This is the first installment of a new series where we look at as many clubs or countries as we can find who wore a particular template (let’s be honest, it’s going to be all Adidas), starting with a POTP formative favourite. If you are reading this in the future, click here for the whole category.
2021 update A: thanks to FootballShirtWorld on Twitter for helping us with even more nations. Graphics will be updated, while new entries are listed but not yet filled in.
2021 update B: This post has become so large that it broke WordPress and all the images just became URL links. So we’ve broken it into three manageable parts. Click here for Part 2 or here for Part 3.
In 1991, Adidas began one of the boldest moves in sport and fashion history by initiating the phase-out of the greatest corporate branding logo of all time – the trefoil. A cultural icon since the early 1970s, it was now to be replaced by sharp new branding for the 90s known as “Adidas Equipment”, with three large shoulder/shorts bars also replacing thin stripes down the side as the main kit feature.
An "Adidas Equipment" style Sweden flag from our If Football Kit Brands Made National Flags special.
The unabashed branding of shirts was at its most extreme yet – a fact lamented by traditionalists at the time, particularly when it came to national colours. Despite this undeniable fact, and the ditching of the mythical trefoil for angular modern marketing, some folks like ourselves look back on it as perhaps the most legendary Adidas template ever, or at least our favourite one. But this may have also had something to do with the magical aura of international football at the time, which happened to correspond with the style.
It was appropriate that the USA were the first country to use it the post-modern look, as they prepared to host the 1994 World Cup and launch a new era for soccer in the country.Their Canadian neighbours also adopted it in 1992, with the rest of the world not far behind. Having already appeared at the Women’s World Cup in 1991, it would be seen at both the 1992 European Championships and Olympic Games, the 1993 Copa America, the 1994/96/98 (!) African Cup of Nations, and many qualifiers and smaller tournaments.
While USA were ahead of the curve by ten months when they first wore the kit in June 1991, and would continue to to use it for nearly three years, the record amount of time in the design would end up going to a European nation, Finland. It was still used by them as late as November 1995, but amazingly would be continue to be seen on Asian and African teams til as late as 1998 by D.R. Congo. The shortest international use seems to be Poland who only wore it for one senior match, seemingly as did China and Cameroon, but the former used the Equipment shorts at least once more and the latter had a youth team in the shirt.
The Adidas Equipment Version 1 template (as we’re calling it) was worn by at least 29* national teams: nine AFC**; nine CAN; Seven UEFA (if we include Spain’s goalkeeper); two CONCACAF; one CONMEBOL; and one OFC, but only at Olympic level.
*Make that 30 if you include Botswana, who there is evidence of wearing the shorts only (with Umbro shirts!). Thanks to FootballShirtWorld for this.
**Oman are missing from the graphic above as their footage was too blurry. So much so that we can’t be 100% it was real Adidas, but have included them in the below list anyway.
The style also inspired various “knock-off” attempts, some of which we have included examples of: (thanks to FootballShirtWorld for many of these also)
Shirt colourway chart:
2021 update B – UEFA zone missing Hungary, the reverse of Bulgaria’s home and away. CAF zone should also include Liberia and Somalia:
We will now go through each national team that wore the template in alphabetical order. How they wore it, with what, and when.
