By Phil Hecken
The World Cup has been progressing swimmingly (OK, perhaps if you’re a fan of Portugal, England, Italy or a dozen or so other teams, maybe not so swimmingly).
We know who won the games played on the pitch — but who won in the uniform department? Some teams wore only one kit during their Round Robin games, while other teams wore three different unis (or combinations). We knew coming in what they’d be wearing, but who wore it best? Who really won the uniform battles?
I won’t rank them from 1-32, but I will give them letter grades as I (and only I) believe they deserve. Now, I’m going to base these SOLELY on what uniform was worn during the World Cup, not what their “expected” or “traditional” look is (seeing Germany, for example in white tops and WHITE pants, instead of black shorts, is anathema to some, or Italy in mono blue instead of blue over white — to name a few). No “points” will be deducted for that (it doesn’t mean, however, the 2014 look is “better” and won’t be graded accordingly). I also prefer collared jerseys to non-collared (and faux-collars are the worst), but I won’t use that in determining grades. It’s much more of a color (and if there are stripes, gradients or other piping/graphics on the jersey/pants) type of thing. Mostly socks are considered as a “solid” color even if there are stripes or other gradients.
After my grades, I’ll be followed by Jim Vilk who will be providing his very own “5 & 1”. He will be picking which uniforms looked best together, not individually. Because, as we know in college football (and basketball), that the best looking uniforms don’t always look best together.
So, going by the original eight groups, here are my grades for the World Cup uniforms:
Brazil wore gold tops in all three matches, and blue pants against Mexico and Croatia. White shorts against Cameroon. That’s a good looking uniform when worn with the blue trou, but the white pants isn’t quite as nice. (Brazil again wore white pants yesterday in their thrilling shoot-out win over Chile.) Grade: B+
Mexico wore three different uniforms — green/black/red vs. Croatia, red/black/red vs. Brazil, and green/white/red-white vs. Cameroon. Their best look, red tops over white pants, was good, but the other two? Not so much. I actually like the red tops/black shorts combo, but I wasn’t sure that was Mexico. Grade: C+
The checkerboard is such a cool look, and it was worn with white shorts in every match. They wore blue socks versus Brazil and Cameroon (a GREAT look) and white socks against Mexico (a very good look). One of the best looks in the World Cup. Grade: A-
Two VERY different looks for Cameroon — monochrome gold versus Mexico, and the familiar green over red (with gold socks vs. Croatia and red socks against Brazil). The green over red, with either pair of socks, is great. The mono gold? Not so much. Takes ’em down a grade. Grade: B-
Two looks — mono orange and mono blue (almost purple). Ugh. C’mon man, the Dutch are orange over white, and even though I won’t let my *expectations* influence how the kits look…well, they don’t look good. The all-orange is good (not great) but they only wore it ONCE (against Chile). They went all blue versus Spain and Australia. Not. Good. At. All. Very disappointing. Grade: C
Chile wore white/white/white in two matches: versus the Netherlands and Spain, and went red/blue/blue versus Australia. Now, I do like white unis, but not on everyone. And not on Chile. The red/blue/blue is a great look, but we only got to see it once. We needed to see it more. Grade: B
So much potential. Wasted. Three (yes three) unis were needed because either FIFA or Spain didn’t realize that the red uniform wasn’t “light”. So they needed to add the mono white. So Spain had mono white, mono red and mono black. Yes, I won’t subtract from the expected red over blue, but these three kits were all awful. At least we won’t need to worry about seeing any of them again. Huge fail for a nation that should have moved on to the knockout stage, uni and futbol-wise. Grade: D-
Unfortunately, uni-wise, the Aussies won’t be moving on. But we got to see their beautiful gold (with green collar) tops three times, although they only wore the gold over green unis vs. Holland and Spain, having to go gold/gold against Chile. The green/gold is a beautiful color combination — the mono-gold not so much. Gotta drop them a peg for that. Grade: B+
Because of the teams in the group, Colombia was able to wear gold tops, white pants and socks all three games. Surprisingly (or not?), Colombia doesn’t have a long or storied World Cup history, (only 5 total tournaments), and they’d never worn this combo as a primary kit before. And while I don’t normally like gold over white, I do here. The stripes on the shirt are subtle enough, and the sash is nice. Good, solid look. Grade: B+
