48. Adidas 'Orlando' (2020-22) *

Graphic showing examples of the Adidas 'Orlando' shirt template

Chris Oakley | 16 April 2024

Not even the kaleidoscopic explosion of colours flaunted by Jorge Campos could distract from the first sight of the Republic of Ireland away kit as it debuted in the searing Orlando sunshine. The fourth game of Group E in the 1994 World Cup pitted Jack Charlton’s Irish team against a Mexico side looking to bounce back from a defeat to Norway in their previous match.

Ireland were riding high after a win over the Italians six days earlier, and what better way to celebrate than to wear arguably the best away kit they’ve ever had. In a continuation of the Adidas Equipment styling that was already spinning off in different directions, Keane, Staunton, McGrath et al sported white shirts with three fading green stripes. Each stripe was flanked by thinner orange ones, and the orange accent colour was also seen on the collar, shirt numbers and, of course, the Irish flag that appeared in miniature on the sleeves.

From left: Burnley (1996-97 away), Ireland (1994 away), Karlsruher (1996-98 home).

In many ways, the crispness of the white running through the entire kit was a key reason for the kit’s greatness, but its most eye-catching aspect was surely those stripes. Off the top of my head, I don’t think that particular effect of dissipation into tiny dots and speckles had been seen on a shirt before. It was modern, different and clearly the result of some well thought through design, leading even to the tapering of the speckles in each stripe and its orange edging.

Overall, the new Ireland away kit was a masterpiece, right down to the shadow pattern consisting mainly of the Adidas stripes repeating in triplicate. Inevitably, this design was destined to appear in other colours for other teams, and often white (as with the Irish edition) was the blank canvas with which everything else contrasted.

From left: Karlsruher SC (1996-97 away and third), Sliema Wanderers (1996-97 home), St Gallen (1996-98 home).

Whatever the colour combinations, the key to this template was its tweakability. Despite that last sentence ending unconventionally, it is, be in no doubt, the word this series has been crying out for to describe the way some kits can be customised almost endlessly. Among all the versions of this design, you’ll see many different collar styles, shadow patterns, and sleeve trim options combined with numerous Adidas shorts and socks to create a very specific look. The permutations were many and varied.

It would also seem that on some versions of the shirt, those stripes fade out a little higher up the shirt than others. I’m not 100% certain this is the case, and I’m not sure why it would need to happen, but I’m sure I’m not imagining it. If nothing else, it would ensure less in the way of visual conflict with any shirt sponsor logo appearing in the middle of the shirt.

From left: Stockport County (1996-98 home), Turkey (1996-97 away), Widzew Łódź (1996-97 home).

Among the many versions of the template I’ve illustrated, one remained left out. I’ve often seen a Crewe Alexandra shirt online in black with yellow stripes which I couldn’t wait to add to the gallery page, but alas I couldn’t find any evidence of it being worn in a league or cup match. Images or video footage appeared non-existent, save for one or two pictures from a pre-season friendly between Crewe and Liverpool in July 1996. I can’t believe it was never worn in an A-list match, so if anyone out there can point me towards some hard proof, I’ll gladly add it to the rest.

And so we salute this Adidas design that tells you almost all you need to know about the football kits of the mid-1990s. With intricate detailing and excellent use of colour, it was the ideal design to be shown off on those baggy shirts of the era. It also ticked the box marked ‘prominent branding,’ and Adidas has always been the master of weaving its three-stripe motif into many parts of the kit. Rampant commercialism? No. Just great styling and creativity.


To see the full set of Adidas 'Orlando'* kits, visit the Adidas 'Orlando' template gallery page.


(* unofficial name)


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