SAO PAULO – The World Cup uniforms provide a carnival of color and fashion, from Brazil’s bright yellow jerseys to the Netherlands’ classic orange to Croatia’s red checkered home kit and the superhero-inspired looks of Mexico.
The tournament this year, which opened last Thursday with Brazil beating Croatia 3-1, features the classics, the creative and the downright outlandish.
The Americans’ new red, white and blue color-block road jerseys — which critics say resemble Domino’s Pizza delivery uniforms — can’t be as bad as the memorable faux denim outfits from 1994. But the vote is still out on how the newest outfit for the Stars and Stripes will go over.
“The USA jersey feels very patriotic,” said Los Angeles designer and stylist Estee Stanley of Estee Stanley Design. “It’s easy to identify the country as the U.S.”
The U.S. isn’t the only nation trying the block style.
“Another stylish direction is the color-blocking or piecing — USA away or Ecuador away or Colombia,” said Tom Julian, men’s fashion director at The Doneger Group, a retail merchandising and consulting firm based in New York.
Then there are the classics.
Brazil in the traditional yellow with five stars representing its record five titles.
Several teams are all about understated looks: There are England’s white home jersey and red road kit — like the one players wore in the victorious 1966 final against West Germany — and the traditional blue of Italy with a crest over the heart in the nation’s tricolor.
They contrast sharply with Croatia, which sports a bombastic home shirt with large red-and-white checks.
Four years ago, Slovenia sported green road jerseys with large yellow zigzags for road games in a look reminiscent of Charlie Brown.
Some teams have gone for subtle patterns that still stand out. El Tri’s lightning bolts on both jerseys will make Mexico fashionable as the team travels around Brazil.
“I am definitely partial to those shirts with daring superhero graphics or shirts that focus on the torso in a dynamic way,” Julian said. “Mexico, very ‘Shazam!’ with the lightning-rod effect — probably my favorite of all.”
Plenty of supporters are flocking into Brazil wearing the new outfit.
“The jersey’s like a Power Ranger, I like it,” said 28-year-old architect Alan Gonzalez of Durango, Mexico. He sported the jersey and a sombrero traveling to Sao Paulo via Atlanta with four buddies Tuesday.
Cameroon’s forest-green, art-inspired jersey with the look of etchings makes a bold statement for the small African nation.
In the 2004 African Cup of Nations, Cameroon briefly used a track-style unitard. The one-piece outfit with green shirt and red shorts was quickly banned by FIFA before the 2006 World Cup.
The current kit is generating some positive attention.
“The Cameroon jersey is the cutest and most fashionable with an Ikat print,” Stanley said.
And, of course, there’s the attention to figure-flattering cuts and prints for some of the world’s fittest athletes — who are known to celebrate a goal by flashing their rock-hard abdominals.
“The modified Henley — Brazil — is the most body conscious right now and represents the influence of the rock ‘n’ roll dresser. Netherlands away is very torso-enhancing,” Julian said. “In activewear, color is an important part of the story, and it’s great to see the brights well represented — from yellow and orange to green and red.”
Some countries have nicknames based off their kits: Japan is known as Samurai Blue after its classic navy home top. The Netherlands wears orange because it’s the royal color — and are nicknamed “Oranje” because of it.
Chile’s red home jersey with a blue collar and narrow white stripes down both sides of the neck should bode well for those looking to show off some flair in Brazil and beyond.
Julian calls Costa Rica’s look, featuring almost a backward checkmark across the chest, “very space-age superhero” and Nigeria’s two-toned green tops with subtle vertical stripes “very green villain.”
“Soccer jersey styles are typical and expected with crewneck and polo shirt silhouettes,” Julian said. “But the “Johnny collar” style — Chile home — is definitely on trend and a modern silhouette for today’s active guy.”