As World Cup fever sweeps the globe, millions of fans are donning their favorite team’s national jerseys. And while the United States isn’t competing at the 2018 World Cup, it has two sporting manufacturers who are dressing about 40 percent of the teams playing in this year’s tournament.
Though Adidas has long been the go-to company for team kit in world football (or soccer as it’s known in the U.S.), American manufacturer Nike has been making inroads and World Cup newcomer New Balance also is sponsoring teams in the tournament this year.
The most anticipated article of fan gear is the team jersey. This year, Nike’s eagle wing-inspired design for Nigeria sparked a craze. Millions of jerseys reportedly sold out within minutes of their appearance online.
Designers take into account national identity and tradition when they create the team kit, which includes the most cutting-edge sportswear technology.
“With Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation,” said Dan Farron, Nike’s Football Design director. “We built this kit and collection based on the players’ full identities.”
International competitions are an ideal venue for companies to debut new, innovative designs and materials that wick away moisture and improve performance.
Designers must decide how they will incorporate the desires of the national teams, while also adding fresh new elements. Some countries have specific design choices in mind, such as a specific color like with Brazil’s iconic yellow jerseys.
Others are open to novel ideas. New Balance designed a jersey for first-time World Cup participant Panama that incorporates the Panama City skyline and has a line from the national anthem inside the collar.
“Panama’s qualification for [the World Cup in] Russia was an incredible achievement. We look forward to seeing this kit on the world stage, worn by the players and the passionate supporters who will be following in Russia, back home in Central America, and across the world,” said Kenny McCallum, general manager of New Balance Football.
Ultimately the fans decide what constitutes a successful design, by buying up jerseys to show off their team pride.