Perhaps more than any other high-profile 2014 World Cup participant, Germany made the biggest splash with the introduction of their new home and away kits for the national team, die Nationalmannschaft. Eschewing the standard Schwarz und Weiß (“black and white”) look we’ve already become so accustomed to, Germany is bringing in lots of red (and more black!) for their summer trip to Brazil.
Sure, you’ll still find Schwarz und Weiß in the 2014 kit design, but you’ll notice more red, a color which is making a bold comeback for the Germans. Although Germans kvetched about the change represented by the new red-marked kits, they nonetheless bought piles of them. Indeed, the 2014 kits are a change from recent tradition, but given the total stylistic, developmental, and ethnic transformation of die Nationalmannschaft, the new kits are fitting symbol of the exciting (and bold!) changes that have swept through German fußball.
Finally, it seems the kits have caught up with the “new look” German team.
Once upon a time, the Germans – in stereotypical fashion with some grains of truth – were known as an organized, “efficient,” and somewhat stodgy footballing outfit. Oh, and sometimes lucky, winning stunning World Cup upsets against the mighty Hungarians in 1954, or against the Dutch and their totaal voetbal cultural movement in 1974. Finally, the Germans won in 1990 in what’s regarded as perhaps the most unwatchable World Cup in history. These three world champion sides certainly wouldn’t have won any beauty pageants.
However, the German national side of today plays some of the most fluid, attacking, and downright beautiful soccer in the world today. Forget “efficient,” organized, or stodgy. The Germans have been reborn as a hip youth movement in a country with a renowned development system.
As national playing styles erode in the globalization of the beautiful game, Germany features one of the world’s deepest and most flexible squads, perfect for the homogenized international game. The youthful Germans embody the flexible positioning and balance between pragmatism and art that is needed to win at the highest international level. Die Nationalmannschaft has evolved with the times. So cast old stereotypes aside and think about the new kits as calling card, representing Germany’s evolution.
Before reading my review, be sure to check out SoccerPro’s product page for the kit, especially if you want to see images of the kit as a whole – in this review, I’ll be showing you images of striking details instead.
The Home Kit
Let’s start with the home kit. First, it’s mostly white – a color that is expected for German home kits. On the sleeves, you’ll find the customary three black stripes. Again, no surprises. Things get exciting, however, across the chest, which features a three-toned red chevron, bordered by black and gold striping:
So immediately, the kit signals its intention not only to honor the weiß-colored German past, but also to depart boldly from it with red, which also accents the crisp black V-neck collar and inside the black-cuffed sleeves:
That red is on the German kit shouldn’t surprise you – after all, the German national flag is black, red, and yellow (also interpreted as gold)! Most German kits, also known as trikots, feature these colors. It’s just that we’re not used to red being emphasized as a German color.
Our memory is short, however.
Sure enough, the 2003-05 away kit was bathed in solid red along with a bizarre red-stained (I don’t know how else to put it!) combo as a 3rd kit. It’s understandable if this red flag of a shirt is confused with a Liverpool kit. Red was the primary color in the 2005-07 away kit with its contemporary, yet playful curves and accents.
As German fußballing historian Uli Hesse reports, while Germany’s use of black and white stems from its Prussian roots, its use of red likely stems from the Hanseatic League with its red and white. So red has been part of the German tradition all along, even if it has been relatively neglected as a color on the national kits.
However, 2014 is the first time first since color television that red features on the white home kit. A perfect change to announce the transformation of the German game. The red chevron is bold. It demands that you notice. Yet up close, the chevron is sophisticated with its gradation of three reds, internal black accent lines, and external gray accent lines. Up close, there’s something dynamic and almost mesmerizing about the chevron, as the reds and black accents lines create interplay pointing toward the chevron’s middle.
One of the shirt’s highlights is the German crest accompanied by the three stars symbolizing Germany’s three World Cup wins. The crest is a unique metallic silver and black applique:
The chevron and crest, plus the usual three black shoulder stripes, gives the home kit a clean, somewhat stylized, and utterly contemporary feel as a design object. The lines are crisp and clear. The corners are sharp and modern. And the applique punctuates the contemporary stylization.
Speaking of lines, along the torso seams features a grey line filled with tiny black lines, forming a clean division between front and back on the shirt. Finally, this celebration of crisp lines is completed with an intricate German trikot design that subtly curves across the top back:
As a contemporary design object, this home kit checks off the right boxes: it’s coherent in the contrast between colors and lines, as well as stylized as a soccer kit in a way that signals the dynamic contemporary brand of soccer played by the boys wearing it during the World Cup.
Finally, my hunch is that the home kit is designed for supporters and our (mostly!) un-athletically toned bodies in mind. For example, the kit features nods to the now ubiquitous fitted sleeves seen throughout European football leagues. However, the sleeves are not too tight so as to showcase untoned biceps. Have no fear: these sleeves are forgiving to your body!
