[Editor's Note: Paul is on vacation. Today we have a guest entry from Parker Martin, who wants to examine the flag designs of some of the World Cup nations.]
By Parker Martin
With the World Cup now underway, and with many World Cup kits being based on the colors and/or designs of national flags, I thought it would be useful to examine the history and symbology of the national flags represented at this global event.
For today, I have chosen four nations competing in the World Cup. So while this will not be an exhaustive list of the 32 nations competing in the World Cup, I hope it will serve as a starting point for understanding the visual identities of different countries.
Brazil. Because Brazil is the host nation, derivatives of the Brazilian flag can be seen throughout the World Cup. The current flag, designed by Raimundo Teixeira Mendes, was adopted in 1889 as the flag of the Federative Republic of Brazil. The green base and yellow rhombus in the backfield are a continuation of the Portuguese House of Braganza and the preceding flag of the Empire of Brazil. The blue circle centered in the forefront and the positions of the stars signify the sky as seen over the city of Rio De Janeiro. The 27 stars represent the various states and federal district of Brazil. The sash inscription, “Ordem E Progresso,” is derived from the French philosopher Auguste Comte. It translates to “Order and Progress,” marking the optimism of the then-new Brazilian state. While it could be argued this design is overly busy, I believe the combination of colors, shapes, and history creates a well-rounded flag that also makes the basis for an iconic uniform.
Nigeria. Although the continent of Africa features some very unique flag designs and use of symbols (I’m looking at you, Swaziland), the Nigerian flag is simplicity itself. Adopted as the winner of a design competition in 1960, this vertical triband flag makes use of only two colors: green, representing Nigeria’s forests and natural wealth, and white, symbolizing peace. It should be noted, however, that this winning flag, submitted by an England-based Nigerian student, originally included a red sun, but that element was removed by the competition judges. Given Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups and history, I am disappointed in the final product. Even with the original sun and rays, this flag fails to represent Nigeria’s uniqueness, especially when surrounded by other nations who make better use of storytelling in their flags.
Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a continent of what can be considered boring triband flags, the Bosnian flag is a welcome variation. Adopted in 1998, it illustrates the progress this country has made following the Bosnian War of the early ’90s. The yellow right triangle, breaking up the blue background, represents the three major ethnic groups that make up this Balkan country: Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. The stars running parallel to the triangle’s hypotenuse are intentionally cut off by the flag’s border and symbolize the greater Europe. If you look carefully, you can see that the two stars cut off by the borders of the flag fit together to form one never-ending loop. To me, this flag serves as a welcome break from the monotonous flags across Europe and creatively combines ethnic cooperation and a sense of European unity. (Plus it utilizes one of my favorite color combinations.)
Ghana. Known as the bane of recent U.S. World Cup teams, Ghana is again paired with the United States in the group of death. The country’s flag, adopted in 1957, uses a charged horizontal triband design. The three are based on the Pan-African colors, which can be found throughout Africa (Cameroon and Senegal) and globally (notably the Rastafarian Movement). For Ghana, these colors represent the blood of those who fought for national independence (red), the mineral wealth of the country (gold) , and the natural beauty of its forests (green). The black star in the center — also the basis of the national team’s nickname, “The Black Stars” — symbolizes Ghana’s freedom from colonialism. Although these colors and design are not unique to Ghana, their symbology and application to Ghana’s history makes for a great combination.
Thanks, Parker. We may do more of these flag pieces as the World Cup progresses.
And as long as we’re talking flags: Designer Craig Robinson has reconfigured a bunch of national flags as golden rectangles. Really interesting stuff — highly recommended. — Paul
Yesterday afternoon, the Cubs continued their season-long throwback uniform parade, by hosting the Pirates. The decade for this throwback was the 1950s, and the year was 1953. This year was selected as it was Mr. Cub (Ernie Banks) rookie season.
As far as throwbacks go, these were pretty tame — the Cubs that season had a VERY plain uniform, with no sleeve or pants striping, and a slightly different “Cubs” logo from their current one. They also sported a wishbone “C” on their caps. The blue was also slightly lighter. Their jersey was a zipper front, and the stirrups had three red stripes on a blue base. How’d they look yesterday? (Click on images to enlarge)
The Cubs did a pretty good job approximating the 1953 uniform — cap looked good (wishbone “C”? check), zipper-front shirt? check, stripeless unis? check. But what about those stirrups? Well — those had white lower halves — like the 1942 throwback they wore against the Marlins last time they threw back. Lame — they just reused the stirrups, instead of getting period correct ones (they also reused the 1942 caps, but they still had those in 1953, so that’s cool).
How about their opponents, the Pirates? In 1953, the Pirates’ road uniforms had “PITTSBURGH” spelled out in a radial arch across their chests. According to Okkonen, it appears they were zipper-front as well, but a game used version shows it button front. There was no front uniform number How’d the Pirates do?
