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It's Kitmas time / there's no need to be afraid.
At Kitmas time / we let in light, and banish tedious templates shared between several teams, thus eroding their distinctive national identities.
The European Championship tends to provide a more low-key slate of brightly coloured sportswear than the World Cup. There are no Nigerian pattern explosions, Brazilian flair or Saudi Arabian number-making-up to liven up proceedings here.
This is the continent of staid tradition, Germany in white, Italy in blue, Sweden always there but rarely contributing much.
So there's a slight throwback feel to the competition's outfits for this delayed tournament, and not just because some of these kits have been in use for nearly three years now.
The experimentation on international shirts tends to be more reserved than in the club game, where you can have a bit of fun one season and atone with something more traditional the next. It could be years before Finland make another tournament again. You need to get their kit right, or Teemu Pukki is going to want a word.
There's a fair spread of makers' marks too, although no sign of any change to the duopoly at the top of the kit manufacturing game:
Time to put these kits in order. It's a complicated start, so please do pay attention
48-45. Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland (away)
Grouped together at the bottom because a) point of principle b) look at them.
Puma had four perfectly serviceable away kits ready to go for its countries at this tournament, all launched with the usual fanfare towards the end of 2019. Sure, not all of them were great, but these were the Euro 2020 kits and anyone buying them then had a right to expect teams to wear them in the tournament.
An admittedly inconvenient pandemic ruined the original scheduling plans, so some other companies delayed their Euros kit launches, potentially missing out on the sales spike of a new product.
This April, Puma unveiled four new away kits for their countries for use in this tournament. These almost certainly would have been coming out this summer originally, had Euro 2020 taken place in 2020. But why not delay and wait until after the Euros had actually taken place? If it looks like a naked cash grab and smells like a naked cash grab...
There are some minor differences in these four desperate shirts. Italy are allowed more than one colour. Austria get their emblem sublimated like it's 1993. All are stuck with tiny little crests and badly kerned names witlessly spelled out across the chest. Unacceptable, and a blight on the tournament.
The four kits we should have been seeing have been included and ranked below, look out for an asterisk next to their number in the countdown.
*44b. Czech Republic (away)
Well, we did warn you, they weren't all good. There is just no need to bring this sort of budget League One away shirt to a Euros. It’s rude. You wouldn’t turn up to your grandmother’s in a colour this drastic, so why are you considering wearing it for your big date against Scotland? Won't be mourned, but still better than its dreary replacement.
*44a. Italy (away)
Yeah, as I say, not all the Puma away shirts were good. Sure that’s a lovely tiling pattern for your bathroom after spending a long weekend in Morocco and being ‘very taken’ by Marrakech, but there’s no real point to sticking it on a football shirt. Stare at it for a while and it starts to look like a lot of Red Bulls, or Toro Rossi as they’re known when speaking to a) Italians b) Pierre Gasly. Blank on the back. Cowardly.
44. Belgium (home)
“Little Dries has been driving around the house with his muddy motorcycle tires again”
“Naughty boy! No chocolate, waffles or single market access for you!”
Not helped by a new emblem which looks like a failing public service broadcaster.
43. Slovakia (home)
All white, all dull. Jagged go-faster Nike stripes down the side are the only notable feature and boy oh boy is this the tournament for you if you like those.
42. Italy (home)
Functionally fine as an Italy kit from a distance, but a closer look reveals something regrettable. Caught between rugby and the semi-formal dinner the day after a wedding which no-one’s sure how to dress for. Sublimated pattern on loan from a chair in a Lake District hotel with a name ending in either “manor” or “lodge”. Despite those delusions of grandeur there’s a knockoff look to this, something quite market stall about it. A dreadful showing from a nation that deserves better.
41. Poland (home)
Poland never really mess about with their kits, nor produce much to quicken the pulses of polyester fans. This follows that tedious tradition. The collar is a waste of time and material, given that the shirt ends up looking uncollared in practice as a result of the trim. Despite literally just looking at it, you've immediately forgotten it.
40. Turkey (away)
Back when computer games were a way for feckless university students to fill up time rather than an industry which does more for our GDP than traditional manufacturing, their kits looked like this. Take flag colours, add non-copyrighted recognisable symbol of the country, get on with the game and try to remember the button combination for lofted through ball. Not going to cut it in 2021.
39. Belgium (away)
Good sleeve trim, bad everything else. There’s the smudged Condivo 20 pattern, which Adidas have been peddling since last summer (see last season’s wretched Wolves away shirt). Hopefully its final fling this tournament, because it looks like the before picture in a detergent ad.