While the senior national team would go on to use a future evolution of Equipment, the Australian Olympic squad wore the original at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. While we have no footage of the group stage to see if any different combinations were used, the first choice strip can be seen from when the Socceroos eased past Sweden on 2 August in the quarter-finals:
Rare for both national sides and clubs, the Australian version featured the Equipment logo in the middle of the shoulder bars, rather than underneath the collar:
With tournament front-numbers and player names required, the issue of how to distinguish the names from the bars on the back arose. The solution in Australia’s case was simply black lettering:
For their less successful semi-final against Poland – a 6-1 defeat – the Australian all-green away strip was worn:
Like its home equivalent, the logo branding was in the same place…:
…and black lettering was again used, this time with less satisfactory results:
Having recently worn the 1990 Adidas template used by France/UAE/Montpelier/Bari in a friendly against Switzerland, Bulgaria were set to debut their new Adidas Equipment gear for the first World Cup 94 qualifier away to Finland on 14 May 1992. Come the day however, the kit was apparently so new that the red shirt of the away strip was devoid of crest:
The home green shorts – their three white bars mirroring the ones on the red shirt – fit perfectly into the kit, with branding positioned at the bottom of the middle bar, and socks featuring both the old-school three stripes and the newer logo:
On the back, with the bars coming quite a bit down, a classic box style of numbering was used:
On 19 August 1992 the Bulgarians played Mexico in a friendly, but apparently the home version of the new kit still was not available as the Euro 92 qualification strip was back. A week later on 26 August they went to Turkey for another friendly in the same kit, apart from the socks that is which were now the Equipment versions:
For the next qualifier, France at home on 9 September 1992, the Equipment period for Bulgaria properly began. A full up-to-date home kit was now on show, including crest and a black brand logo:
On the back the bars were now reduced in length compared to the red shirt, due to issues with player names for teams who had already worn the template in tournaments:
For another friendly away to Portugal on 11 November 1992, a pleasing all-white strip was introduced with shorts again clearly compatible with either shirt. Long-sleeves were also on show for the first time:
The standard home kit was worn with short-sleeves again in balmy Israel again on 2 December 1992…:
…before a friendly away to Tunisia on 10 January 1993 gave another excuse to go all-white, not really needed, but this time with short-sleeves:
Away to Austria on 14 April 1993, another version of the away kit was worn. The red shirts, which now had their crests, were added to the home shorts and socks to reintroduce this vintage Bulgarian style:
If you thought that was the end of the disappearing crests however, you are deeply mistaken. Against Israel on 10 May 1993, the home shirt was now blank (with the black Equipment logo now more visible):
The badge returned for the qualification run-in, including on long-sleeved shirts being worn with the full home kit for the first time in the crucial final qualifier away to France on 17 November 1993. But something else was gone, as the socks were now magically missing their Equipment logos:
The kits got their last run-outs in three World Cup warm-up friendlies in 1994 – away to Mexico in January, and Oman and Kuwait in April. As seen here from the latter of these on 28 April, the blank home shirts were again, for some reason, preferred:
Probably the oddest instance of a national side using an Equipment shirt came with Cameroon’s friendly away to England on 15 November 1997. Having worn Adidas in the 80s and early 90s before moving to Kappa in 1993, Mitre for World Cup 94, and Nike in 1996, the relationship with Adidas was briefly revived in 1997. Initially wearing a contemporary template, Cameroon switched again to Lotto by August. But for some reason, the game in Wembley brought about a second Adidas revival and the even stranger revival of the Equipment template, which hadn’t even been used by Cameroon when originally with the brand:
This wasn’t a true Equipment shirt in a sense though, as the Equipment branding had long been dropped and this version only featured an Adidas wordmark (thanks to Jim Hearson on Twitter for pointing this out to us!). A front-number also appeared in odd positioning where a crest usually would be, and the shorts were not a template match as they were from the early Cameroon Adidas kit that year. On the back, the name of the country was placed beneath the bars where player names usually would:
We don’t have much other footage of them around this time, but by the time of the country’s pre-Cup of Nations games in early 1998 Cameroon would find finally find a stable relationship with Puma.
2021 update – Thanks to this discovery by FootballShirtWorld, we now know that Cameroon did have some connection to Equipment with their u-19s appearing in it for the 1995 U-19 African Cup of Nations. This edges Poland’s one game ahead of them in the statistics for “least worn”.
