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The Top World Cup 2018 Shirts: A Lesson in Late Stage Capitalism and Global Homogenization

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Four Years ago, I wrote a piece detailing my top picks among the 2014 kits and my choices for the top five classic world cup kits. With just seven days until the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia, I thought I would do the same. However, this year, the list will be a little more sociological than the one from four years ago.

Indeed, outlets like GQ have provided their rankings, as well as a slew of other websites; one need only search “top world cup shirts 2018” in order to be bombarded by hundreds of choices. This is why my list will not be so much as a ranking. Instead, it will be commentary on just how late stage capitalist logic—and one dimensional thought—invade every aspect of our lives. This invasion—similar to the colonization of the life world by the system, that Sociologist Jurgen Habermas has written about—is very evident in the world of football shirts.

For an introduction to the topic, please see my earlier post from 6 July 2017 here. In short, my argument is that when the logic of consumption drives the creative process, one dimensional thought becomes the norm. Designers and creative minds are unwilling—in fact, in some cases, they may even be scared—to stray from the “tried and true” methods. After all, these are the methods that have brought profit. Therefore, creativity is stifled by a dominant form of one dimensional thought which cannot stray from its own money-making logic.

This is why cars have started to look more and more the same, and why mobile (or cellular) telephones are virtually indistinguishable from one another regardless of if they are iPhones, Samsungs, Nokias, HTCs, LGs, or any other brand. As a human society, we have become used to images—we are obsessed with them, as Jean Baudrillard has said—and this means that our reality is more of a hyperreality dominated by these images. We know what a mobile phone should look like, anything that does not look like the image we have been grown used to cannot be a phone (think of flip-phone versus iPhone). Similarly, with cars, we see the same process. We have become used to what a “luxury” car should look like, so we cannot conceive of anything that does not look like what we expect (perhaps this is why Hyundais and Kias look virtually the same while also resembling more expensive brands like BMW and Audi).

 

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Which One Of These Is a Phone? Image Courtesy Of: https://thoughttamales.wordpress.com/tag/prepaid-cell/

 

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The Same Car? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.carwow.co.uk/blog/kia-sportage-vs-hyundai-tucson

Unfortunately, football shirts are not immune from this ongoing homogenization in the name of increasing consumption, and the latest World Cup shirt designs show this. More than a few of this year’s shirts bare a striking resemblance to older shirts, which makes for a very boring overall lineup.

 

Spain 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Spain’s 2018 shirt did not impress GQ, and this is perhaps because it is just a re-hashing of the country’s classic 1994 design.

 

Spain 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.branchofscience.com/2014/05/nineties-kits-usa-94-special-part-two/

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Colombia 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Another shirt that GQ didn’t like. Perhaps that is because this is just a modernized version of Adidas’ 1996 template; the antecedent of this shirt was perhaps Romania’s Euro 1996 shirt.

 

Romania 1996. Image Courtesy Of: https://thefootballshirtcollective.tumblr.com/post/142359500227/repost-199698-romania-home-shirt-from

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Mexico 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Mexico’s 2018 kit is not very imaginative (and has no resemblance to the beauties from 1998 which actually paid homage to Mexico’s Central American heritage). Instead, this kit seems to have been inspired by Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup Kit. I suppose that is globalism at its best; in 20 years Mexico went from gaining inspiration from their own history to gaining inspiration from…Bulgaria. Maybe it is due to the fact that both countries’ flags share the same tricolor, who knows.

 

Bulgaria 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2011/10/bulgaria-kits-world-cup-1994.html

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Germany 2018. Image Courtesy Of: : http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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While Germany’s shirt might be striking in this line up, it is merely a rehashing of the classic West Germany shirt from 1988. And, like so many shirts on this list, the new one is not as nearly as well designed as the old one. Indeed, sequels are never as good as the originals.

 

Germany 1988. Image Courtesy Of: http://hullcitykits.co.uk/meet-the-hck-staff/

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Nigeria 2018 (Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Nigeria’s new kit has been widely touted as one of the best in this year’s tournament. GQ calls it “eccentric”, and given that it is already sold out in the UK it goes to show that sometimes it pays to stray from one-dimensional thought. Yet, at the same time, even this shirt is not completely unique. When I first saw the shirt I couldn’t help but think that I had seem something like it before. Indeed, it bares some resemblance to Holland’s classic 1998 design and West Germany’s Euro 1988 Away kit as well as Northern Ireland’s 1990 Umbro shirt.