The Away Kit
While the home kit is a bold contemporary update of the Schwarz und Weiß identity, the red and black hooped away kit is a couture-retro design, evoking Germany’s earlier fußballing days. While the hoops are new, red (and most recently black) was the featured color in historic encounters, such as Germany’s 1938 encounter with England or their shocking 3-3 draw against England in Berlin. However, this color has largely been absent since the advent of color television, especially being paired with black.
Indeed, the 2014 away kit with its two-button collar and silver-tinted white accents looks almost like something lifted from the museum and translated into our current retro idiom in fashion. Naturally, the red and black are the first thing you notice about this kit, thanks to their bold contrast and division:
These hoops are a matrix on which the shirts other design features are laid out. Atop the shoulders you’ll the customary Adidas three stripes, this time in a silver-tinted white, giving them a “dirtied” older look than crisp white:
However, the shoulder stripes are only the subtlest of retro touches, especially in contrast with the old-school two button black front collar. Also, don’t forget your cabbie hat and knickerbockers when wearing this kit. The “dirtied” white of the sewn crest (no appliques!) only adds to the retro feel.
For all its obvious retro touches, the away kit also has a “couture” feel about it that’s hard to convey through photos alone. First, there’s the textured red fabric, finely lined like a designer sweater. Second, the “dirtied” (or silver-tinted) white gives these elements of the kit more depth, or substance – I don’t know how else to put – a sort of solidity that well-made goods have, contrasted with knockoffs, for example. These details not only increase the kit’s retro status, but also elevate it as a cultural object you’re more likely to find in a designer store, rather than in a sidewalk kiosk. Of the kits I own or have seen on other people, I can’t recall a more high-style piece of soccer apparel. Funnily enough, the design manages to pull this off without relying on gold, like the 2010 World Cup black away kit.
The away kit bears some symmetry with the clean stylized home kit in the use of line motifs. For example, you’ll find the same ribbing lines, dividing the kit’s front and back, as well as the same graceful German trikot line arching subtly across the back neck:
Finally, like the home kit, the away kit also pays homage to the fashionable fitted sleeves frequently seen today, yet does so in a flattering way for those of us lacking toned arms! The away kit’s black sleeves are also longer than the home kit’s sleeves, almost reaching my elbows on the medium-sized kit I have. But I love these sleeves, as they add to the high-class look this kit is signaling by departing from the normally blandly functional short sleeves more normal on kits.
In all, the away kit is a couture throwback and radical departure from the green or black away kits in recent years. Red makes its entrance in those bold hoops, signaling a newness like the newness of the young soccer stars representing Germany on the pitch. But the red and blacks hoops also harken back to earlier times and reminds us that Germany’s trikot features three colors: black, yellow, and red.
Past and Present
If you’ve been reading closely, you might have asked yourself whether or not the home and away kits contrast in a contradictory way, as the former is utter contemporary while the latter stylishly retro. Another way of putting it is that one kit catches us to the present-day manifestation of Germany’s exciting and young squad, while the other gestures back to some of the earliest decades of national team play. What’s going on here?
Well, both kits are united in their bold emphasis on red. Because red has already faded from our collective memory of what German kits “look like,” the color can simultaneously serve two functions in reminding us of the early past, but also reserving space to commemorate the current and future achievements of this golden generation of German footballing talent.
However, I also wonder if the bold 2014 kits were designed in such a way to push forward Germany’s larger national footballing narrative by deliberately signaling the beginning of the next epoch for die Nationalmannschaft.
After all, it’s only been within last twenty-five years approximately that Germans have begun proudly wearing their national side’s kits en masse. The reasons why various and complicated and involve a bit of history. Understandably, post-WWII Germany had a complicated relationship with any popular nationalistic expression. In the decades immediately preceding WWII, Germans tended to downplay patriotic expression, especially of the sporting kind. I mean, it’s not as if the Schwarz und Weiß is exactly new; as Uli Hesse notes, it’s been around since the 1910s and even in 1974. However, the national kit was never embraced as a symbol of national identity. As Rick Joshua recounts, the introduction of Germany’s trikot colors in the 1988 kit sparked a movement of mass kit wearing, which extended through the 90s and peaked during the Germany-hosted 2006 World Cup. Germans, it seems, have become more comfortable expressing their national pride through sport.
In this sense, the new red-festooned kits nudge die Nationalmannschaft supporters forward to broaden the color palette of their German pride, just as the kits can also symbolize the evolution of the national side as a youthful and attractive attacking side. But the red also reminds us of the deep footballing heritage found in continental Europe’s most populous country, and places today’s glamorous youth movement within the sweep of the larger historical narrative.
If you’re interested in the history of German international football and its kicks, I highly recommend following and reading through the archives of Rick Joshua’s remarkable site, Schwarz und Weiss, his labor of love for die Nationalmannschaft.