91. Puma 'Coda' (1997-2003)
The role of the horizontal stripe in modern history cannot be overestimated. Without it, No entry signs would be rendered chaotically useless, school children using the division symbol in their mathematics classes would be left confused and The Beatles would never have crossed Abbey Road. The humble horizontal stripe has always been important, but admittedly never the most exciting thing in the world. If ever a geometric shape was in need of a makeover, this was it.
From left: Albania (1998-2000 home), Belarus (1999-2000 home), Czech Republic (1998-2000 home and away).
In 1997, the world looked to Puma for inspiration. Could the German sportswear company sprinkle some Hollywood sparkle over the humble left-to-right stripe? The answer was soon known.
No, it couldn't. Nothing can make a horizontal stripe interesting.
In Puma's defence, they knew they couldn't just place a big stripe across the upper part of a shirt and expect people to come over all dizzy with excitement. They were the first to realise that a little distraction was required to take the attention away from the boring band. So it was provided in certain instances of this template worn by club teams and national teams alike.
From left: Eintracht Frankfurt (1998-2000 away), Gençlerbirliği (2000-01 away), Greuther Fürth (1998-99 home).
Where customisation was possible, it was exploited. All shirts based on this template had a winged collar, but they were decorated in several different styles. Some collars were attached to a simple v-neck trim below it, while other versions (such as those worn by Leeds United and Lazio) employed a pinched two-colour junction. The cuffs on the short-sleeved shirts were similarly available in plain or decorated styles, or without cuffs at all in many cases.
Most of the shirts based on this template appear to let the collar and cuffs do the talking, but Turkish club Trabzonspor had thin shadow stripes in the fabric of theirs while the Swiss national team featured a discrete reminder of the kit supplier's logo (see right).
But let's get back to that stripe running across the upper chest. It wasn't just going to sit there and be overlooked, and Puma found various ways to make it just as adaptable as other elements of the shirt. For a start, the thin edging running above and below the stripe could just as easily be done away with altogether, as was shown on the Switzerland home shirt of the era.
Most versions of the stripe were also broken in the middle to allow the Puma logo to appear, but by no means all of them. Both Leeds and Lazio chose to let the stripe run continuously, presenting the club badge and Puma logo above it. Another Turkish club, Gençlerbirliği, chose the curious option of truncating the main stripe but not its edging. This gave the effect of providing a container for the pouncing Puma emblem rather than have it floating below the neckline.
From left: Lazio (1998-2000 home), Lazio (1999-2000 away, Euro), Leeds United (1999-2000 away and third).
Thanks to Puma tweaking their branding in time for the 1999-2000 season, even the Puma logo appeared different from one version of the template to another. Some featured the wordmark while others did not, and for what it's worth, I tend to favour the puma-only version for sheer simplicity and modernity. Call me old-fashioned, but the lettering of the old Puma logo reminds me of the TV series Porridge. A wonderful programme it might have been, but we need not be reminded of it on a modern football kit.
From left: Macedonia (1999-2000 home and away), Midtjylland (2000-03 home), Midtjylland (2002-03 away).
Beyond the shirt, Puma provided several sock designs to make up part of the kit, but by now you're probably all too aware that versatility was the byword for this template. Built upon nothing more than a humble stripe, it showed that a great shirt design could be both simple and complex at the same time without looking confused. Not an easy thing to achieve, by any means.
From left: Morocco (1997-99 home, 1998-99 away, 1997-98 third), Switzerland (1998 home).
From left: Trabzonspor (2000-01 home and away, 1997-98 third), Werder Bremen (1998-2000 away and third).