60. Adidas WorldCup Dress (1974-84)

Graphic showing examples of the Adidas WorldCup Dress shirt template

Chris Oakley | 1 April 2023

Waterloo, by Abba. Jaws. Starsky and Hutch. The rise (and fall) of disco music. Concorde beginning scheduled flights to the US. Star Wars. Punk music. The Sony Walkman. The Atari 2600. The first flight of the NASA Space Shuttle. The wedding of Charles and Diana. Who Shot JR? Rubik's Cube. ET The Extra-Terrestrial. BMX bikes. Break dancing. Born in the USA, by Bruce Springsteen. Famine in Ethiopia.

The Adidas WorldCup Dress football shirt template existed while all of these things (and more) happened. It is arguably the most popular football shirt design the world has ever seen, worn by teams on every continent at some point or other during a ten year reign of glory. If you were born in the 1960's or early 1970's, this template would have been a constant throughout your younger years, in books and magazines, and on television. It is the bedrock upon which modern football kit design was built, the open door that allowed five decades of creativity in sporting apparel to walk in. In short, it is quite brilliant.

And yet it has only reached number 60 in this countdown. This could take some explaining.

From left: Bayern Munich (1974-77 home, 1975-76 away, 1980 third); Birmingham City (1977-79 home).

As with so many things of a legendary nature, a veil of ambiguity hangs delicately over much of the fine detail. A case in point lies with the extremities of its timeline. For the sake of this article, I've somewhat arbitrarily stated that 1974 was when it was first seen, and 1984 as the year when it disappeared. In order to confirm whether this is in fact correct, one must make a call on what actually constitutes the WorldCup Dress template. This is where things get a little messy.

In essence, Adidas brought together very few elements to create something that would become so greatly admired. There was a crew neck, the effortlessly stylish three Adidas stripes on the sleeves, and cuffs on the long-sleeved version of the shirt - all presented in a contrasting secondary colour. Finished off with a small Adidas trefoil logo on the right breast (if it was put there at all), you thereby have the finished product.

From left: Birmingham City (1977-78 away); Bochum (1975-77 home, 1975-76 away); Borussia Dortmund (1974-77 home).

Bayern Munich were one of the teams that wore WorldCup Dress in 1974, a look that provided the blank canvas on which to display Adidas as their first main sponsor. In 1973, however, they wore a similar all-red home kit with all the aforementioned features, except with red collar and cuffs. Can this be classed as the same template when so many versions had the collar and cuffs in a secondary colour? Possibly, but for the purpose of conformity, I've generally decided to vote against it.

For the same reason, I've also decided to focus specifically on the long-sleeved versions of the design. Although a short-sleeved version of the same template appears to have been worn at the time, I've noted that those shirts often don't have cuffs in a secondary colour. Am I saying they're to be discounted from any discussion about the template? No... I'm merely focusing on the long-sleeved versions in order to present a uniform set of illustrations (no pun intended).

From left: Brazil (1978-80 home, 1978 away); Bulgaria (2005 home, 2004 away).

So with all that in mind, we hereby observe that Bayern, along with others such as Borussia Dortmund, Hannover 96 and Eintracht Braunschweig, were among the first to don their classic garb. West Germany, appropriately enough for an Adidas design, seemed to be where the outbreak first occurred. Before long, transmission was happening in almost every European football nation.

As you'd expect for a template design so simple in its make up, versatility and flexibility were among its great selling points. Whether part of a predominantly one-colour kit or not, the shirt allowed its primary colour to remain most visible, while still using the secondary colour in all the right places and proportions to perfectly add visual interest. Furthermore, in an age when shirt sponsorship gathered momentum in many countries, there was ample opportunity to display a company logo on the chest without conflict from any adjacent elements.

From left: Czechoslovakia (1978 home, 1977-79 away); Eintracht Braunschweig (1975-77 home); Finland (1977 away).

By this point, some of the more loyal amongst you may be remembering a similar template, Adidas Santos/National, that appeared at number 79 in this series. It's true to say that the marked resemblance is quite staggering, the only difference being the style of collar employed. Some of you may also be wondering whether the two templates shouldn't just be thrown together and considered as one, perhaps considering the collar change as a customisable element of a single template. Perhaps so, but for once it is possible to reference official template names as designated by Adidas here, so they really do appear to be two distinct designs.

Though Santos/National has the more interesting collar, the simplicity of the round neck on our featured template actually makes it the better one of the two, in my opinion. It harks back to days of simpler football shirts that weren't made with major commercial profit in mind. Think George Best, Uwe Seeler or Pelé. That's football history being remembered and maintained for a new generation of fans and enthusiasts. A small thing, but admirably respectful.

From left: Hannover 96 (1974-78 home); Hong Kong (1977 away); Iceland (1977 away, 1981 home).

For a shirt that's been designed in such an unpretentious way, you'd think it would have appeared in a wide range of colours, but the vast majority used either red, white or blue in one combination or another. Thankfully, the tedium was broken up with the Dutch national team's vibrant orange, a rare pale blue/dark blue combo worn by Bayern against Ajax in the second round of the 1980-81 European Cup, and even the recherché white and dark brown worn by St Pauli. Needless to say the shirt would have been seen in many other hues, and I'd be very surprised if you, the readers, didn't bring them to my attention in due course.

And it goes without saying that the ubiquitous nature of this template, such as it was, meant it was seen everywhere, from the domestic leagues of Europe to a cornucopia of national sides all over the globe, some of which took part in the 1978 World Cup. It was even worn in a charity match in aid of Unicef where a Europe XI played Borussia Dortmund in 1979. Bearing the phrase 'Human Stars' on their red shirts, one wonders if the likes of Keegan, Beckenbauer and Cruyff spent a moment or two wondering what physical form their opponents would take before they arrived on the field. Makes you wonder...

From left: Independiente (1977-80 home); Köln (1976-77 home and away); Legia Warsaw (1980-81 home).

So where did it all end? When did this great template last grace us with its presence? That's a difficult one to answer. As you'll see, I've suggested it was 1984, but you may have a different view, as will the next person. Archive photography certainly shows a few teams wearing what looks like WorldCup Dress in the year of Ghostbusters, Prince's When Doves Cry and Lionel Richie's Hello, but was it the same kit or a modern interpretation of it?

We may never know, and perhaps we don't need to know. All we actually know is that this template was around for years and years, worn by the great and the good, and its lasting image means it will probably never really disappear.

Only at number 60 in the countdown? Well there's another question I don't have the answer to...

[Chris Oakley]

Row 1, from left: Luxembourg (1977-84 home, 1978-79 away, 1980-81 away, 1978-83 third).
Row 2, from left: Middlesbrough (1977-78 home); Netherlands (1975-77 home, 1978-81 away, 1978 away).
Row 3, from left: Norway (1975-77 home, 1978 away); Poland (1978-79 home, 1978-80 away).
Row 4, from left: Portugal (1978 away); Rayo Vallecano (1977-79 home); Schalke (1975-77 home); St Pauli (1977-78 home).
Row 5, from left: Stuttgart (1977-78 home); Sweden (1977-82 home, 1977-83 away); Switzerland (1975-78).
Row 6, from left: Switzerland (1975-79 away); USA (1979 home, 1978 away).
Row 7, from left: USSR (1977-79 home); Yugoslavia (1975-79 home); Zurich (1975-77 home).

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