67. Adidas 'Deviate' (1986-91)

Graphic showing examples of the Adidas 'Deviate' shirt template

Chris Oakley | 9 October 2022

Regular visitors to this series will hopefully know by now that when a template's name appears in quotation marks, it's a provisional name that I've provided until the official one becomes known. In the case of the featured template shown above, I should have called it Adidas 'Enigma,' rather than 'Deviate.' For something that looks so familiar to so many people, I couldn't actually find many examples of teams wearing it.

Thankfully, I've already attracted a legion of loyal kit hunters who, even now, are probably racking their brains for examples of other moments in history when this template was worn. Rest assured, the results of that mental exercise will appear in an Update section at the foot of the page when they emerge.

From left: Bayern Munich (1987 home), Bulgaria (1986-87 away), Iraq (1986 home).

Putting that aside, let us bask in this wonderous design that sees Adidas venturing into the world of multi-tonal patterns - a relatively new thing as football entered the latter half of the 1980s. Having seemingly exhausted the realm of pinstripes in all their configurations, shadow stripes came next, but even then, Adidas already had one eye on the next new thing after that. For the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, they needed something eye-catching that a big television audience could potentially admire, and they found it with this - a zig-zagging pattern of stripes that faded from one dark colour tone to a lighter one within each band.

The effect was distinctive, yet discrete and sometimes barely perceptible. Had the range of gradient tones been more extreme, those zig-zags would have looked like the work of a designer who was trying too hard to make a name for themselves. They would also have made it more difficult for a shirt sponsor logo to stand out from its background, although I could only find one example of a club - Bayern Munich - who wore one on the template. Ultimately, the pattern was toned down to such an extent that whatever colour was chosen, it would never be overshadowed by it. Classy.

From left: Iraq (1986 away), Kenya (1988 home), Legia Warsaw (1990-91 home), Levski Sofia (1987-88 home).

And Mexico 86 was where the template appeared to get its debut. Four versions were worn - two of them virtually identical for Bulgaria and Portugal, the other two a distinct anomaly in the kit history of the Iraq national team. The AFC team's choice of sky blue and golden yellow kits (rather than the traditional green and white) was something of a surprise at the time. Then again, they just happened to be the colours of Al-Rasheed Sports Club, the team set up by Uday Hussein (eldest son of former President Saddam Hussein and former head of the Iraq Football Association) who miraculously persuaded most of the Iraqi national team to play for them. Maybe it was something to do with his preference for torturing anyone who didn't carry out his orders... I dunno, you decide.

Anyway, the Adidas kit template looked good in the bleaching hot sun of Mexico, and in the years that followed it was adopted fleetingly by Bayern during a period when they seemed to have some trouble deciding which kit they should wear. Other teams followed suit, including Sweden, Kenya, Levski Sofia and Legia Warsaw. Like Bayern, Legia were prone to having a larger wardrobe than Elizabeth Taylor and eventually plumped for 'Deviate' during the 1990-91 season, at which point it was starting to look a little old-fashioned.

From left: Portugal (1987 home), Sweden (1987-88 home and away).

But for all the teams that wore these wonderful zig-zags, the main reason for this design's notoriety could perhaps lie in the fact that it was the precursor to that classic Netherlands shirt worn during Euro 88. Repeating gradient tones of a single colour, wrapped up in a striking orderly configuration... sound familiar? Maybe this was where Adidas struck up the courage to try something that would cement their reputation for masterly kit making. It's just possible.


Following my not-so-subtle suggestion that someone somewhere might know about further variations of this template, we duly heard from Milo in Romania. He very kindly told us that Steaua Bucharest wore Adidas 'Deviant' during the 1988-89 season.

Steaua's two versions took the form of a very pleasant home and away combo that was pale blue with red trim and vice-versa. Both were put to good use during Steaua's almost successful European Cup campaign in 88-89 that was ended in the final by Milan.

So thanks very much to Milo for telling us about those, and don't forget, if you know of any template kits we haven't featured here, do drop us a line. Your feedback is most welcome...

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