59. Adidas 'Ascend' (1992-95) *
When Adidas launched its ‘Equipment’ brand in the early 1990s, many people could’ve been forgiven for thinking a new chapter in football kit history was being written. Out went the functional details that had gone before, and in came... well, anything to strengthen the connection between consumer and brand. Shadow patterns featured a repeating three-stripe motif, large blocks of colour reminded everyone of the new triangular Adidas Equipment logo, and as for the old trefoil logo, that was consigned to the scrap heap (for a while).
The Adidas Equipment styling was unequivocal in its lack of subtlety. Divisive in its boldness, it attempted to reset the perceptions we had about how football kits should look. Aside from the new materials being used to improve the performance of the professional athlete, the aesthetics were designed to reflect the culture of the new decade. If “What are you looking at?” could be represented in fabric form, this was it.
Adidas brought about change, and it was happening fast - so fast that even Adidas were seemingly struggling to keep up. Today’s featured template (unofficially named ‘Ascend’ until we know any better), shows evidence of that transition from old-fashioned to new actually taking place.
From left: Arsenal (1992-94 home); Faroe Islands (1995 home, 1994-95 away).
The first time ‘Ascend’ was first seen in any form was during the latter half of the 1991-92 season, and as far as I can tell, it was Roma who had the privilege of introducing it. Their third kit, coloured in navy blue, featured three conjoined stripes on each sleeve - two in carmine red, the middle one in golden yellow. A fine example of how to allow three separate colours to shine on the same kit, the sleeve flashes were even repeated on one leg of the shorts.
But this appears to have been a tentative toe in the water where this template is concerned. The following season, Adidas embellished the design even further, and it looked all the better for it. Where Roma had worn their version with a simple v-neck and winged collar, most of the teams that followed adopted the chunky wide v-neck that became so synonymous with the Adidas Equipment name. With thin lines of coloured trim on the inner edge of the neckline and a subtly demarcated section to contain the Adidas logo at the base, this collar conveyed the early-90s ethic much more distinctly.
From left: Gamba Osaka (1993 home and away); Germany (1992-93 home).
Capable of being decorated in three colours, the more substantial collar became a key part of the shirt. From their first game in 1992, the German national team inaugurated theirs, along with sleeve flashes in black, red and yellow to echo the supremely successful look of their previous home kit. There was also a repeating triple-stripe shadow pattern on the torso of the shirt, plus sleeve cuffs in black. An arresting look, especially transposed to the green ensemble of the away kit, but the original in white will always struggle to emerge from the shadows of its predecessor.
Elsewhere, other European countries were following suit. Portugal had a very vivid home kit in red, yellow and green, while the Norway home shirt maintained Hummel’s insistence on having white sleeves from two years’ previous and built the coloured flashes into those. What’s remarkable, however, is that both teams ended up with the old Adidas trefoil logo not just on the collar, but elsewhere on the kit too. Was this a sign that the players’ uniform had been made prior to the launch of the Adidas Equipment brand, or was there some other reason for continuing its usage? Certainly the former reason seems viable, given the absence of the triple-stripe shadow pattern on Portugal’s shirts, but it does remain on Norway’s. Another mystery for kit enthusiasts to ponder for the ages...
From left: Germany (1992-93 away); Norway (1992-94 home and away).
Though some might feel Norway’s home shirt might look a little clumsy in its juggling of red torso, white sleeves and red/blue flashes, Arsenal had no qualms about using the design for their own home kit. They made just one change - to remove the navy blue Adidas stripes from the sleeves - and that was that, apart from replacing the trefoil with the triangular Equipment symbol. The design became a fondly remembered one for both sides: Norway wore theirs while qualifying for the 1994 World Cup (beating England along the way), and Arsenal did likewise while winning the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup-Winners’ Cup.
Beyond that, the same white-sleeved look was borrowed by Gamba Osaka in Japan, and a plain, crew-necked version was worn by the Faroe Islands as late as 1995. By that point, however, Adidas were moving on to the next phase of their Equipment-branded assault on the kit design world.
From left: Portugal (1992-94 home and away); Roma (1992 third).
* Unofficial template name