 

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Holland 1988. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.retrosyrarezas.com/products/holland-netherlands-mens-retro-soccer-jersey-euro-88-gullit-10-replica

 

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Germany 1988-1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2016/07/germany-kits-euro-1988.html

 

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Northern Ireland 1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://nifootball.blogspot.com/2006/10/iain-dowie.html

 

It is important to note that this list—and this criticism of the 2018 shirt line up—is not to say that respecting the past, and paying homage to past designs, is not a bad thing. Indeed, respecting the past and what has come before is a good thing. But this does not mean that we should be blind to the fact that, in the name of consumption, we are being sold the past back to us in the present. It means that while we—as consumers—are paying more and more for our products, while the designers may be getting less and less creative. And it also means that there is a very real double standard in world football when it comes to shirt designs.

I will leave this post with a comparison between the 1996 Turkey Home and Away shirts and the 2016 “Spider Man” home and away Turkish Kits. Perhaps, in this instance, the designers would have done well to seek some inspiration from the past. But even here, the “past” of 1996 still represented by an Adidas template.

 

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New vs. Old. I am not a fan of the new shirts at all. Image Courtesy of the Author.

 

In March 2018 a Turkish sports pundit, Mehmet Demirkol, came out threatening to take the Turkish FA to court if they did not return to the classic Turkish national shirt design. The classic design has been changed on and off for years, culminating in the monstrosity of the 2016 “Spider Man” kits. And it is here that I agree with Mr. Demirkol. There is such a thing as national symbols, and—as Mr. Demirkol argues—the football shirt is a national symbol. We do not see international corporations like Nike and Adidas playing with German, English, Brazilian, Dutch, or Argentine kits. No, such countries have been wearing similar designs for years. Indeed, as I pointed out, Germany has returned to a classic design for the 2018 World Cup. Yet countries like Mexico and Turkey have their kits played with—and their national heritages ignored—by the whims of global capital. In order to resist the ongoing global homogenization of global corporations and globalist ideas, it is important to respect your national heritage regardless of which country you come from. And, even when it comes to football shirts, we can still stand up for our countries in the face of globalism.

 

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The Classic “Red Stripe” Design Evoking the Turkish Flag. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/yazarlar/baris-kuyucu/17-yil-sonra-klasik-forma-1206165/
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PFC Spartak Pleven Shirt Year Unknown, 20 Match Worn

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Another shirt of poorer quality, but still one worth showcasing (due to its rarity), is this (very) Extra Large sized Puma shirt from PFC Spartak Pleven. They are a third division Bulgarian side playing in the V AFG from the North-Western city of Pleven, Bulgaria’s seventh largest city.  They ply their trade in the 22,000 capacity Pleven Stadium. As an interesting note, the side went bankrupt in 2009—their 90th year, having been founded in 1919—but were re-founded quickly in 2010. It isn’t surprising that they folded—their biggest achievement to date is an appearance in the Bulgarian Cup final in 1957. This shirt features a nice mid-1990s Puma design (which is why I like it as part of the collection) while the fabric is of questionable quality—similar to the PFC Nesebar shirt seen here. The sponsor Miko Consult and number 20 are both screen printed in poor quality, but at least the Puma logos made it into the numbers (always a detail I appreciate in football shirts). Having not yet visited Pleven I can’t vouch for the quality of the city but if I make it out there I’ll add a feature on the Pleven stadium.

 

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PFC Nesebar Shirt Year Unknown, 15 Matchworn

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This poorer quality PFC Nesebar shirt is still worth featuring as it is from Nesebar, a town (also a UNESCO world heritage site) that holds a place of fond memories in my mind having visited there a few years back. 35 Kilometers north of Nesebar is Sunny Beach—Slanchev Bryag—as is noted on the back of the shirt beneath the number 15. I only caught a short glimpse from a bus window of PFC Nesebar’s Nesebar stadium en route to Sunny Beach. Still, the classic Puma design of fading colors around the sleeve—obviously very period-ey from the mid 1990s—warrant a picture or two. To me the colors are fitting for a seaside footballing side. All details of this (very large) Extra Large sized Puma shirt are screen printed on, as is fitting for a side that currently resides in the third division of Bulgarian football, the V AFG. While I wouldn’t recommend any travelers looking for a classy vacation to visit Sunny Beach, it is still a good time for the younger crowd—sunny beaches, cheap beers, and beautiful people are always a good draw in the summer. For the more cultured I’d recommend Nesebar’s old town, as a walk through the cobblestoned streets is a romantic experience for the intrepid traveller that is not to be missed. After all, it led to the purchase of this shirt!

 

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For The Intrepid Traveler a Few Shots of the Beautiful Black Sea and Historic Nesebar, From My Visit:

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Botev Plovdiv 1994-95 Home Shirt, 7

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An amazing Botev Plovdiv shirt, what more can I say? Well of course I can say more, but please allow me the hyperbole. I sadly was not able to get a clear view of the Hristo Botev stadium on my visit to Plovdiv but the fact that the team is named after a poet is cause for interest in itself. In fact, I even met a Turkish ex-footballer who himself later became a poet in my visit to Plovdiv. Who knew football and poetry where so connected? It is also a reason that I aim to make it to the Lokomotiv-Botev derby some time soon. Botev are also the oldest Bulgarian side currently competing, as well as a “brother club” to Greek side Aris Thessaloniki due to the fact that they share the same colors. I mention this “Balkan Brotherhood” in my write up of the Thessaloniki derby between Aris and Paok.