Mono-blue and mono-white for Greece, who have only played in 3 World Cups, always wearing white and blue (with mono-white as their primary the last two). It’s a good, solid (if unspectacular) look, but nothing to really get all that excited about. I’d like to see them mix the top/bottoms up, but it’s just mono through the Group stage. Safe. And good enough to play again. Grade: B
Another nation with great potential, but relegated to wearing mono-green and mono-orange for the tourney. Shame, because the 1000% Elephants could have looked 1000% better. Still, the two mono unis aren’t awful, just very, very…monochrome. Grade: B-
Like Colombia, Japan only wore one uniform for all three games, and it was mono-blue. For the first time in 5 World Cups, they didn’t have white pants, so this was a different look than we were used to. It’s just not a good look, unfortunately. Grade: C+
Most nations don’t have very “jazzy” uniforms (with swirls and bumperstickers) but Costa Rica is one — not obnoxious, but present. And the red over blue is far superior to the mono white, but they only wore the red/blue against England. It works, but I would have liked to have seen it more than once. Grade: B
Two looks — light blue over black/black (a great, classic look) and mono-white (pretty nice too). For some reason, I really like these kits — both sets. And despite that they were worn very tight (almost a size too small on some players), I’m ok with that. McGruff would be proud. Grade: A-
For some reason, Italy wore mono-blue (they really need white pants, but alas…) for all three matches. It just doesn’t seem like them. For a tournament with only 32 teams, there were a few too many mono-blue teams, and Italy was one of them. Just didn’t work for me. Ciao. Grade: C+
Like Italy, the English wore only one kit — a solid white one — throughout all three games of the round robin. They should have brought blue pants, because that would have made this a much better tournament, uni-wise. It might have made it a better tourney points-wise too. Who knows. They won’t be moving on. Grade: B-
France went with three different combinations in their three games: white/white/white, white/blue/white, and blue/blue/red. Interestingly, they did not go with their familiar blue/white combo (maybe we’ll eventually see that). Still, each look is pretty good, with the white/blue/white being the best. Not a big fan of the mono-blue, but the red socks help that. Overall, pretty solid, Grade: B+
The Swiss were able to wear their red top for all matches, and wore red pants and white pants. The red over white is a GREAT look, but the mono red is too much. I hope we see the red/white again. Grade: B
Now, this is a uni set I didn’t think I’d like, but instead, I LOVE it. Not a fan (usually) of mono-blue, but in this case, it’s great. Both the blue top and the gold top are superb. Best unis of the tourney — sad we won’t see them again. Grade: A
And as quickly as I pick the best set of the tourney, we get the worst. There is nothing to like about this (and they wore white/white/white for all three matches. That giant “H” on the chest has bugged me all tournament long. Buh-bye. Grade: D-
Argentina is close to having the best uni in the tourney, and as fate would have it, they wore their classic white/light blue striped shirts throughout the Group Stage. The only thing keeping them from a top grade is the lack of black pants, which they’ve had for every World Cup since forever — and while I won’t count that against them, those look better than the white pants they’ve worn thus far. Grade: A-
Nigeria has also worn just one outfit so far, and it’s pretty sweet — I’m not usually a fan of two shades of the same color, nor of neony colors, but in this case it works. Looks great out there and you KNOW you’re watching Nigeria when you see this kit. Grade: B+
The first-timeers come in with a very basic blue and white set (white mono and blue mono) and there is nothing about these to distinguish them. They’re not bad, they’re just…there. Maybe next time, B&H. Grade: B-
Despite the sublimated cheetah on their uniforms, I really like these (probably because you can’t really see the sublimated cheetah), and the white kit has enough green on it to really make it stand out. I thought I’d hate these, but they’re my surprise of the tourney. Well done! Grade: B+
I generally like the German kit, although I’m not a big fan of the chevron on their white tops (and they could use black pants, dammit), and I do like their stripes (hoops?) on the black set. Solid effort, but not as good as it could have been. Grade: B+
Unlike many of you (I’m guessing), I hate the bomb pop unis and LOVE the white kit. I don’t buy jerseys, but I actually strongly considered picking up the USA white. Maybe if it hits the deep discount rack at Marshalls’. And while I did NOT grade unis based on collar (polo) or t-shirt attributes, I strongly prefer collared shirts for soccer. Plus for the US white, minus for the red. Grade: B
