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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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Haven’t I Seen This Before? Protest in the Postmodern age of Extreme Capitalism

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I have often written about the tendency of late-stage extreme capitalism to sell back to us our childhoods and our histories. Put another way, it is a crude commodification of the past; a commodification of our own histories themselves. It is interesting how even our protest movements have recently succumbed to this logic: rather than come up with new ideas, even what attempts to pass as “protest” just rehashes the past. History most certainly does repeat itself.

On 24 March 2018 at the March For Our Lives Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter gave a speech. Like her grandfather’s, hers started with “I Have a Dream”. Sadly, unlike her Grandfather’s speech, nine-year old Yolanda’s left much to be desired: “I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.” Beside the blatant utopic fantasy-land that Ms. King describes (“a gun free world”), it is more troubling that the American people are all-too-willing to use the past in order to further a neo-fascistic agenda for the future. Never mind that this future has nothing to do with the inclusive vision laid out in the original “I have a dream” speech; instead, it is a cheap attempt to use a nine-year-old girl for propaganda purposes. In any other context, this would be considered child abuse. Apparently, however, in the context of depriving American citizens of their constitutional rights even child abuse is not only tolerated, but encouraged, by the mass media.

Sadly, the entire “gun control” debate has brought back many more troubling comparisons with the past (even if The Washington Post doesn’t like to admit it). The most prominent member of the Parkland High School cadre, David Hogg, was seen making a Nazi-esque salute following his speech on 24 March. Of course, this should not be surprising given that Mr. Hogg’s sister also encouraged the wearing of armbands to show support for the anti-gun protests; that this “look” resembled the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany was not lost on many social media users.

 

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An…Odd Salute. Image Courtesy Of: https://theminorityreportblog.com/2018/03/25/david-hoggs-salute-after-speech-causes-major-reaction-on-twitter/

 

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Regardless of One’s Political Position, The Resemblance is Disturbingly Similar. Image Courtesy Of: https://downtrend.com/donn-marten/david-hogg-models-new-armband-but-it-seems-its-been-used-before/

 

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Image Courtesy Of: Unclesamsmisguidedchildren (Instagram)

 

In short—and as an Instagram post by user “Unclesamsmisguidedchildren” shows—history has a way of repeating itself. Regardless of whether or not the gun control activists have valid arguments, their presentation leaves much to be desired. In fact, much of it bears a little too much resemblance to a dark past that those of us who value our countries—and our lives—would prefer not returning to. Regardless of your personal political opinions, we should all stand up to the creeping rise of fascism. Given that late-stage extreme capitalist society is merely selling our collective pasts back to us, it shouldn’t be too hard to realize that history has a way of repeating itself. Always remember, as Hannah Arendt notes in Origins of Totalitarianism, both the Nazis and the Soviets hated their countries due to their global aspirations . . .

 

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A Friendly Reminder From a Marginal Sociologist, Writing in the Spirit of C. Wright Mills: It Is The Job Of The Sociologist To Point Out The Absurd. Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States#/media/File:Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

A Marginal Sociologist on Social Engineering Part 2: Emotions

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Part one of this post focused on technology and its dehumanizing effect by reducing interactions between human beings. In Part two I will focus on emotions, and how the social engineering of emotion—what is acceptable and what is not acceptable—provides people with a false sense of their own humanity. Recently in the United States—and Western culture more generally—it has become the fashion to be “offended” when someone else says something that you might not agree with. Of course, this is ultimately a childish response and offers absolutely no opportunity for communicative action—itself a necessity for societal advancement—in the sense that German sociologist Jurgen Habermas meant it.

Most recently, we saw how many public sentiments in the United States were offended after a bizarre exchange between two septuagenarian politicians in the United States: President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. At a 21 March 2018 rally against sexual assault at the University of Miami, Mr. Biden said “They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman [referring to U.S. President Donald Trump], and I said no. I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him’”. Not one to be outdone, Mr. Trump responded via Twitter on 22 March with this: “Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”. If we as a society were not so uptight—and so easily offended—we might have found this exchange to be humorous; perhaps it could have even made us laugh!