After finding a faded picture of the team wearing this particular shirt on the walls of a shop in Plovdiv I made it my mission to find the shirt and—by way of the internet—I was ultimately successful. It is a size large Diadora shirt in the classic quarters that served as their template in the mid 1990s. The fact that Italian manufacturer Diadora was also one of the first Western brands to sponsor a Bulgarian team following the fall of communism only adds to its value. The Fincomm sponsor and club badge are sewn into the fabric; the number 7 is lightly screen printed on. The squares of black fading into yellow around the sponsor are certainly the most beautiful features of this particular shirt.

 

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A Sign of the Times (Courtesy of: http://canary4ever.com/en/photo3.php AND http://newjackus.ucoz.ru/blog/futbolnye_kluby_botev_plovdiv_bolgarija/2011-08-07-232

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My Photo of Hristo Botev Standing Sentinel at the Stadium Gates.

Levski Sofia 1996-98 Home Shirt, 19

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Another classic Levski shirt and another classic Adidas design. This one is from the 1996-1998 seasons, when Levski thrashed “eternal” rivals CSKA Sofia in the 1998 cup final 5-0. The pictures below are from the cup final. I’m not very sure about the authenticity of this shirt, but I don’t care too much since—in my mind—it is one of Adidas’ best templates, one that was used across Europe in the mid to late 1990s. On the front is the sponsor, BKC-2, screen printed along with the club’s classic badge, also screen printed. On the back is the number 19, screen printed, in the classic three dimensional style. This shirt is sized extra large and definitely runs large in terms of fit, as shirts from the era traditionally did. For more Levski shirts please see the 1993-94 home version here and the 2006-07 home version here.

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Cup Triumphs are Sweeter Against City Rivals:

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Courtesy Of: http://www.oocities.org/colosseum/loge/3177/kupa-98.html

Levski Sofia 1993-94 Home Shirt, 13 Matchworn

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This is one of the Levski shirts I acquired by way of the internet. By comparing it to other match worn Adidas pieces from the era I am confident in calling this one match worn, due to the shirt’s fabric. While the outside is the shiny fabric standard to Adidas shirts from the era, the inside is a thicker, almost felt like fabric. On the back is a player-sized number 13, heat pressed in felt material. On the front is the classic Balkanbank sponsor heat pressed in felt material along with the club’s badge—the Cryllic letter “L”—in the same material. This shirt also sports the classic three stripes of Adidas which are sewn on, descending to the chest from the left shoulder. Many big club teams of the era used this classic design, including Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and Sparta Prague. Many football associations chose this design as well—Ireland, Sweden, and even the United States are among them. This is definitely one of my favorite shirts, since I’m a sucker for Adidas’ classic designs. And yes, Levski were crowned champions of Bulgaria in this shirt. For other Levski shirts the 2006-07 version can be seen here, the 1996-1998 version here.

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Team Pic:

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Courtesy Of: http://levskifanclub.ovo.bg/photo/sstava_prez_godinite/1993/4-0-464

 

Levski Sofia in action against Glasgow Rangers in the European Cup, a 2-1 victory over the Scottish giants in Sofia—note the large sized Cryllic “L”, the club’s classic badge. This detail leads me to believe that this shirt may have been used in European Competition.

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Courtesy Of: http://www.levski.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=9438

CSKA Sofia, 2007-08 Home L/S Shirt, Lanzaat 27 UEFA Cup Matchworn

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A great CSKA Sofia home shirt by Uhlsport of the team’s classic red kit, with all the markings of a match worn UEFA cup piece. The number 27 and name Lanzaat (For Dutch defender Quido Lanzaat) are both player size and screen printed on, while the UEFA cup badge is applied to the right sleeve. Also, the Uhlsport logo on the right sleeve is wearing off a bit. The shirt’s fabric is of standard quality.

CSKA were eliminated from the UEFA cup by Toulouse FC in a heartbreaking first round tie in the 2007-08 competition as a stoppage time goal sealed the victory on away goals for the French side–below is an image of Denny Lanzaat in a short-sleeved version of this shirt, as well as one of a CSKA player wearing an example of this shirt in action. It was purchased at the CSKA club shop for a modest price while on a visit to the team’s Balgarska Armia Stadium during the summer–I suppose they were selling off excess shirts in a bid for extra revenue.

 

 

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Image Courtesy of: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lanzaat.jpg

 

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.goal.com/en/match/48420/cska-sofia-vs-cliftonville/report

 

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