The World Cup kicked off this week, with Russia (bad Putin, great national anthem) facing Saudi Arabia (the football abilities of which are inversely proportional to its oil reserves) in the first game of the tournament. It’s the biggest sporting event on the planet, and the 2018 iteration brings significant design changes. For starters, the games will employ a new technology called the “Video Assistant Referee,” which could potentially decide the tournament. Then there’s the newly redesigned ball–which goalies hate–along with snazzy new venues built by Russia for the games. But perhaps the most fun for any armchair design critic are the 32 new team kits, which run the gamut from boring to wildly inventive.
You can see all of them in the gallery above, but there are a few highlights. Purists might like Puma’s design for Switzerland, which with its tight, white, minimal look might as well be the Helvetica of kits. (Did Dieter Rams step in to design it?) But for my money, Nigeria wins the design competition here. The designers at Nike really did their homework and weren’t afraid to make bold choices. I love the pattern, I love how it looks like it’s in motion, and I love how it ties with the country’s culture–tying with Nigeria’s green and white flag to a textile-style pattern inspired by its diaspora. “The home kit pays subtle homage to Nigeria’s ’94 shirt (worn by Nigeria’s first team to qualify) with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso,” the company explains in a release. “Today, those elements are supercharged through an abstracted feather pattern and hyper colors that extend a power capable of turning heads on and off pitch.” Brazil’s new kit, which is reminiscent of its 1970 uniform, is a runner-up–you’ll notice that throwbacks are common in this batch of designs.
In contrast to standouts like Nigeria and Brazil, we have a slew of boring kits that play with predictable pinstripe patterns. I’m looking at you, Germany, Spain, Mexico, and Belgium. Coincidentally, all of those were made by Adidas, whose designers must’ve used the same Adobe Illustrator pattern across the board. There’s a practical reason I’m not a fan: All of these thin-line designs make my screen flicker like crazy. Then there’s South Korea’s just plain ugly kit. Nike says it designed the pattern based on South Korea’s flag, but on an oversized white T-shirt, it looks like something you’d wear to a rave.
Check out all of the designs in the slideshow above–and tell us what you think on Twitter.