Canada probably wore Equipment kits for the first time against China on 2 April 1992, but the earliest occasion that we can confirm was another friendly against Scotland in Toronto on 21 May:
Having worn front-numbers on their old 80s trefoil gear at the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup (always a surreal sight, especially combined with their “CANADA” text), the feature was retained here. A link to the past was also to be found in the 80s style stripe font for both front and back, which hadn’t been the case for the front in 91:
For World Cup 94 qualifiers, long-sleeves were worn during the first home game against Jamaica on 1 November 1992:
More interestingly, player names were introduced for the back. But to do this an extra piece of material was awkwardly attached atop the shirt to account for the large white bars, with hilarious results:
Facing Bermuda on 15 November 1992 – another qualifier in this run of six games – we can see that long pieces of material were apparently used not just for players with very long names like above:
The result was more awkward flapping as players walked past the camera:
We also get a better look the mini-striped front numbers here:
A white away kit was produced, with one batch specifically made for the friendly “Columbus Cup” back in June 1992 (an invitational with Hong Kong, AC Milan and FC Porto), but we have no evidence of it ever being worn. Another away model online however – evidentially part of the World Cup qualifier strips – allows us to see Velcro strips on the back, which must have been how the names were attached.
Canada’s run with Adidas Equipment was relatively short lasting less than a year, as by the resumption of World Cup qualifiers in Spring 1993 they had moved on to a little-known brand called “Score”. But cheekily, seen here away to Mexico on 25 April, the trademark Adidas number style was kept on, while the name patches were thankfully no longer needed:
As a result of their World Cup ban for this incident in 1989, Chile did not play an international after 21 July 1991 – the Copa America final versus Brazil when they had been in Umbro – until a 31 March 1993 friendly against Bolivia. For their return, the Chileans were back in Adidas and now rocking the Equipment template, but it seems without any sort of Adidas logo (or it’s just sort of invisible in the one pic of this game we can find).
Hosting Colombia on 30 May 1993 (with the visitors in sponsored shirts), long-sleeved Chile (for the South American winter) added not an Equipment logo but a trefoil, with classically-Chilean over-sized Adidas wordmark, as well as front numbers, nice blue border around the shoulder bars, an even bigger Adidas wordmark on the middle of the shorts bars, and blue/red/blue striping on the socks. All of the above made the ensemble one the most unique of the Equipment era: (seen more clearly here)
For a return friendly in Colombia on 6 June 1993 though, the short-sleeved unbranded, un-front-numbered shirts were back:
Kicking off another Copa America against Brazil on 21 June 1993, the “full version” originally seen against Colombia returned:
While no names were on the back, the bars were still of the shortened variety on that side. This did benefit the huge numbers at least, which featured a trefoil at the top – another Chilean domestic standard:
One fun aspect from this game, which we’ll come across another couple times later, was how TV company graphics depicted the templates. Here are two examples:
After an unimpressive Copa this time, hopes turned to the Chile under-17 squad competing at that year’s U-17 World Cup in Japan. Starting against China on 22 August 1993, the youth players wore a slightly different version of the template to that of the senior squad: Adidas’ late-80s style “small trefoi/small wordmark” branding was preferred, and the shoulder bars had visibly been reduced in length on the front now too:
Against Poland in the final group game on 26 August, blue socks were inserted into the U17 home kit:
Versus Czechoslovakia in the quarter-finals on 29 August, the away kit was worn displaying the same features as the home, and USA style bars – blue/red/blue like the stripes on their socks:
The youth side finished the tournament in fourth place, with the senior team swiftly back in action away to Spain on 8 September 1993. This meant it was time for their own debut of the Equipment away kit, which was back to the regular proportions and perhaps a slightly deeper shade of blue to the U-17 away shirt above (maybe it’s just the lighting):
From closer shots we can confirm the bars length and get a better look at that vintage South American trefoil/wordmark:
And one the back, the same number and trefoil style remained:
Although it doesn’t seem to have been used in a match (at least not that there’s footage of online), this team photo from the time (not sure what Chilean squad it actually is) shows another version of the away shirt with just blue bars, which are in the “youth proportions” for home and away and feature Coca-Cola sponsors. The youth team shirt itself also originally featured the same trefoil and word mark as the senior team.
Over a year after the Spain game above, Chile took on Argentina on 16 November 1994 still wearing the equipment gear when most national teams had moved on:
This was to be the last time though, as by their next international against Mexico on 29 March 1995 Chile had switched to the weird Hummel rip-off brand Rhumell before moving to their far more iconic Reebok era.