 

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A Humorous Tweet. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/976765417908776963

 

Yet, it seems, that we are more used to dehumanization. We are so dehumanized that we cannot laugh. The main(lame)stream media in the United States—led by, predictably, CNN—chose to interpret this absurd event in terms of its own world view. Chris Cillizza wrote that Mr. Trump’s Tweet revealed “Three Big Things”. They were: 1) Being “presidential” is not a thing for Trump; 2) Trump sees himself as a street fighter; and 3) Trump is very, very frustrated. I would say that none of the three so-called “big things” that Mr. Cillizza mentions mean much. This is why I believe a second list of “three big things” is necessary in order to get to the point. My three “big things” or, more accurately, big questions are as follows:

 

  • Why Are we blind to the fact that Mr. Biden is exuding this level of toxic masculinity?

Why is Mr. Biden, a darling of the American “left”, a man who “leads with love and kindness”, and takes (supposedly) candid photos of himself with homeless men, threatening physical violence against anybody? Isn’t falling back on stereotypical “male” behavior the kind of thing that those on the American “left” abhor and, ultimately, shame? Indeed, there should be no place for this kind of machismo and empty talk in American society. Yet, for some reason, this is a topic that the main(lame) stream media will not touch. After all, if Mr. Biden was just the kind of stereotypical male that feminists detest, then it would go against the narrative.

 

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Heartfelt? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/03/13/joe-biden-homeless-man/422097002/

 

  • Why do we get offended when Mr. Trump responds in kind?

Why did so many in the main(lame) stream media get offended when Donald Trump responded to Mr. Biden’s threats? Indeed, this was not the first time that Mr. Biden threatened Mr. Trump with physical assault, it happened on the campaign trail as well. Has our culture really become so neutered—so bland—that it is no longer acceptable to speak up when something wrong—like threatening physical violence—occurs? We owe it to ourselves, like the great sociologist C. Wright Mills once said, to speak up when we see absurdity happen.

  • Why do we allow the mass media to frame our world views?

I have written in the past about media framing. It is certainly dangerous, and it happens all the time. Just look at The Atlantic’s poorly informed attempt to frame the terms “globalism” and “globalist” as anti-Semitic slurs (rest assured they’re not, “globalist” merely refers to those who are advocates for globalization) or The Guardian’s attempts to discredit clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Unfortunately, the media has much more influence on people’s lives than they believe, and it is hindering the ability for independent thought.

 

Given these three questions I have raised, I will now attempt to provide an answer for all of these “whys”. I believe that the reason that that many people are unable to recognize Mr. Biden’s machismo, the reason that they are offended by Mr. Trump’s response, and the reason that they allow the media to frame their worldviews is because too many people are all too ready to fall back on the fake emotions that the culture industry has provided for them. If supporting Mr. Biden and his party means one is tolerant (and certainly against “toxic” masculinity, since it is a cause of the sexual assaults Mr. Biden was purportedly speaking against), then the case is closed. The media serves to fill the emotional void created by technology and tells the public just how they should feel. Of course, this happens everywhere, not just in the mass media.

 

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A Sign to Make Us Feel Better . . . Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

