch/sticker set, for example. Nice logo for this Minnesota Fighting Saints patch, and this logo on the Michigan Stags media guide is first-rate. But no question, my favorite designs from back in the day are easily the ones shown on this Indianapolis Racers pin and, of course, this Stingers promo glass set.
In other finds for this week:
• You better eat your Wheaties! And you’ll want to with one of these 1938 cereal bowls. You get four in the set, with names like DiMaggio, Feller, and Red Grange on ’em.
• Here’s a very nice vintage Broncos sweater.
• Lotta mileage left in this cool 1970s NHL lunchbox!
• When I say, “Montreal Expos,” you immediately think, “cowboy hat,” right? Well, even if you didn’t think that before, you will now.
• Here’s a 1970s Dallas Cowboys watch, still in the case.
• This 1970s NFL blanket/bedspread has all the requisite team names/logos, but notice the player has the NFL shield on the side of his helmet.
• Look at the condition of this late-1960s Atlanta Falcons bobblehead!
• And here’s one from Paul: a great 1961 Reds glass.
Signal Flare: Stephen Kraljic, if you’re reading this, please drop me a line. Thanks.
Membership update: We’ve finally gotten through all the orders from Purple Amnesty Day (including Steve Strohl’s card, shown at right, which is based on the sleeve striping from Northwestern’s 1995 football jersey — an unusual request that I was willing to grant, even though it doesn’t stick with our usual rear-jersey protocol). The latest batch should be printed and laminated by the end of this week, and then I’ll take a long, hot shower to wash all the purple stench off of me. Maybe two showers.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Gottta hand it to Nike with their great product placement. … 1979 fauxbacks on tap for the Rays. … The Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse wore March of Dimes uniforms on Saturday (from Claude Jacques). … The Milwaukee Mustangs of the Arena League wore purple 1990s throwbacks on Friday. “The only part of the uniform that was not retro was their helmets,” says Tim Capper. … Interesting NOB for Chase d’Arnaud of the Indianapolis Indians. Looks like the lowercase “d” is actually an upside-down “P” (from Jacob Kubuske). … Disturbing but fascinating: a Nazy Party style guide from 1937. Uniform and insignia illustrations are scattered throughout the pages — see pp. 295-297, for example (from Kenneth Levin). … Several readers have noted that Rangers catcher Mike Napoli was wearing black catching gear, instead of his usual blue, over the weekend. Napoli himself addressed the situation on Twitter. … No photo, but recent Royals call-up Clinton Robinson is apparently wearing “C. Robinson,” even though Jackie, Frank, and Brooks Robinson haven’t been on the Royals’ roster lately (or, uh, ever). “Derrick Robinson is Omaha’s centerfielder, so maybe Clint requested that the initial be added for some carryover luck, since he was raking at AAA,” theorizes Jim Wagner. … Here’s the story behind the design evolution of Nike’s new Tiger Woods golf shoe, which apparently began as a combat boot (from Benji Boyter). … New baseball caps for Mizzou (from Dwight Ternes). … F1 driver Felipe Massa had the name of Gilles Villeneuve — an F1 icon — on his helmet over the weekend. “The race was on the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit in Montreal, and Gilles died in 1982, making this the 30th anniversary,” explains Omar Jalife. … Chipper Jones hurt his left shin earlier this year, which explains the odd sight of seeing him with a shin guard on his back shin (from Yogi Combs). … Nick Swisher was wearing tape over his wedding band — or maybe tape instead of his wedding band — last night (from Ken Weimer). … The Mets’ recent problems can be summed up with this uni-related graphic. … Another college ballplayer who bats bare-handed: Jacob Mahan of Arkansas (from Sean Patton). … Serious apostrophe catastrophe last night on SI.com (from Mike McLaughlin). … Here’s a rundown on what Notre Dame football is planning for its 125th-anniversary celebration, including a mention of “throwback tickets” (from proud ND alum Dan Cichalski). … I’ve occasionally mentioned how Thousand Oaks High School in California awards green helmets, instead of their standard white, to defensive standouts. Lukas Svitek found a 1988 L.A. Times article about this. … Speaking of Lukas, he looks good in a uniform, be it for football or for marching band.