Much to our shame, this entry was missed the first time around. But thanks to Shaun Kastelijn‘s feedback on Twitter we now know of China’s very brief run with the template, which, like Cameroon, came years later than most of the other users. In a friendly away to England on 23 May 1996, the Chinese had gone even more retro with red Adidas trefoil-era shirts, but accompanied by Equipment shorts:
Then the fully stepped into the 90s for another friendly with the Netherlands on 29 May 1996, this time in all-white (and red) and all-Equipment:
Instead of a crest, the name of the country in Chinese letters was on the chest, along with front numbers. While their kit was slightly out of date, China were the more futuristic of the two sides when it came to the back of the shirt as they had player names where the hosts did not:
The directly embroidered names included initials and were large and interestingly spaced, meaning they rudely intruded into territory of even these shortened bars:
By the time of China’s next game that we know of – at home to New Zealand on 28 June 1996 – they had moved on to the style of Germany’s 1992 kit (in nice blue, white and black away colours) before again changing to the German template used at World Cup94 for the 1996 Asian Cup, completing one a whirlwind journey through early-mid 90s Adidas for the year.
2021 update – Thanks to Football Shirt World for alerting us to this one.
We weren’t sure whether to list DR Congo under D or C, but thankfully they fall under both here. More importantly, DRC amazingly used the Equipment template during the 1998 African Cup of Nations in a Swedish style:
Seen here in their second game against Tunisia on 12 February 1998, Congo are in the same “non-Equipment” logo version as Cameroon had donned the previous year, with Adidas wordmark only, and no crest:
Like Cameroon, the shorts were also not an Equipment-style match. What looked like a yellow “patch” earlier on the left leg can actually be seen as the player’s number here:
Player names are alo on the back, which cut across the bars. On some they are too small to be eligible…:
…while others, like the captain, get larger font:
Making it to the knock-out stage, DRC impressively defeated Cameroon in the quarter-finals did so in a white-away kit which employed a more modern template. Interestingly, another away kit with a blue “Euro 96-style” shirt was then used for the next match against South Africa. After finally being eliminated by the South Africans, the home kit returned for the third place play-off with Burkina Faso on 27 February 1998 (a 4-4 draw, won by DRC on pens) but now with the appropriate shorts:
Although UAE would go on to wear a little-known, future generation of the Equipment design in 2001, we’re going to class that as technically a different template. That means DR Congo’s version of the original in 1998 (even without the word “Equipment” on it) holds the record for latest use, with the game against Burkina Faso (after which there may have been even more appearances) coming 2464 days after USA first wore it in 1991 (or 6 years, 8 months, 27 days).
In a group dominated by Equipment (as four of the six nations would be wearing it) Finland debuted new their gear for the first World Cup 94 qualifier on 14 May 1992 at the same time as opponents Bulgaria. But unlike their opposition, the Finnish players’ shirts did in fact feature a crest on what was definitely one of the most pleasing applications of the template:
Even though an Equipment logo was on the front – in black as on the shorts -…:
…a trefoil remained on the back as part of the number font:
The shorts Equipment logo and wordmark were near the bottom of the middle bar as standard, and seen again on the socks for some…:
…but for others, the socks were logo-less:
The goalkeeper also donned a mixed trefoil/Equipment strip, adding the outfielder’s new shorts to his older shirt:
For the return fixture on 28 April 1993, Finland wore the away kit – a straight colour reversal of the home – having debuted it at a friendly in Poland on 13 April:
Away again to fellow Nordic Equipment users Sweden on 13 October 1993, the long-sleeve version was worn:
By this stage, the trefoil logo was gone from the numbers which also now featured a border:
Interestingly, for some sort of competition or tour (perhaps the 1993 Baltic Cup), names were squeezed onto the back, far off centre to avoid the bars altogether and the logo of the Finnish postal service was placed on the sleeve.
