In our fourth installment of World Cup Month, we take a look back on five football brands that have come and gone.
Football from the ’70s to ’90s may have been plagued by hooliganism and mullets, but the era was also responsible for some of the wildest sportswear designs in history. In contrast to the high-tech but sartorially bland kits available in 2014, football jerseys of the time were an explosion of wild palettes, jacquard patterns and bold color-blocking that combined with the players’ tiny shorts and questionable haircuts, defined the sportswear aesthetic of the era.
Before $100-million corporate sponsorships and $30k a week salaries were the norm, a whole range of European brands were outfitting teams with ever more ostentatious kit designs. While these manufacturers were responsible for some of the game’s most iconic jerseys, their reign was short lived, as most of their contracted teams were seduced with multi-million dollar deals from Nike and adidas. Join us on a nostalgic trip through five football brands that have all but been forgotten.
It’s been a long way down for Admiral. The British sportswear brand opened up the market for replica apparel, producing the first ever commercially available team shirts in the UK. Their 1980-83 England shirt was an understated masterpiece, featuring bold red and blue colour blocking accompanied by trimmed sleeves and a v-neck collar, allowing the ever-disappointing team to let the country down in style. Sadly they lost the England contract to Umbro and were declared bankrupt in 1982. The brand has been since revived by investors and while it has yet to live up to its past glories, it can still take pride in supplying the Canadian cricket team.
Danish brand Hummel were true trailblazers of sportswear design. With their iconic sleeve chevrons, geometric jacquard patterns and OTT detailing, the brand never pulled punches and could not be further from the stereotype of minimalist Scandinavian design.
They are most known for the Danish national team’s asymmetric jerseys, but their Sierra Leone 2009 kit was a work of complete insanity that needs to be remembered. Just look at it; it’s got an allover map print, turquoise and blue gradients, sleeve chevrons and a LION printed on the front. In an ever-familiar story, they lost their major merchandise contracts to Nike and adidas, who now roll out tedious programs of high-tech but bland designs. Those currently enjoying Hummel’s iconoclastic design style include Afghanistan’s national team and fourth division German club TSV Buchbach.
Who would have thought that the outline of a naked man and woman would become an iconic symbol of sportswear? At their peak, Italian label Kappa outfitted Europe’s highest flying clubs as teams like Barcelona, AC Milan, Roma and Juventus brought the brand’s genius Omini logo to the limelight. Created by accident after a swimwear photo shoot, the logo amused teenagers across the globe with its hidden image of a spread legged woman, revealed when the top half of the logo was covered.
The familiar story of the Nike and adidas takeover rings true here too, as the brand has since lost their major endorsements to companies who have much more sensible logos. While Kappa’s heritage hasn’t been helped by their infamous “popper pants,” the brand is still known to release just about anything from flip flops to bath robes emblazoned with the Omini logo.
Fila never landed any football sponsorships as big as fellow Italians Kappa or Lotto, but their place in sportswear history was cemented in the 1980s when the label found fans in the “casual” hooligan subculture which was emerging across the continent. Alongside brands like Stone Island and Sergio Tacchini, Fila’s signature track jackets and polo shirts defined the style of the time, when Italian sportswear was considered the height of fashion.
While Fila’s retro apparel and footwear still enjoys nostalgic support, the brand has declined in relevance – although that could be considered a worthy punishment for their creation of the hideous “skele-toes.”
Le Coq Sportif
French brand Le Coq Sportif‘s jerseys may have appeared modest at the time but by avoiding the multicolored jacquard madness that was so popular they added a classic French chic to their designs. Think of them as the A.P.C. of the football world. With their contemporaries from the golden era of sportswear either long gone or relying on tired and dated reissues, Le Coq Sportif remain somewhat of a success story, having progressed with a line of classically styled lifestyle apparel.
Although they have few major football sponsorships remaining and haven’t outfitted their national team in nearly 50 years, the brand has flagship stores in London, Paris and Milan, collaborates with some of the sneaker world’s biggest names and maintains a strong presence in Japan, with an exclusive line of heritage-inspired cycling apparel. Perhaps the brand has survived precisely because it did not try to take on Nike and adidas in the world of football; instead concentrating on their stylish cycling, tennis and lifestyle lines.
Check out our other installments of World Cup Month.