Portugal only wore their red kit in the Group Stage, and that was a-OK with me! I love the subtle shading on the top, and it was (almost) unique — Russia’s dark red seemed to be very similar — but you knew you were watching Portugal when they played. Great look, bad Cup. Grade: B+
Ghana came in with another pair of monochrome unis, and like so many others, I was hoping they’d mix and match it up a little. While I blame FIFA for that, it still affects my view of the unis. Not terrible, not great, but middle-of-the-road. Gold pants would really have bumped them up a full grade. Grade: B-
Belgium sports a pair (mono-red and mono-black) kits that nevertheless pop and have great color — and avoided needing to add a white kit like Spain did, despite having what I think FIFA considers two dark unis. The black one, which I didn’t think I’d like, is really nice, and the red one has plenty of gold via the numbers to make it stand out on its own. Well played, Belgium. Also — those colors pretty much assure the US will be in white when they meet up on Tuesday, so that’s one small added point. Grade: A-
Algeria lucked into wearing only their white uniform set, and moved on to the Knockout Round. The good: it’s a nice, albeit plain uni. The bad: Numbers are almost impossible to read at distance. If they’d made that green darker, or put an outline around them, they’d be much better. The bad outweighs the good here. Grade: C
Russia doesn’t have a deep World Cup history, but the unis they have worn in the past were pretty “wild” compared to these two staid kits. And that’s a good thing. They went with a deep red for their dark kit (which is a nice wine-ish color) and it looks great, while their white outfit is prefectly acceptable. Nice job. Grade: B
A perfectly acceptable white kit (with just enough color from the shoulder inserts) and a nice red/blue/red dark one. But when I think red over blue, Chile and Costa Rica come to mind before South Korea. Still, I like the combo. They won’t be moving on, but they certainly represented well enough in the uni department, Grade: B
And there you have it — my grades for all the unis actually worn during the Group Stage. Keep in mind this is just my opinion, and you’re more than welcome to disagree. I’m sure you will. Fire away.
…and the Mets could be Royal(Giant)s
Yesterday afternoon, the Mets and Pirates played a Negro League throwback game in Pittsburgh (part of Pittsburgh’s Heritage Weekend Celebration — something they do every year, and they do it well). As they usually do, the Pirates played as the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Let’s just take a look at their unis and see how those looked (and here’s a hint — they looked GREAT). Click on any photo, including the above, to enlarge.
Very nice — All uniforms worn baggier even than today’s styles — indicative of the style of the Negro Leagues. Beautiful red socks (not stirrups, which may have been historically incorrect). Uniforms looked good. I’m not certain exactly what year (or years) the Pirates were throwing back to, but this jersey from 1944 appears to match what they wore yesterday. Mickey’s Place sells a cap similar to the one they wore yesterday, saying it’s a 1935 model. I honestly do not know if they ever wore those jerseys and caps together, or if this was a mash-up. Regardless, it looked beautiful. Only (small) quibble I had was the fact that, although helmets weren’t worn back then, the Pirates wore their black helmets when they came to bat.
For a team that plays as the Crawfords (and also as the Grays) as often as they do, you’d think they would get some kind of generic helmet (or at least take the “P” sticker off). Seems like every throwback, as well as they do them, they don’t even attempt to create any ‘period appropriate’ helmets. Other than that, though…the Pirates looked great.
The Mets on the other hand…
That is a LOT of Royal. A LOT. As soon as I saw the top (about 4 hours before the game), I thought, “wow, I bet they go mono-dark” and sure enough they did. So I did some very cursory digging, and I could not find ANY all-dark uni that approximated what the Mets wore yesterday — I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I’m just saying I couldn’t find any photographic evidence of it. The closest I could find was this. That could be royal in color, but it’s hard to tell from a black and white photo of that vintage.
Ebbets Field did create this Royal Giants cap (and that’s basically the cap worn by the Mets yesterday). So it is entirely possible that that was the color worn by the Royal Giants back in the early years of the 20th Century — certainly the name “Royal” implies the color “royal,” but that’s not always the case.
Interstingly, while the Pirates have (apparently) never created a “throwback” helmet to match the uniforms, the Mets actually not only went the extra mile and added interlocking RG stickers to their helmets, they even used them for the catcher’s flapless helmet.