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. . . While Our Childhoods are Sold Back To Us. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Recently I found myself in an Urban Outfitters store and saw a sign which pointed towards the fitting rooms. It read “All-Gender Fitting Room: Open to All Persons, Regardless of Gender Identity or Expression”. Of course, most fitting rooms are already “all gender”. Indeed, they have always been so. They’re just…fitting rooms. But, Urban Outfitters seeks to put up such a sign in order to assuage the emotional fears of their customers while unabashedly selling customers their collective childhoods back to them in the context of late stage capitalism. I remember Champion Sweatshirts and the “flower” Adidas design from my childhood. Now, apparently, they’re back—and at a considerably inflated price. Perhaps customers should be offended at having the past being re-sold in the present at a premium price point, rather than worry about dressing rooms. The emotional appeal of the dressing room sign serves to mask the fact that Urban Outfitters is, cheaply, capitalizing on the nostalgia and memories of its customers to further its own profits. Indeed, the corporation is playing on emotions—the same emotions which are rapidly being phased out by the modern world—in order to provide a sense of emotional connection to their customers who are now living in an increasingly rational and ultimately emotionless world. In short, it is the same process we see unfolding in the mass media: raw emotions—and memories—are being transformed into controlled and sanitized forms of marketable emotion.

Late Stage Capitalism and One-Dimensional Thought in the Modern World: From Football Shirts to Hollywood and Beyond

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As readers may know, collecting soccer/football shirts is one of my main hobbies; it gives me a souvenir to collect in the cities I visit as well as a way to intimately get to know every city I visit. Each polyester shirt serves mainly as a memory of a team, a neighborhood, a city, and a country. In that sense, the shirt can serve as device for building personal, local, and national memories. Unfortunately, modern shirts are become less and less about either personal or national memories and more about extreme capitalism. The German team Schalke 04’s new shirt will have a payment chip in it as part of a sponsorship deal. Fans will apparently be able to buy halftime beers and sausages with…their shirts.

 

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Just Lean Your Shoulder Towards the Register . . . Image Courtesy Of: https://www.wareable.com/smart-clothing/schalke-smart-jersey-pay-4516

 

While this is a troubling attack on what shirts should mean, the Americans have a different way of turning football shirts into vehicles for consumption in the age of late-stage capitalism. While in Europe shirts are being produced to allow people to consume more with money they may not have, in the United States the trend of “throwback jerseys” is creating a market for shirts that once existed; it is an odd form of double consumption. The throwback jersey encourages spending on pseudo-vintage items to the point where, according to Ebay at least, the new “vintage” item sometimes costs more than the actual vintage item itself! The U.S. soccer team LA Galaxy has done a Throwback shirt night at a game, while Sporting Kansas City brought back their throwbacks (from the Kansas City Wiz era) for one night only in April of 2016. Interestingly, USA Today originally labelled the Kansas City Wizards shirts as being too ugly to come back. Yet, in the age of late-stage capitalism, it came back. How did this happen? It is symptomatic of the world of extreme capitalism we live in: People will spend money on anything, as long as it appeals to some sort of human emotion—affection for the past is one such emotion. It is also an example of the one-dimensional thought (to borrow from Herbert Marcuse)  that characterizes the time we live in, a kind of thought that discourages all forms of creativity and different lines of thought.

 

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Old and New…New and Old? Images Courtesy Of: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/mls/sporting-kc/article69923152.html

 

The field of movies can provide us with a few more examples. Rather than develop new films and new storylines by encouraging creativity, the film industry has instead taken to recycling old ideas. Star Wars, which some cultural critics argue should have stopped at one film, and the recent fourth installment of Indiana Jones are two great examples. The latest culprit of rehashing is the Transformers franchise; the newest movie is apparently “racist” according to some critics, while others simply called it terrible.

Like most male children growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I loved Transformers; who wouldn’t love cars that transform into robots? It was, after all, far more interesting than what we see today—human beings transforming into…(i)robots—but I digress. In order to capitalize on the nostalgia of my generation, the purveyors of late-stage capitalism in the film industry have taken to re-making the films of our childhood in hopes that we, many of us now parents, will pass the interest on to our children! The re-appearance of Batman, Superman, the Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers—just to name a few—are all further examples of this process. Along with the films come merchandise and toys; essentially money is being made on recycled ideas and there is little room for new ideas. Interestingly, some toys/franchises from the 1980s have not seen a revival. Among them are GI Joes and Barbies (perhaps because they push messages that run counter to the one-dimensional thought that dominates our current age of late-stage capitalism: American nationalism in the former case and cisgender normativity in the latter case).

