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Football Fever – Team Kit and the Power in a Uniform

21 June 2018

Football fashion – The power in a uniform

Even before the first kick of the World Cup, competition between the teams is already fierce. Over what you ask? Who has the best team strip, of course. Or, as we would say, their uniforms.

The creative design process follows much the same pattern as for any corporate or staff uniform. There’s a client, a brand, aesthetics, comfort and guidelines. The only thing that’s different is that replica football kits are available for retail.

Big Business for Sports Brands

Football kits are big business for major sports brands. According to Reuters, Adidas netted USD2.4 billion in tournament-related revenue including 8 million jerseys, on the back of the 2014 Brazil soccer World Cup, while an analyst at RBC Capital Markets estimates that World Cup sales could add 3 to 4 percentage points to Adidas Group revenue growth this year. So the stakes are high.

While the jury’s out on who will win this year’s football World Cup, the Best Dressed Football Team has already been resoundingly decided. The award goes to…. Nigeria. With their kit topping most media polls, a social media frenzy, and three million people pre-ordering replica shirts (according to the Nigeria Football Federation), the design of their kits has far outshone their footballing skills. Designed by Nike, the distinctive green and white jersey with a zigzag pattern, is fresh, eye-catching and distinctive. For a fascinating insight into the creative design process, it’s worth reading Nike FC’s Design Director Pete Hoppins as he explains what it takes to come up with an iconic kit.

The Design Brief

Of the 32 competing teams in 2018, Adidas will be kitting out 12 teams, Nike 10 teams and Puma 4 teams. While a design team may be working for multiple clients, they will pay close attention to each customer brief to create a bespoke uniform that will satisfy the client and differentiate them from their competitors. There are always prerequisites. For Brazil, that means yellow. So for the Nike team, that involved, “bringing out the soul of Brazil into something that is always a yellow jersey” – with a little more creative latitude in the away kit.

Research and Inspiration

To capture the essence and heritage of a brand requires research. Uniform designers must get into the heart of their client’s identity and style, just as football kit designers must grasp the unique mood and values of a nation. For instance, Hoppins describes Brazil as being “always clean and purist, always vibrant but it also has this kind of toughness to it”, while France is “about sophistication and style”. For the Nigeria kit, the Nike design team looked to the past, taking inspiration from their classic 1994 kit with the eagle wings.

The Guidelines

Just as companies and their uniform designers must adhere to PPE and HSE guidelines in the workplace, football is no different. World Cup kits are subject to strict design guidelines covering everything from type sizes to colours and logos. For the 2014 World Cup, FIFA published a 92-page official Equipment Regulations booklet.

Football Uniforms

The Creative Design

Much as in the corporate world, a realistic timeline, good planning and efficient process is vital to produce a national football kit, building in enough time for manufacture and shipping. Usually around two years, for Nike’s World Cup ’18 team, it was a three-year process.

Innovation, form and function

Aside from pure aesthetics, the mark of a great uniform is bringing in new elements that make the garment more functional for its wearer. The design team will be constantly sourcing fabrics, yarn and fixings that will enhance comfort, durability and performance. That is especially the case for sportswear made for athletes or football players at the very pinnacle of their game. For Nike Football, their focus was to incorporate a new design innovation into what Hoppins calls “the chassis of the uniform”. That new feature “is often a fabric or yarn that’s going to increase performance; lighter weight, or faster drying than before.”

A Wardrobe, not just a Garment

A uniform is not merely one item of clothing but a collection of garments and accessories designed to complement each other, that can both individually and as an outfit bring out the spirit of a brand. For the Nigerian team, Nike released a range of athleisure designed to appeal to the youth, bringing football to a new, younger audience in Nigeria. As Hoppins explains, “Not everyone wants to wear the uniform,” but in designing an entire streetwear collection, “there’s something for everybody there.”

What makes a uniform a success?

Clients are motivated by different goals. Some have specific outcomes in mind while others are more open to ideas. The key to success is in how client and designer work together. The more aligned they are, the better the outcome. Hoppins theorises on the runaway popularity of the Nigerian kit. One of these is that the Nigerian FA were more willing (and able) to take risks than other more established teams, and so were more open to ideas and collaboration. A key takeaway from Nike’s design team is that, “If you are willing to be creative in the partnership, you can ultimately have something more culturally relevant that connects with the youth.”

If you’ve got some creative ideas around your next staff uniform, even if you need it to be bright yellow, we can help so do get in touch.


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