38. Ukraine (away)
Serious shenanigans with this one. Launched just in time for the tournament, a week before their opening game against Holland on Sunday. Manager Andriy Shevchenko (nice tracksuit top) and Ukrainian FA president Andriy Pavelko (not going to pass judgement on the suit, unless it’s got a sportswear logo on it I’m not interested) are the focus of the promotional shot, with the new kit merely loitering in the background so we can assume Ukraine are not tremendously proud of Joma’s work. From the little we can see of it it’s a tiny step up from last year’s model which was very non-league:
37. Hungary (away)
A big thick green line, a tribute to Hungary’s famous love of coaches. Straight out of any year since about 1998, really. Fair play to Hungary, they’re sticking with tradition. Goulash for dinner. Again.
36. Wales (away)
A meeting of Welsh and Antipodean not seen since the Manic Street Preachers single Australia. They’ve rebadged it, you fool! Wales do have a proud(ish) yellow and green away tradition, before eschewing it for their wonderful summer of 2016, playing England in Lens wearing a grim grey/neon thing . The mottled mess of a Condivo 20 pattern again, slightly less upsetting in this context than others but still adding little. A shrug of a shirt.
35. Spain (away)
Haven’t they done this one already? Seems oddly familiar but maybe it’s that dreaded pattern again, this time looking like a negligent landlord's bad job covering up damp stains. The echoes of the Spanish flag at the end of the sleeves are neat but not enough to rescue another cop-out from Adidas.
34. Ukraine (home)
As if releasing an unexpected kit days before a tournament wasn’t enough, Ukraine went the whole hog with this one – using a sublimated map of the country which includes the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Russia, predictably, aren’t keen, so look out for them hitting back at World Cup 2022 with the words “Ukraine is bad” sewn onto the drawstrings of their change shorts. Passes
mustard muster as a kit but doesn’t suggest a long stay in the tournament.
33. Russia (home)
This one had to be re-done, because initially the sleeves had created an accidental Serbian flag, as below:
Serbia are red, blue, white. Russia are white, blue and red. Holland, red, white and blue. How hard can it be? Aren't the kids taught horizontally striped flags at school any more? Famously chilled Russia took this about as well as the Ukraine shirt, so Adidas had another go, took the blue out of the biceps and made the shirt 30 per cent less interesting. Big dumb collar. You won’t thank me for pointing out more Condivo 20 but Adidas only has itself to blame.
32. Czech Republic (home)
Solemn, dependable, probably going to make things annoyingly difficult for England. Kit unlikely to win hearts and minds but colours exist peacefully with one another, eliminating the need for a violent bloodbath.
31. North Macedonia (away)
The kit controversies keep on coming this year. More to say about this when we reach the N-Mac home shirt but, rest assured, it’s another thrilling tale of intrigue, deception and hurt feelings. In fact, let’s just wait until the home kit before passing any aesthetic judgment, because it's just this except far better.
30. France (away)
Clean, white, flaggy. Fine. Whatever. Please stop running up the score, we want the other countries to at least think they’ve got a chance.
29. Finland (away)
A uniform for a waterslide attendant in an East Midlands leisure centre. He’ll make sure you wait until the green light before going down the flume, but his heart is not in the job.
28. Croatia (away)
Yes, clever patterning but does end up feeling like a collaboration between graph paper and the Greggs logo: Maths X sausage and bean melts – together at last! Unfortunately your savoury pastry has been spiked and the squares are taking on new shapes. Luka Modric is a golden god. I can see time. This football kit is okay.
27. Holland (home)
Nice to have Holland back, but what are they doing in orange shorts? White or black shurely? I’m pro-pattern, which looks like intriguing triangular fractals to me. You may find it closer to a cracked smartphone screen. But let’s agree on one thing: they’re fine on a shirt but not on shorts. Never pattern the shorts.
26. Turkey (home)
Ah, the old inverse Middlesbrough. Someone had to do it and we’re glad its Turkey, a nation which loves a parmo. Far better than the all-red away number, albeit still with one too many centred emblems.
25. Hungary (home)
These ragged hoops are the other main Adidas idea on show this summer, and Hungary have emerged from that arrangement without major incident. Navy/green socks are a pleasingly left-field choice. This pair of threatening youths will be taking your lunch money, but they’ll spend it wisely.
24. Slovakia (away)
Nike make a better fist of a daffy pattern than the many Adidas contributions. Unbroken by solid colour sleeves, unlike the Condivo crew, and it looks to continue on the back which is a bonus in my book, the most important book in the world (excluding bible, Dan Brown, Harry Potter). Nicely rounded off by more sober shorts and socks.