 

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I’m Not Sure What This Is, Since It Bears No Resemblance to the Optimus Prime I Know. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cbr.com/the-last-knight-15-ways-it-killed-the-transformers-franchise/

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This Is More Like It. Can I Have My Childhood Back? Image Courtesy Of: http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Optimus_Prime_(G1)/Generation_1_cartoon_continuity

 

Interestingly, sometimes these remakes even end up changing the original to fit the needs of the dominant strains of existing one-dimensional thought: It is a world where Barbie’s beau, Ken, sports a man bun. It is also one where the new Spider man is black, Iron Man is now a young black girl (how the fictional character’s name is still Iron “Man” is unclear, but that is something the progressives clearly failed to acknowledge), and the superhero Thor is now…a woman (Again, the fact that Thor is actually a Norse God—and a male—was missed by progressive minds). We should not, of course, be surprised that cultural history is being re-written; American history itself is also being re-written, as evidenced by the war on Confederate monuments in the South. But we should be surprised that—in a cynical bid to make more money—the purveyors of extreme capitalism are pandering to one dimensional thought by changing the genders and races of comic book characters while they remake them and resell them to the general public and no one seems to care. Wouldn’t it be nicer if comic book executives came up with new  superheroes, and made them whichever race or gender they pleased, rather than succumb to tokenism by changing the existing superheroes in order to pander to the demands of one-dimensional thought? Unfortunately that would require something called “Creativity”, something that has been stifled in the brave new world we now live in.

 

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In This (Brave) New World, Ken Sports a Man Bun. Image Courtesy Of: http://barbie.mattel.com/en-us/about/fashionistas.html

 

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Also, Spider Man (Top) and Iron Man (Bottom) Have changed Races and Genders, Belittling the Causes of Race and Gender Equality Advocates By Becoming Symbols of Tokenism. Images Courtesy of http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/miles-morales-to-replace-peter-parker-as-first-black-spider-man-in-marvel-comics-10336153.html (Top) and http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2016/07/06/marvels-new-iron-man-teenage-black-woman/ (Bottom).

 

This kind of one-dimensional thought has become so pervasive that there was outrage when U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted an admittedly comical Gif of him body-slamming Professional Wrestling entrepreneur Vince Mcmahon with a CNN logo superimposed over his head. Instead of recognizing the humor, there was only outrage. Unfortunately, the outrage did not go far enough since few people batted an eye when CNN essentially blackmailed the creator of the Gif when they threatened to publically expose the individual’s identity. When a media company acts like the mob one would expect outrage. Instead, there is silence because the public has succumbed to one dimensional thought; the public refuses to recognize that the mainstream media is—and has been for years—essentially lying. When the New York Times calls globalism a “far-right conspiracy theory” you have to question the media’s legitimacy: Academics have been critical of globalization for years!.

Again, this refusal to question dominant narratives is not a new phenomenon. If the government said they would be taking pictures of everyone’s homes and neighborhoods and making it publically available, they would be outraged. But when Google does it people do not bat an eye. If the government told people that they had to “check in” and publically announce where they are during the day, there would be outrage. But when people voluntarily give such information on Facebook, or their online comments are stamped by the location of their phone or computer’s IP address, people do not bat an eye. It is, indeed, a dangerous world.

People would do well to break free of this type of one-dimensional thought fostered by late-stage capitalist society and encouraged by mass media and Hollywood celebrities. Society will be better—and more “diverse”, to use a liberal catch phrase—if alternative perspectives are allowed.

The media would be better if freedom of thought was encouraged. Academia would improve if freedom of opinion was encouraged. Movies and comic books would be better if creativity was allowed. We are tired of the same old things, the same old stories, the same old one-dimensional thought being re-hashed with only the goal of making money in mind. We want new things—and new ideas—to help us break free of the conservatism and rationality of the late-stage capitalist world.