Spain reigned supreme on the pitch, but which nation stole the sartorial show? Euro 2012 was a tame tourney for football kits when compared to some of the shock shirts of years past, but still had its fair share of gems which we will see again soon when World Cup 2014 qualifying begins this fall. And remember, all these shirts and more, including new Premier League releases for 2012-13, are available through epltalk.com.
1. Italy: The Azzurri have always flaunted fine fashion on the pitch, even when they sported that goofy “i” badge in the 1990s. This summer’s edition continues their fine tradition, which begins with that rich, satisfying shade of royal blue crowned by a high white collar accented by a thin tricolour. Italy should never have to wear a change, but their current white version is pleasing enough in that it resembles a casual tennis top. Italy top this list as their iconic blue shirt looks the best that it ever has, including that utterly unique fuzzy and glitchy name and number font.
2. Portugal: Their main shirt remains one of the most aesthetically pleasing shirts in football what with its dark shade of red reminiscent of the country’s famed wine accented by a cheery green. Their imposing change shirt, with its giant red-and-green cross over a white field, looks like a crusader’s tunic or just the right shirt for a continental conquest campaign.
3. The Netherlands: If you’ve ever travelled around the Netherlands, or seen a Mouth and MacNeal video, you know it’s a vibrant and colourful country. The Dutch first took the world by storm in 1974 by playing a dynamic style matched by their distinctive look of bright orange shirts highlighted by an intense large lion rampant. This iconic look remained relatively unchanged until the wild tangerine dream look of 1988’s European champions. Brazil and Holland share much in common, both are known for playing entertaining football, both are popular nations among neutrals, and both play in unique colours. This time around, the orange shirt is surpassed by their sleek black change.
4. Croatia: Perhaps the third-most recognizable shirt in world football behind Brazil and the Netherlands. While money demands a new kit every two years, Croatia’s consistent look elevates them amongst the mass of lookalike shirts and gives their supporters a unique symbol to rally around. The U.S., who now wear a phenomenal looking hooped- “Where’s Waldo?” shirt, should learn from Croatia and keep it as their signature look. Croatia’s shirt achieved a new notoriety when literal New York Giant David Diehl snugly modelled it during his DWI perp walk.
5. Russia: The Russians were once a feared and mysterious football force in their prior incarnation as the Soviet Union. Clad in all-red, their shirts featured the simply rendered, but menacing, initials “C.C.C.P.” across the shirt. Their look remains all-red, and the menace remains with Russia’s intimidating and insane double-headed eagle crest. Who dares escape its omnipotent gaze? A peace offering of sorts is made through the diagonal tricolour sash, which lessens the power of the kit’s regal red-accented-by-gold look.
6. Germany: The severe, austere look of a nation for whom nothing less than winning is acceptable. This summer’s shirt features three faint red, black, and yellow stripes running diagonally across the chest but they are far too thin to be noticeable. Unfortunately, we never got to see their somewhat-legendary green change shirts.
7. England: The two-tones-of-blue change shirt doubles as a towel to wipe away tears of boredom. In a fashion age where the day-glo colours of the 1980s and 1990s are being rediscovered, it’s disappointing to see England combine two shades of blue for its change (and for Team Great Britain to do likewise for its own dour Olympic kits). England’s main shirt wipes away decades of history by rendering the iconic Three Lions crest monochromatically, following another lame trend already blazed by others like LA Galaxy. Like many other countries, it’s a shame that England have to change kits every two years as England already has a timeless main shirt (2008-2010) and change shirt (1966 forever) to wear.
8. France: France’s main blue shirt has subtle hoops and a collared cut which makes it more appealing for everyman-everyday wear, which seems to be less and less of a concern for kitmakers.The subtle sky blue accent evokes one of France’s most successful clubs, Olympique Marseille. The away shirt is even better, a toned-down version of their instant classic change shirt of the past two years, which itself was a homage to the breton nautical shirt. The French sailor’s shirt was designed to help them stand out at sea, and the French stand out on the pitch when they wear their striped-white change. What ruins the vintage feel both shirts have is the modern crest. The new robo-rooster looks like he was sent from the future to find the heart that it lacks. Their current shirts would look far superior if paired with the old, heart-warming crest.
9. Spain: Nothing to get angry about with La Furia Roja’s latest look. Spain’s royal coat of arms is adorned with a star representing 2008’s breakthrough World Cup triumph. Spain could honour their recent dominance and overall history better by following Uruguay’s and Egypt’s lead in showing stars for non-World Cup triumph. After all, their three European championships match Germany for most all time, and the tournament is thought of by some as superior to the World Cup. The less said about the change kit, the better, but light blue paired with a black stripe gradient is best left to IBM’s five-a-side club team of 1986. The 2012 champions rank this low because of the awful change shirt and because of the way Adidas’ intrusive three stripes mesh poorly with the main shirt’s look.
10. Ukraine: A sublime beauty. First off, like Holland’s black-and-orange, royal blue and yellow are two complementary colours. Second, the traditional folk pattern gives it the warm, casual, and friendly vibe of a Christmas sweater. A man could do some hearty drinking and toasting in that shirt.
11. Czech Republic: Another red-white-and-blue team, easily the most popular national flag colour combo in the world. Their crest’s shape and lion rampant is somewhat similar to Scotland’s and also reminiscent of Peugeot. Their red shirt is broken up by a blue trapezoid that draws attention to the crest, while the diagonal draws attention to Puma’s logo and appears to put the big cat in motion. Their change white shirt is perfect. It’s the kind of clean, bright look that looks equally at home on the pitch and on the street. Puma must be really insecure about their brand, as the big cat appears on the shirt three times.
12. Poland: Poland avoided controversy by including the national crest alongside the the football association’s badge, but with three logos displayed horizontally along the chest, it looks like some bizarre slot machine jackpot. The football association’s logo is comprised of ribbons that form the abstraction of an eagle. As such, it pales when placed alongside the full splendour of the national coat of arms’ robust eagle.
13. Greece: The Piratiko of Greece sport the pleasing maritime colour combo of blue and white. Unfortunately, this time around their white shirt features an instantly dated gradient of blue dots forming a cross that fades towards the edges. Gradients have a poor history in uniform design, lowlighted by the Derrick Coleman-led New Jersey Nets of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Greece’s blue change shirts are far more pleasing to the eye, and in this case, Addidas’ ubiquitous three stripes aren’t as intrusive because they somewhat match Greece’s striped-flag.
14. Sweden: Sweden’s bold shirt, featuring a thick yellow sash set against a dark blue sea is the kind of (real) polo shirt that only looks good on Nacho Figueras.
15. Ireland: Much of Irish imagery is steeped in the island’s rich history and tradition, so it’s a bit jarring to see them sport so modern a crest. Perhaps it is to their credit to avoid the stereotypical shamrock. Just as daring is the shirt’s lack of bright kelly green; instead we find two tones of a darker forest shade with a faint orange trim. It’s all a bit dour when compared with the bright energy of their past shirts. Major bummer that their replica does not replicate the on-field look as it has an awful ad across the chest.
16. Denmark: A shambles, one would be better off wearing a Hamlet-esque tunic. A complete mish-mash featuring a white yoke floating over a red body rudely interrupted by three black Adidas stripes. If you’re going to go zany, at least go historical zany with a look honouring the 1992 champions.