Interesting team the Mets & Pirates chose to throwback to (previously the Mets have played as the New York Cubans in throwback games). Because of the fact that New York had three professional Major League Franchises, there were not a lot of Negro League teams to call New York home. The most famous would have been the New York Black Yankees, but also the Cubans and the Royal Giants called the area home for a period. The Brooklyn Eagles played for one season before moving to Newark and becoming the Newark Eagles.
There’s not too much history on the “Brooklyn Royal Giants” (I’ve also heard they were the “New York Brooklyn Royal Giants”), but Newsday offered the following:
“The Royal Giants played from 1905 to 1942 as a member of the National Association and the Eastern Colored League. They also played as an independent franchise for some of their history.
“Their best days came during the dead-ball era, when they were considered a top East Coast team. The club once beat Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in a pair of exhibition matchups.”
That being said, I was not a fan of the uniforms worn yesterday — it’s not that they weren’t historically accurate (they may very well have been), but they were not attractive. And as someone who has HOPED some team would adopt a full monochrome dark uniform for some time, I’m beginning to rethink my position. There was simply TOO MUCH royal. The helmets (caps), sleeves and socks all were royal blue, and despite the beautiful piping on the shoulders, sleeves, hems and pants, it didn’t help the overall appearance. I have said before (and I’ll say again), monochrome dark isn’t the problem — it just needs to be it does look good. But caps, sleeves and socks should all be at least a slightly different color from the rest of the uniform. Even modern baseball’s two most recent teams to go monodark — the White Sox and the Pirates — did so by having different color caps/socks/sleeves.
I actually watched a bunch of the game yesterday, being as it was a Mets game and hence on my local television. It was enjoyable enough to watch, but after a while the royal became overpowering. I can only imagine if the uniform was worn a bit more snug (although still baggy, because that’s how ballplayers wear it today) and with pajama pants. It would look worse than the Mets did yesterday. And make no mistake, they didn’t look very good. It was great to see (once) and if historically accurate, then I’m pleased it was done. But that sort of uniform should never see the light of day again. Please. Readers? How about you?
World Cup 5 & 1
Once every four years or so, Jim seems to come out of the Vilk-cave and bless us with another of his beloved Five and One’s — for those of you not familiar — Jim picks Five good uniform matchups, and One bad matchup. Sometimes he picks more than that, giving us honorable mentions, color palette specials, etc. It’s all in good fun
and he’s always wrong and he really does a good job with justifying why he picks what he picks.
Today, he’s back with the first (of two) 5 & 1’s for the World Cup. The selections in this set will cover all of the games of the Group Stage. He’ll be back again when the World Cup is over to give us another 5 & 1 for all the games from the knockout round to the final game.
So…without further ado…here’s Jimmer:
Let me get this straight: FIFA claims they want as many monochrome matchups as possible because HDTV can’t handle colors as well as good old analog? Well, you know I love a color palette special, so PFFFFT to HDTV and kudos to the teams that said PFFFT to FIFA. As a result, you’ll be lucky to find any mono a mono games in my top five.
Some awards first:
Favorite Uniform: Belgium’s black alternate – Font-tastic, with great diagonal lines.
Least Favorite Uniform: England – Eng-bland.
Uniform I Thought I Wouldn’t Like, But Did: Costa Rica – Those goofy lines grew on me quickly.
Uniform I Thought I Would Like, But Didn’t: Algeria – Red numbers really would have helped.
Honorable Mentions to
• Ghana/USA – The bomb pops are WAY better than the USA’s white uniforms.
• …to Ivory Coast/Japan – The Dutch aren’t the only ones who can rock the orange.
• …and to Nigeria/Argentina – I don’t like all green on grass, unless it’s a really bright green.
And now the Top Five matchups:
5. Belgium/Russia – OK, one mono a mono game made it, but at least Russia added a little splash to their whites.
4. Brazil/Mexico – Muy bueno, even though El Tri didn’t wear their green tops.
3. Colombia/Greece – Loving that Colombia jersey!
2. Switzerland/Ecuador – Remember when Superman used to wear blue and red in those shades?
1. Cameroon/Croatia – The Beautiful Game, indeed!
And the &1 goes to…
USA/Portugal – If you could go gradient, Portugal, you could have gone red and green.
See you after the final for the knockout 5&1. Play nice, everyone.
