Football is sometimes called soccer, and sometimes soccer is called football. However, one thing is certain: we are talking about the world’s most popular sport and the World Cup allows us to witness joy and sorrow every four years.
The World Cup in Qatar has started this week, and we were looking forward to having a better look at the official shirts of the national teams. Well, we’re not very happy with what we saw, these 2022 kits seem rather boring compared to the cult football shirts we love. This is the reason why we gathered here all the best World Cup shirts, mostly from the 70s, 80s and 90s, the decades we love the most. These were years that showed a strong aesthetic identity we could find everywhere, even in football.
So here’s a selection of what in our opinion are the 20 best World Cup jerseys of the 20th century. Have a look at these vintage football shirts and you’ll find out why we are so in love with them.
The kits you find on this page have made history, and are now collectables for football fans. Have a look and enjoy the best football jerseys of all time!
A famous word cup soccer jersey with a star pattern and a blue denim-like texture, honoring the American flag. Used in the 1994 World Cup, this was created to be used as the away kit but was then worn in every match of the tournament, becoming de facto the official shirt of the team.
This is one of the most iconic German kits – it was the first one the team wore after the fall of the Berlin Wall, since they were still playing as West Germany until 1990. This jersey represents unity and freedom for the German people. Despite the fact that Germany did not go through the last sixteen in the US World Cup 1994 (lost against the Bulgarian national team) this jersey is remembered as its most representative one. The geometric pattern with the German flag colors is typical of Adidas jerseys of the 90s.
Historic kit of the Canadian team, who celebrated taking part in a Worldwide competition for the first time. It is famous for being one of the few jerseys with a logotype with the team name positioned in the same way as a sponsor would.
From a graphic design point of view, this is one of the most eccentric kits ever seen at a World Cup. It celebrates the one and only attendance of Jamaica at the 1998 World Cup in France. It shows a geometric abstract motif that recalls the Jamaican flag.
England has always kept a very sober kit, made of a white base jersey. When it comes to Italy ’90, Football fans will always remember this jersey that Gazza Gascoigne used to wipe tears after losing on penalties to Germany. Umbro, the brand that developed this kit, worked as always on a sophisticated pattern – you can glimpse at it, surfacing from the white of the kit.
Epic kit for France, which in 1998 won the World Cup after beating Brazil 3-0 in front of its own supporters. Adidas reworks in a more minimal and contemporary key France’s 1984 kit.. when it won the European Cup, again in France! This design definitely brings luck to the French team, not surprisingly that same year Zidane won the Golden Ball bringing France back on top of the World.
This jersey is remembered by Chilean fans with great affection because it was worn by the strongest Chilean attack couple in history: Salas and Zamorano. Curiosity: it is the only shirt in the history of the national teams that graphically represents the logo of its technical sponsor in such a large way, in this case, Reebok. Fifa did not accept this design, so the shirt worn during the 1998 World Cup matches was slightly modified.
This is one of the best World Cup jerseys of all time, celebrating Brazil’s fourth World Cup victory in the final against Italy. Also remembered for being worn by one of the most talented teams in the history of Brazil. The pattern of the background repeats the logo of the Brazilian federation tone on tone, giving a depth effect typical of the 90s.
Iconic shirt with clear socialist features with a red background and with the CCCP logo in full view. We are in 1986, in the middle of the cold war. Russia participates in the World Cup in Mexico in a historical time when Russians never played outside their country. The team is judged with scepticism, on a sportive and political level, but the critics are amazed by USSR playing an excellent World Championship. They were beaten by Scifo’s Belgium in a match that will go down in history as one of the most spectacular ever.
The most loved and hated shirt by all Italian fans! And surely one of the best World Cup Jerseys ever made for the Italian team. The most beloved because it was worn by the strongest Italian player in Italian football history (Roberto Baggio), who won the Golden Ball that same year. Also, the most hated one, because it recalls the famous final loss on penalties against Brazil in the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States. The funny thing is the wrong penalty that decreed the victory of Brazil was shot by Roberto Baggio himself. Despite being designed by Diadora, the official Italian national team jersey does not show any logos, a tradition that was carried on by the Italians until the 2002 tournament.
The shirt of the first World Cup that was played by Croatia after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia. Despite being defeated by France in the semifinals, Croatia was the surprise of the World Cup in France 98 and Davor Suker won the World Cup goalscorer rankings with 6 goals! The shirt, designed by Lotto, graphically features the red and white checkered Croatian flag on a white background. The same design was repeated from that moment onwards by the technical sponsors (Kappa and Nike) on all the shirts to date.
This shirt was worn by Japan in the 1998 French World Cup. In their first appearance in a world competition, the Japanese national team together with Asics presents a blue shirt, called “Blue samurai”. In the sleeves and in the background pattern it features flames, typical of Japanese iconography. It was the most loved shirt by fans, so much that in 2017 Adidas celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of this shirt, presenting a jersey completely revisited in a modern key.
