71. Adidas 'Horizon' (1989-92)
Every World Cup can be identified by its kit templates and vice versa. This simple statement is borne out of the evidence presented. FIFA's four-yearly festival of the planet's best international football is, naturally enough, where suppliers like Adidas, Nike and Puma want to be seen. It's the global shop window where fans and consumers alike are reminded that only certain logos on their sportswear will really do. To that end, kit manufacturers like to save their best and most versatile designs for a television audience running into the hundreds of millions.
When it comes to World Cup kit templates, the vast majority from the last half a century or so are instantly recognisable, for good reasons or bad. During the 1990 finals in Italy, Adidas brought eight familiar templates to the eyes of the world's population, and that's just a conservative calculation on my part. Of all of those, there's one that remains heavily overlooked to this day, if not outright disliked, but I shall defend it as a fine example of shirt design regardless.
From left: Besiktas (1989-90 home and away), VfL Bochum (1989-90 home and away).
What grabbed my attention about the Adidas 'Horizon' 32 years ago was the large but simple v-neck, and the thin line of horizontal piping running through it. I'd not seen anything like that in English football before, and somehow it looked... 'American.' As adjectives go, it's probably an odd choice, but I was probably chanelling my knowledge of NFL uniforms on a subconscious level. No doubt that neckline, in particular, looked similar to something I'd seen a few years earlier during my 'gridiron period,' although exactly what, I'm not sure.
I may well have been influenced by the baggy fit of the shirt, but more likely affected by the sight of a USA team wearing the template as their home kit for their first World Cup tournament in forty years. At the outset of a new and exciting decade, this looked like the future of football shirt design, especially because of those big blocks of colour across and under the arms. Little did I know that this was merely a foretaste of the Adidas Equipment templates we'd see so much of just a year or so later.
From left: Hamburg SV (1989-90 home and away), Nürnberg (1990-91 away).
The design was versatile and smart, and it suited national teams and clubs alike. During Italia 90, it was not only favoured by the USA team, but also Romania (who managed to split the two blocks on the arms to incorporate a third colour from their national flag). Bob Gansler's team never had need for their blue away kit during the competition and wore different templates directly before and after it. The Soviet Union team, meanwhile, waited until later in 1990 to wear their 'Horizon' kits and, like other national teams, only did so on isolated occasions.
Appropriately enough for an Adidas design, the template cropped up in Germany where it was worn by both Bochum and Hamburg, the latter of which qualified for the following season's UEFA Cup by finishing fifth. In Turkey, Beşiktaş went one better by winning the league and qualified for a place in the last ever running of the old UEFA European Cup.
From left: Portugal (1990-91 home), Romania (1990 home and away), Tunisia (1990 home).
It feels somehow right and proper that this template should have seen some success for one of its teams at the very least, but it has a distinct air of 'what might have been' about it. We never saw it in England back in the day, because the only teams wearing Adidas were Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. The design, at a push, might have worked for United, but probably not the other two. As for the 1990 World Cup, it should have been worn by Cameroon in my view, and could even have become a cult classic in the colours of the Netherlands or Ireland.
But I guess we'll have to remain unfulfilled where that's concerned. It always was a great template, if not one of the ones people remember most about Italia 90, but I, for one, think it shows Adidas doing what they do best. Simplicity applied to colour in the right proportions - something not every kit supplier has been able to achieve down the years.
From left: USA (1990 home), USSR (1990-91 home and away).