Like the Chileans – having both missed out on World Cup 94 and therefor not a priority for the eyes of the world to see fresh new designs – Finland kept the Equipment gear for all of 1994. But unlike Chile, the Finns had started using it two years prior. A photo-shoot of Jari Litmanen from June 1994 also shows a version of the shirt that this time positioned the postal logo on the front.
The away kit made its return for a Euro 96 qualifier away to Greece on 12 October 1994…:
…but it appears the home shirt was still used for the warm-up, creating this unofficial white/white/blue combination.
Away to Spain for a 30 November 1994 friendly, Finland created another nice mash-up of the away shorts with the home shirt and socks, foreshadowing all-white Finnish kits of the modern age:
Finland’s lack of an updated kit meant that the template made it into the video game Actua Soccer in 1995, reviewed here, due to the Finns somewhat surprising inclusion and any other Adidas team having moved on to the their World Cup kits 94 at the time the game was being developed:
Going back to “the kids” (after the Chile entry), appropriately there was more generation mashing as evident by this under-21 game in 1993 with Austria where the shirt is the senior side’s 1991 design (a late 80s template) but with Equipment shorts. From a 1995 under-16 match at home to England, the reverse combination can be seen:
Brilliantly, the senior team also resolutely continued to wear Equipment for the whole of 1995. But the home kit was finally worn for the last time in a qualifier away to Scotland on 6 September:
The away strip received two more outings: a friendly away to Turkey on 4 October 1995, and the final qualifier away to Russia on 15 November 1995 – a record 1281 days since the template was first seen against Bulgaria in 1992:
But wait, that’s not all.
We can’t find pictures or video of Finland’s first five games of 1996 – the King’s Cup with Thailand (x2), Denmark and Romania in February; and away to Kuwait in March – so it is entirely possibly that Equipment was retained for these months, before a more up-to-date template was definitely worn against France on 26 May 1996. Even then, the Equipment kit was amazingly used at least one more time unofficially (or perhaps a lot in this same way), with postal logo now on one of the bars plus shorts, for a training session in Switzerland ahead of a World Cup 98 qualifier 6 September 1997!
YouTube Links (P. 1,2+3):
Finland v Bulgaria, 1992
Turkey vs Bulgaria, 1992
Bulgaria vs France, 1992
Portugal vs Bulgaria 1992
Israel vs Bulgaria, 1992
Tunisia vs Bulgaria, 1993
Austria vs Bulgaria, 1993
Bulgaria vs Israel, 1993
Bulgaria vs France, 1993
Kuwait vs Bulgaria, 1994
Sweden vs Costa Rica, 1990
Germany vs Sweden, 1990
Sweden vs Austria, 1991
Tunisia vs Sweden, 1992
Sweden vs Poland, 1992
Sweden vs England, 1992
Sweden vs Paraguay Olympics, 1992
Australia vs Sweden Olympics, 1992
Finland vs Sweden, 1992
Sweden vs Bulgaria, 1992
Israel vs Sweden, 1992
France vs Sweden, 1993
Sweden vs Switzerland, 1993
Sweden vs France, 1993
Bulgaria vs Sweden, 1993
Austria vs Sweden, 1993
Sweden vs Colombia, 1994
Wales vs Sweden, 1994
USA vs Ireland, 1991
USA vs AC Milan, 1991
USA vs Mexico 1991
USA vs North Korea, 1991
USA vs Sweden Women, 1991
USA vs Germany Women, 1991
USA vs CIS, 1992 (Jan)
USA vs CIS, 1992 (Feb)
Spain vs USA, 1992
USA vs China, 1992
USA vs Ireland, 1992
USA vs Honduras Olympic team, 1992
USA vs Italy Olympics, 1992
USA vs Poland Olympics, 1992
Saudi Arabia vs USA, 1992
Japan vs USA, 1993
USA vs Venezuela, 1993
USA vs Germany (June), 1993
USA vs Norway, 1993
USA vs Germany (December), 1993
USA vs Bolivia, 1994
USA vs South Korea, 1994