23. Poland (away)
Loses the home shirt’s collar, adds a contrasting Nike zig-stripe, still very little nonsense. If you’re keen to emulate supernova Lewandowski this summer this is a far better bet than the tame home number, despite looking more like a computer mock-up of a football shirt than actual piece of fabric.
22. Scotland (away)
Toilet wall in the third-best restaurant you go to all year. A bit different, a bit interesting, but let down by afterthought of shorts and socks which have been found in the Scottish FA’s lost property cupboard.
21. Russia (away)
Lock up your backwards Rs! Back to basics here, in a time when away kits are spinning into transgressive new realms and not to be trusted. Flag colours crucially the right way around this time, a slight shame the point isn’t made with all-red socks. See how much nicer a white shirt is with coloured shorts? Let this be a lesson to all manufacturers toying with all-white: don’t.
20. Wales (home)
This is the rarest of things – a shirt which looks better on the fans than the professionals. Having seen it in the wild it’s lots of fun. On the players – not so much. Perhaps it’s those cheeky sleeve cuffs, a lively addition to your afternoon of socialising, a needless bit of frippery on the serious arms of Joe Allen. A little bit leisureware, white shorts would be preferable but tidy enough.
19. Croatia (home)
Squares now large enough to host celebrities and therefore a popular gameshow. Where does it end? In quarters, at this rate. Distinctive as ever, but something seems marginally off. What’s the keyboard shortcut for “add one column”?
18. Germany (home)
Seems too messy for Germany, like a printer running out of ink. Mind you it was all sharp clear lines in 2018 and that didn’t pan out well. Adidas love a flag sleeve and why not, especially when the colours complement a kit which can often end up dull. Little promise of past glories being recaptured but a reasonably fun addition to der Geschichtsbuch der Mannschaftsausrüstung.
17. North Macedonia (home)
If you’re wondering which team at this tournament qualified via the (excellent) new Nations League path designed to reward low-ranking countries there’s a clue to be had: just look for the most unhinged kit. NM have been wearing this for a while, with its charming Philip of Macedon sun rays, and it was due to be retired before the tournament in favour of these:
Such was the outcry (wrong shade of red apparently) those plans were shelved, the country’s FA have said ‘I’m alright Jako’ and asked if they can keep the sunray kit instead for the Euros. More power to them, but keep a very close eye on their first game against Austria to see if there’s a shock heel turn back to the unpopular redesigned kits.
*16a. Austria (away)
Forest at night, but not very scary. Like a midweek League Cup trip to the City Ground. Unusual combos and pattern, but a little drab in practice. Big ‘bouncer whose patience you’re testing’ energy to model Marko Arnautovic. “I’ve told you already, you’re not coming in with those trainers, I don’t care if you’ve put your black socks on over them.”
16. Switzerland (home)
Another year, another international tournament for Switzerland to take part in for absolutely no reason. Hang on, they’ve got a decent kit! No one saw this coming. Red on red shouldn’t work but does, shirt lines are cool but unobtrusive. Obviously that’s one more logo than anyone needs, but impressive. Not enough to raise a smile from Puma model fella, though.
15. Austria (home)
Remember when Arsenal were fun? No? Not surprising, it was a while ago and certainly long before their best-forgotten spell of Puma-made kits. This looks like a concept kit for them, made before Adidas swept in with all of its retro leisurewear, clever social media promotional videos and fanbase-placating bruised bananas. It’s pleasing, though. Restraint with a slight twist.
14. Scotland (home)
Back at last. A pleasingly correct shade of blue but ragged hoops didn’t make loads of sense for Germany and certainly don’t have much reason to be here either, especially when a good proportion of your fans don’t love teams that play in hoops. Bad memories too of the cursed 1986 World Cup shorts which had a thick hoop across the middle. This time the shorts are navy instead of white for the first time since Diadora were in charge in 2006-07. White is clearly preferable but it’s those bicep cuffs which save the day again, possibly recycled after the Russian incident. Hurrah for sustainability!
13. Denmark (away)
Classy, as you’d expect from chevron kings Hummel. There’s no obvious need for those flashes of blue at the bottom of the shirts and around the collar but we’re glad they’re there. Just like we’re glad Denmark are at the Euros. But not as glad, let’s face it, as we are that there are some Hummel kits to enjoy.
12. Sweden (home)
Long-term readers (hi Mum) will know I enjoy yellow and blue together very much. Despite that, it’s been a while since a Sweden kit has really hit the mark. This one’s nearly there and it’s the unexpected navy and lighter blue combo that’s made the difference, the flash of brighter tone on the sleeves and in the emblem disturbing otherwise route-one Adidas orthodoxy.