Looks OK — might have been nice if the players went high cuffed, but what’re ya gonna do? The 1953 and 2014 uniforms are actually not all that different — the main differences being the front number (in 2014) and a slightly less arched wordmark:
And of course, in 1953, neither team had a NOB (and the Cubs had a curved number font, similar to what they wear today). Of course, as we have seen with every throwback without NOB, the numbers were placed too low relative to the collar:
Not a bad looking game (and beautiful under the bright sun in Chicago), but it might have been nice if the Pirates had at least played along by showing some hosiery. Other than the Cubs wearing the “wrong” stirrups, they looked mighty fine.
I’ve always liked the 1953-style uni, and it would be great if they’d consider going back to it — but like many (most?) throwbacks, it needs to pick its color up from undersleeves and socks/stirrups, so if this were to ever become the main uniform, I fear we’d just have some big white pajamas.
You can see more photos here.
Readers, what say you? — Phil
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Baseball News: The Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs are looking to cash in on the World Cup frenzy by promoting a “Pee-nalty Soccer Shootout”. … This item was in yesterday’s ticker, but Sean from Winston was at the Durham Bulls game where they wore pink for cancer. … Take a look at this picture of Adam Wainwright in USA facepaint. If you’re eagle eyed like Zack Kurland, you would notice the name embroidered on the Cardinals jersey to Wainwright’s right. Says Zack, “Did a quick search and it seems like the Cardinals don’t have the player’s name embroidered on the front of every jersey but they do have examples throughout their history.” He also wonders if “there is a rhyme or reason for embroidering the name? Seems like a nice quirk to bring back from the old days and I’d be interested to learn if there are other major league teams that do this.” … Check out this beautiful old photo of great Yankees skippers taken in 1951 (from Bruce Menard), who posted that on his blog in honor of Yankees Old Timers’ Day. During yesterday’s Old Timers’ game, the Yanks had the former (and present) NYY managers in attendance line up for a photo, including Buck Showalter, Joe Torre, Bucky Dent, Gene Michael, Stump Merrill and Joe Girardi (unfortunately there is no photo of this gathering). … Here’s the patch on the Yankees caps for yesterday’s Old Timers Day (thanks Garrett) … The Greenville Astros, a Houston farm team, had their Hawai’ian shirt day yesterday (h/t Anil Adaynthaya. Didn’t look much better on the players (via Andrew Guydos. … What if the BlueClaws were the Lakewood Pine Barons? Yesterday, we found out (via MiLB Promos). … Wow, check out this great photo of NY Giant HOFer Mel Ott — and look at all those belt loops! … Joel Gray grabbed this screen shot from the 1995 playoffs and said, “I don’t remember the umps wearing white tops.” I tweeted at Kevin Martinez (Mariners Marketing VP) who maintains that they were light blue, not white.
NFL News: Good spot by Joseph Bailey who writes, he “noticed this advertisement for Buffalo Bills player CJ Spiller at a mall near Rochester, NY. As you may be able to see he’s all decked out is Adidas gear – even holding an Adidas ball. However, the shot of the autographed ball shows it’s clearly a Wilson ball. Looks like they covered up any nfl markings on the ball. Why leave the Wilson mark?” … Check out this collection of NFL fishing lures. Says submitter Douglas Ford, “I have never seen these before.” … Pretty sure we’ve discussed this before, but Dave Kelly was watching a replay of SB XXIII and “I noticed that Boomer had the number 63 hand written on the side of his helmet – has this ever been addressed?”
The #63 on Boomer’s helmet was worn to honor 13-year veteran tackle Joe Walter, who had been waived during the 1997 season. UPDATE: Although Esiason did wear #63 on his helmet in 1997, the handwritten 63 was worn by Boomer in the 1988 Super Bowl (thanks, THE Jeff). More explanation in the comments below.
Hockey News: Possible new St. Louis Blues unis coming? Reader Jonathan Karberg writes, “After checking the 14-15 schedule, I checked the Blues twitter page. 25% off of home and away jerseys til 7-5. Nothing stated on 3rd jerseys, but saw on the Icethetics blog that the 3rd is still in the Reebok catalog, and that the home and road are TBA. To me, it seems that they’d be ditching navy completely, but apparently not for the 3rds.”
Soccer News: In this short video sent in by Andrew Rader, we learn the ‘secret’ behind the U.S. crest for the World Cup shirts. … If you watched yesterday’s World Cup draw between the US and Portugal, you might have noticed something odd on Jermaine Jones’ knee. It’s not an injury, it was America (h/t Brian Floyd). … It’s not uncommon, but yesterday superstar Christiano Ronaldo switched jerseys between the first and second halves — how he could wear a long sleeve jersey in that heat and humidity continues to mystify (pic via Cork Gaines). … Hmmm, was US Midfielder Michael Bradley the inspiration for Edvard Munch’s The Scream? It’s possible (via James Creighton). … If you’re wondering about the USA’s chances of advancing out of the Round Robin, this easy-to-read chart should help. Basically, the US needs a win or draw, or a draw by Ghana/Portugal. Any USA loss and that chart needs to be figured out.
Grab Bag: Graham Clayton notices: “Halfway through the 2014 National Rugby League season, the Cronulla- Sutherland Sharks are still the only team without a shirt sponsor.” … Reader David Firestone sends us this pretty cool DIY drivers suit.