Thanks, Jim! Always great to have you back in the old 5 & 1 saddle…
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Baseball News: “I saw someone submitted photos of the Rickwood Classic Birmingham Barons throwbacks, but there weren’t pics of both teams so I though I would send some if you wanted to use them,” writes Shane (who also goes by “Dr. Miraculous”) “The Ms. Braves and Barons were both into the uniforms, though they were obviously not wool. Some of the players didn’t know how to blouse their pants, but at least they all wore stirrups or stockings. Even the umpires got into the spirit, >wearing 1920s style ump duds including bow ties, though I felt the sunglasses made the first base ump look like an old cartoon depicting a Blind Umpire. Everyone was in classic uniforms, vendors and newsmen as well as players and fans. I must have seen a dozen guys in seersucker suits! I wore my House of David jersey with flannel pants and stirrups – but you cant see the rups in my pic with The Bambino impersonator. Thanks go out to Comrade Marshall for the stirrups.” … Wow — check out this beautiful photo of Ol’ Blue Eyes and the Iron Horse (that’s Frank Sinatra and Lou Gehrig, for you kids), send in by Douglas Ford. … It was Star Wars Night for the Peoria Chiefs (h/t Tyler Crum). … Not sure of the teams, but a pair of high schools thought it would be fun to hook in a camo-vs.-camo match (via Gary Rasberry). … Also from the “lets try to wear the same tops” department are the Brewers and Rockies (pic via Justin Karweik), who went purple vs. blue yesterday (that pic via CJ Fogler).
NFL News: In recognition of the 15th anniversary of the Super Bowl XXXIV champions, the St. Louis Rams will will wear their blue and yellow throwback jerseys as they host the 49ers, and also when they host the New York Giants on Dec. 21 (thanks to Josh Claywell), who adds, “Not sure how all this will work if the Rams can’t wear more than one helmet.” It seemed to work OK last year when they wore the throwbacks against the Titans.
College Football News: In addition to their new black matte helmet and pants (so now they can go mono-black), Ball State also has new red jerseys from Nike (h/t to Joe Tacosik).
Hockey News: Not much big news went down at Friday night’s NHL draft, but the Buffalo Sabres did liven things up with a bit of an apostrophe catastrophe on their draft sweaters (thanks to Jon Covney for the screenshot). There is also a closer view provided by Jeff Bryniarski.
Soccer News: It seems like everyone, and I do mean everyone, is getting into the World Cup spirit these days, including Brady Phelps, who has done his part by (trying) to make Tim Howard pancakes. Now that’s dedication.
Grab Bag: “Claiming deep ties to Chicago area,” says Warren Junium, Under Armour has opened up its first store in Chicago. … A guy who runs a company named — wait for it — “Shinola,’ a manufacturer of watches, bicycles, leather goods and more — remarks on the beauty of American-made products. The jokes may write themselves. (Thanks to TommyTheCPA for the find). … “I just happened to look at the FIVB World League match between Cuba and China today and saw Chinese men’s volleyball player Yuan Zhi,” says Pacific Rim correspondent Jeremy Brahm. “China has been playing on the road for all of its matches and I saw in the video that his uniform was spelled YNAU Z. I thought that it was only from today’s match, but this was even from a match two weeks ago. Red shot on June 13th, and white shot on June 6th (which is what I saw [yester]day), and then in black on June 15th.” He concludes, “I am guessing that the mistake was made before the team traveled for their matches and as they’ve been on the road for a month, they’ve not had a chance to correct it.” … Here is a closeup of Roger Federer’s shoes (at Wimbledon), from Brinke. Note the “7” and trophy, which is indicative of the fact that Federer has won 7 Gentlemens Singles titles there. … Also from Brinke, are tennis stars bringing too much baggage onto the court with them? … Rugby-dude (also Aussie Rules Footie-dude) Leo Strawn, Jr. notes there were “two nice colour-on-colour matches were played in AFL (so far) this weekend, as the two Sydney teams squared off and the Hawks and Suns also played a beautiful match.”
Whew! And that’s all for this fine Sunday — hope everyone had a good one and a good past week. I’ll gladly hand the keys back over to Paul now as he returns LIVE on Monday, fresh from his much-deserved vacation to Nova Scotia this past week. Thanks for humoring me all week — and a big thanks to Johnny Ek, Mike and Garrett for their assistance with the tickers in Paul’s stead. Everyone have a great week!
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“Fifa bribes, intimidates, overlooks massive violations of human rights etc. but never mind all that because they really get their kicks from deciding what shorts the teams should wear.”