11. Spain (home)
Cultural appropriation at work here because Spain have gone a bit Mondrian, if he had run out of everything except red. He was Dutch, but it’s probably a safer bet for a kit than taking inspiration from the other great Spanish artists: Picasso, Goya, Iglesias. The shirt ends up looking like the cover of a dry academic textbook, but the warmth of the reds, deep navy and gold gets it over the line.
10. England (home)
Yes we’ve seen it before already, yes it’s a word from several decades ago, but there’s no two ways about it – that side line is snazzy. England mix it up with red and navy and it turns a templated feature into something with character. Another rarity here – a kit elevated by its numbers. There’s an unusual quasi-gothic font which brings the shirt up to date, offsetting the centralised emblem and logo throwing back to ’96. If football pulls its finger out and comes home this summer, this has the makings of a classic.
9. Germany (away)
My long-held mistrust of all-black kits (dull, safe, unmemorable) is being tested this year. This isn’t the last we’ll see and is a tough one to find fault with, although the bottom half is very ref-y. A country so confident in its football heritage that it’s gone out of the way to obscure the number of World Cups it has won. Oh wait, it’s put the stars on the shorts too. So… eight?
8. Holland (away)
As mentioned, all black is best left in rugby, but you’d have to be a pretty churlish kit-ranker not to recognise the class here. Dutch emblem could be from a proud British independent fashion brand who make oddly popular bodywarmers. Orange, perhaps because it’s been absent from this tournament for nearly 10 years, a huge plus in this context.
7. Portugal (home)
Sultry red, tasty green, bit of fun on the trim. Every colour nailed. It’s not hard is it? Green shorts a huge upgrade, Portugal have had red or white since 2006. A mark off for the collar, and the unwelcome return of polo shirt chic to football.
6. England (away)
Turns out Jack Grealish makes polo shirt collars okay. The pattern looks like the usual meaningless geometry until you realise it’s our old heraldic lion friends, discombobulated and before their recent inclusive makeover which seemed to rile people who don’t like women or children. Un-England to the point of being jarring, which may not be a bad thing. Happy memories of when you first started watching football, didn’t know the colours and needed two reminders in each half of which team you were supposed to be supporting. A good effort.
5. Denmark (home)
Yes, they’re doing the soundwave thing, it’s… (checks notes) the representation of their fans singing a song. It is always the representation of the fans singing a song. Could have drawn on the nation’s rich musical history – Iceage, Mew, The Raveonettes – but instead it’s probably something exhorting brave boys to pass nicely to Brian Laudrup. Obviously it’s a delightful kit. Hummel don’t mess up Denmark home.
*4a. Switzerland (away)
Now we’re talking. Ski resorts, cycling, the glory days of Europe. Competent group stage football. Immediate knockout round defeat. We’ll always have the alps. Slovenia livid. They've been putting mountains on their shirts for years and never come up with anything this cool. A crying shame this won’t get its moment in the spotlight this summer.
4. Sweden (away)
You’re not going to go wrong with pinstripes, navy and yellow together as Adidas prove with aplomb here. Are you not entertained? You might not be by the football, especially because Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return was ruled out by a troublesome knee, but you can’t fault the away kit.
3. Finland (home)
A kit so powerful it turns everything around it monochrome. Fade up of colour suggests an ascent into the exosphere, or footballs being kicked so high into the air they come down with ice on them. Number placement another unusual wrinkle. No real precedent for a cross used in this way, lining up so pleasingly with the arms. One of the tournament’s most memorable kits, therefore a big winner. Fin(n).
2. France (home)
Seemingly can’t put a foot wrong at the moment, and Euro 2021’s most frightening starting XI will be wearing an instant classic of a home kit as they breeze their way to a second successive trophy. Yes, this is a reverse jinx attempt. It has been worn with navy and red socks at times, the red superior to match the chest stripe. Hoop integrity sensibly maintained. Paul Pogba looking vaguely interested. A belter.
1. Portugal (away)
Highly unusual, instantly recognisable, obviously Portugal and a level above the rest in a fairly muted field. Only the bottom hoop goes around onto the back, but that makes it feel like an intentional choice rather than the usual default to plain. Means there’s something fun to look at and the player names and numbers are easily legible. Everybody’s happy. Apart from Pepe, presumably. Cristiano Ronaldo is going to look like a brilliant villain when wearing this. Try faulting it. You can’t.