47. Adidas Wembley (1989-95)

Graphic showing examples of the Adidas Wembley shirt template

Chris Oakley | 24 April 2024

How ironic that in the week of the 2024 FA Cup Final, I find myself writing about the Adidas Wembley shirt template. Unmistakable due to its appearance in so many important games and tournaments, it never (as far as I know) actually appeared in a Wembley match, but fortunately that doesn’t detract from its greatness. Reality doesn’t always provide the ideal opening to a written article such as this, but it does offer an interesting narrative to pursue.

Those with knowledge of football kit design will know that the 1990s was the decade when creativity exploded and new ideas appeared on seemingly every shirt, every year. Easing into that exciting new era would not be easy or gradual, much like a truck - let’s call it ‘The 1980s’ - whose brakes had failed and was skidding hopelessly into a massive brick wall that, for the purposes of this example, we’ll call ‘The 1990s.’ If you can find a more laboured metaphor than that online, congratulations.

From left: Anderlecht (1989-92 away), Bayer Leverkusen (1991 third), Bayern Munich (1989-91 home), Bochum (1991-92 home).

In the end, the simpler, more traditional kit designs of the 1980s fizzled out as if to acknowledge their race was run. Surely one of the last (and one of the most successful) of the old breed was the Adidas Wembley template. A triumph of restraint over extravagance, it took silky polyester weaved with a shadow-stripe pattern, added an underarm panel in a secondary colour, and finished everything off with two similarly-coloured bands across the arms and a rather wide, large v-neckline.

Part of its appeal lay in its ability to balance two main colours - a theme that’s cropped up before in these articles. Enhancing one colour with the presence of the other was something this template did effortlessly, as witnessed in arguably its most widely seen iteration, that of Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup. Whether in the green and white of the home shirt, or the yellow and green of the change shirt, the template was perfect for its ability to give the right amount of exposure to both colours at any time.

From left: Bulgaria (1990-92 home), Cameroon (1990-92 home), China (1992 home), Côte d'Ivoire (1992 home).

Other teams were similarly well represented on the pitch. Anderlecht proudly showed off their purple and white version to great effect, Dynamo Dresden wore theirs in yellow and black during their first Bundesliga season, and East Germany wore Adidas Wembley in blue in white in their last ever game before German unification.

National teams were particularly well catered for, of which many were African, and of those, several appeared at the 1992 Cup of Nations. The Bulgarians and Romanians wore the long-sleeved version of the shirt that typically switched the big v-neck for a rounded wrapover, while China ensured both their men’s and women’s teams were kitted out identically.

From left: Dynamo Dresden (1991-93 home), East Germany (1991 home), Egypt (1990 home), Feyenoord (1991 third).

As mentioned before, ‘significance’ is a word often connected to the Adidas Wembley design. Notwithstanding Cameroon’s historic run to become the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter finals, the French club Brest Armorique wore the popular white-and-red version of the shirt in its last game before being liquidated in December 1991. David Ginola was a young player on its books at the time, prior to the club reforming later as Stade Brestois - one of many well known players associated with ‘Wembley.’ Elsewhere in France, Eric Cantona was another future star to wear the shirt in the white and blue of Montpellier, only to move to Nîmes Olympique (via Olympique de Marseille) where a red and white version awaited him.

Though often worn by clubs only in the opening weeks of a domestic campaign or in Cup competitions, its restricted exposure was balanced out by the sheer reach that saw it worn in seemingly every corner of Europe. Ironically, the UK was one place it was seldom seen for a template with such a familiar name.

From left: SV Hamburg (1991-92 home), Le Havre (1991-92 home), Lens (1990-91 home), Malaysia (1991 home).

Speaking of Olympique de Marseille, some of you might have noted that I haven’t included it on the accompanying gallery page. Here we have another one of those contentious decisions that someone in my position has to take. Is L’OM’s Chris Waddle-era shirt based on the Wembley template? Many will say yes, but in my view, it somehow doesn’t look the same. There’s no underarm panel in sky blue, so the two bands on the arms stand alone. The white v-neck also has red and blue piping that you won’t find anything like on any other kit, but that’s a lesser point. For me, the absence of that underarm panel changes the look just enough to make it distinctly different.

Were it not for some better archive photography or archive information, I could have improved on the 57 kits I’ve illustrated. Strømsgodset in Norway, Hellas Verona (Italy) and Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) all came close to being included, not to mention the national teams of Chad and Uganda. There are surely many others, but by now you can probably tell how popular this template already was.

From left: Morocco (1992 home), PAOK (1990 away), Romania (1990-91 home), Schalke 04 (1990-91 home).

Regardless, it rightfully takes its place among the all-time greats. Undeniably a classic of the late-80s / early-90s, Adidas yet again proved they could make great kit for teams of all kinds. Each individual shirt looked great, and each one consequently deserves to be remembered by fans for many years to come.


Many thanks go to Adam’s Shirt Quest and FSWorld for their help in researching this template.

To see the full set of Adidas Wembley kits, visit the Adidas Wembley template gallery page.


See also:

(* unofficial name)