Mexico has always distinguished itself aesthetically from all the other national teams, always showing off very colorful kits with patterns made of complex textures. In the 1998 French World Cup, Mexico proposed a shirt that was perhaps among the most identifying in its history, with a green background and a tone-on-tone pattern with Aztec-style designs. Mexico played an excellent World Cup, defeated with honour against Germany.This was the last World Cup of goalkeeper/striker legend Jorge Campos, he himself known to be one of the most eclectic characters in the world of football. His fluo goalkeeper kits were often designed by Campos and will remain imprinted in history, becoming a 90s cult.
Nigeria participates for the first time in a World Cup in 1994 in the United States. It shows up with a generation of young players (Finidi, Ikpeba, Amunike, Oliseh and Okocha) who will affirm themselves as top players in Europe in subsequent years. Nigeria plays a good World Cup but is eliminated by Italy in the round of 16 with a brace by Roberto Baggio. The shirt, designed by Adidas, with its geometric style shows a tribal texture. They are to be found in the neck area only, while the rest has a green background, honoring the Nigerian flag.
Historically Argentina has always shown a white and light blue striped home kit. In general, it is difficult to aesthetically distinguish a shirt from one specific edition. However, the one worn during the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 has a different flavor, and became one of the best World Cup jerseys of all time. The reason is simple to explain. The shirt in question, created by Le Coq Sportif is the one worn by probably the greatest genius that football has ever seen: Diego Armando Maradona.
This is the player who wrote the history of football in 90 minutes, playing against Lineker’s England and scoring the two most incredible goals of the twentieth century. The first, the most iconic, called “la mano de Dios” was scored by Diego with his hand; at the time there was no VAR and the referee covered by other players did not see the irregularity and validated the goal. The second, called “the goal of the century” was scored from open play, Maradona made an epic coast-to-coast of 60 meters in ten seconds while dribbling 6 English players including the goalkeeper and finally placing the ball into the net.
The stir was amplified by the military conflict between England and Argentina which took place a few years earlier in the Falkland Islands and was won by the English. This goal transformed this match into a moral victory for the Argentines.
The Netherlands team of 1974 is defined as one of the most revolutionary teams in history. Nicknamed “A Clockwork Orange” or “the Netherlands of total football”, it reached the final against West Germany by surprise but lost it. Despite the result, this national team coached by Michels and led by football star Johan Cruijff is remembered as the true protagonist of that competition, with the merit of having brought a new way of interpreting the game of football to the world scene, kicking off the modern era of tactics. The shirt, in classic 70s style, has a V-neck, entirely in orange with the classic black dragon logo printed on the heart. Finally, it is curious the choice of inserting two black lines on the sleeves, a clear reference to the famous Adidas lines.
The shirt of the Belgium national team that took part in the World Cup in Spain in 1982 is a prime example of how controversial the 80s were from an aesthetic point of view. Admiral, the technical sponsor, at the time in economic difficulty, proposed the Belgium shirt with its classic scheme called “tram line”. The logo is repeated in various parts of the shirt and the design did not go unnoticed. The whole thing is a bit tacky and overflowing, but definitely in the 80s style! No wonder it is among the best World Cup Jerseys of all time. Belgium played an excellent World Cup that year, the fans remember it for the historic match against Maradona’s Argentina won 1 to 0.
The Danish national team that took part in the 1986 World Cup is remembered at home as a cult team. It faced important teams head-on, demonstrating its great value thanks to players like Laudrup or Olsen. We like to remember the match won against West Germany, which stayed in the hearts of Danish fans. They were eliminated by Spain in the round of 16, but this World Cup is still remembered with great affection to this day. Hummel, the technical sponsor of Denmark, created a kit considered among the most successful of the time, managing to capture the Nordic minimalism of Denmark with essential and linear geometries. A shirt still highly sought after by fans and an icon of the 80s.
Ireland’s second shirt, in the 1994 World Cup, has become one of the most appreciated among collectors and one of the best World Cup Jerseys of all time. Worn in most of the competition’s races, it is the clear expression of the graphics that Adidas proposed in the 90s. Well-defined gradients and geometries outline the traditional striped structure. In its pre-season version with the Opel sponsor, it is even more sought after by enthusiasts. That year Roy Keane and co. were stopped in the round of 16 against the Netherlands. Not bad!
A very lucky jersey by Adidas, so much that Spain also used it for the 1996 European Cup. The side band with diamonds has become a trademark for Adidas, and it is repeated in the 2018 jersey in a modern key. The Spanish national team that participated in the American World Cup, led by Luis Henrique, Hierro, Zubizarreta and a young Guardiola was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Italy in a very balanced match.
Best World Cup jerseys: Conclusion
That’s all folks! These are the 20 Best World Cup Shirts that, according to the Indieground Team, have influenced the aesthetics of the history of the 20th-century football world cup.
We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we know for sure that many horrendous jerseys and just as many spot-on ones will pass under our eyes from here on. We’ll catch you in 80 years for the ranking of the best shirts of the 21 century! See you soon.
For the cover of this article, we have used Cal Gildart’s fantastic artwork, cheers!