To Contrast or Not To Contrast: A World Cup Kit Decision

Article 35, Paragraph 2 of FIFA’s World Cup 2014 Regualations state that a participating nation’s official and reserve team kits (Home & Away) must be “two different and contrasting colours (one predominately dark and one predominately light kit)” which includes the jersey, shorts and socks.

While this does not outright state that FIFA prefers all monochrome kits, the use of “predominantly” indicates that 2/3 should probably be the same color if not similar.  While this is often the regulation cited by many as the reason for less adventurous national team kit designs, FIFA actually has a regulations handbook solely for equipment with an article specifically for colors.  The following paragraphs are the most pertinent

“5.1 Playing Equipment items worn by outfield players, goalkeepers and Match Officials shall enable all Players, Match Officials, spectators and media to clearly distinguish the opposing teams irrespective of the prevailing conditions, such as weather and light.

5.2 Save as explicitly stated otherwise under these Regulations, no Playing Equipment item worn by an outfield player or goalkeeper may consist of more than four Colours.

5.3 With the sole exception of vertically or horizontally striped and chequered shirts using two Colours equally in a non-predominant manner, in the event that three or four Colours are used on the surface of a Playing Equipment item, one of the Colours used must be clearly predominant and the remaining Colours on the same Playing Equipment item must be clearly minor. The predominant Colour must be visible to the same extent on the back and front of the Playing Equipment item. In the event of vertically or horizontally striped or chequered shirts using two Colours equally in a non-predominant manner, the third or fourth Colour on the surface of the shirt shall be used in a manner not affecting the predominant visual impression of the two Colours used as stripes and chequers and one of these two Colours must be predominant on shorts or socks.

 

As far as World Cup kits go these are the more detailed and related paragraphs on kit colors. Trust me, I never thought I’d find actual fashion police either.

These regulations are in place primarily so that on field players, referees, media and fans are all able to tell the difference between the two teams regardless of the weather conditions, which seems pretty straight forward and makes sense.

There are many online reports claiming that FIFA requests all monochrome kits, but each report lacks official recognition and documentation of FIFA asking directly for it.  All monochrome kits (jersey, shorts and socks all the same color) would make the job easier for match officials but it seems reasonable to imagine most fans have been able to tell the difference between teams playing over the years without this requirement.

Despite the unreasonable nature of this kind of request, rumors probably persist due to how many national associations and kit manufacturers are opting for monochrome kits. Fourteen out of the thirty-two teams, or roughly 44%, attending the world cup have both home and away monochrome kits.

WC kit Design Breakdown

From the remaining eighteen, seven have both home and away contrasting kits, meaning that the shorts contrast with the jerseys, while the final eleven teams have both a monochrome and a contrasting kit.

Just shy of half of the participating teams will have both home and away kits all in one singular color.  As the chart above shows, this isn’t a single brand phenomenon either.

Having one kit be “predominantly” light and the other “predominantly” dark is an important feature.  Having contrasting shorts to a team’s jersey is really not a big of a deal when predominance of a certain color can happen by having socks that are the same color as the jersey.

This is where the true World Cup rebels show their colors, as rebellious as kits really get.  If FIFA do see monochrome kits as the ideal then three and four colors, which is the limit set by the equipment regulations, must truly irk FIFA higher ups and consequently Ecuador must top their list.

While Brazil, USA, Chile and Croatia all use three colors in their monochrome kits they do so in distinguishable and neutral ways.  USA and Croatia use red white and blue in conjunction with stripes and checkers respectively. This makes them pretty distinguishable on the field since no other team uses checkered patterns like Croatia’s home kit, or three colors in the stripes like the USA away kit.  Brazil and Chile also use three different colors for their jersey, shorts and socks in their contrasting kits, but they use white socks which as a color hardly ever pushes anyone’s buttons.

Ecuador on the other hand uses a yellow jersey, blue shorts and red socks. They are the only team with both kits to be contrast kits and also utilize three primary colors. Mexico stands out as well with a home kit that uses green jerseys with white shorts and red socks and an away kit that uses black and red.

Though Ecuador does have a white and blue contrast away kit, yellow, red and blue could all be used as either light or dark standards and they are also the only small country to use a domestic kit manufacturer (excluding USA/Nike and Germany/Adidas). While obviously a competitive team for having qualified, Ecuador is still a true underdog with Marathon as their kit manufacturer and tri-color contrasting kits.

This examination may appear to take the heart and soul out of national team kits that many people cherish and value above all else, but really it should serve to highlight the teams who are and continue to be outfitted in memorable and good looking gear.

The trend seems to be going away from the ostentatious and more towards the clean, simple and classic style.  This sometimes becomes synonymous with a lack of creativity and in some cases that is true; however, it is not a stylistic requirement. National colors are a sense of pride, so long as FIFA does not explicitly require teams to use one color, manufacturers and associations should and will continue to use every color that represent a nation.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.