The forthcoming 2022 FIFA men’s World Cup tournament has been steeped in controversy from the jump. It will take place in Qatar this November, but the country lacks the resources and infrastructure necessary for the massive event. Laborers have scrambled to build stadiums, hotels, a new airport, and a metro system, which has led to treacherous working conditions and even death. Qatar is also a deeply homophobic country, with laws in place that make homosexuality punishable by up to three years in prison. As such, many players, coaches, countries, and supporters have voiced their outrage at FIFA’s decision to grant Qatar their hosting bid, but the show soldiers on.
Despite this tumultuous backdrop, the kick-off is set for November 20th, with the players sporting World Cup kits designed especially for the tournament, as always. The only thing as reliable as FIFA corruption is the release of some polarizing kit designs each World Cup, and this time around is no exception. A handful of these jerseys from Puma and Adidas has just been revealed, all falling somewhere on the spectrum between dope and downright confusing.
Some of these jerseys have been met with unsurprising aversion, and Puma has inspired wrinkled brows for cookie cutter designs for Senegal, Ghana, Morocco, Uruguay, Serbia, and Switzerland. “First of all, a structured, semi-templated approach for this particular event is a really bad idea,” sports design professional Todd Radom told me when I asked for his insights and hot takes. “The World Cup is all about fervor and passion, and each participating country deserves an individual look that embraces and reflects their culture and distinct sense of place.”
The Puma jerseys do no such thing. The finished products feel rushed and impersonal, lacking any sort of spunk or flair to make a nation stand out visually. “A single, large, contained graphic is tough to pull off on a sports uniform,” Radom continued. “They always seem to look more like a T-shirt.”
Puma’s counterpart, Adidas, also just unveiled their World Cup collection, which includes jerseys for Belgium, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Japan, Argentina, Germany, and Sweden. One look at the Adidas designs next to Puma’s, and there’s honestly not much of a contest.
“Adidas wins the day here,” said Radom. “They’ve taken the core, familiar elements that make the traditional soccer kit what it is, and they’ve amplified them with a tonal, layered look that’s both attractive and versatile. These sublimated patterns are a great design tool— they can be extended to all kinds of other stuff. Importantly, they are also very wearable from a retail perspective.”
Standouts in the Adidas lineup undoubtedly include an array of inventive away jerseys, including Mexico’s funky red-on-white pattern, Argentina’s rich purple design, and a wave-like motif for Spain. “I’m drawn to many of the patterned looks— Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Japan, and Spain among them,” Radom agreed.
On the other side of the coin, Radom was just as befuddled as I was trying to imagine the process behind Puma’s creation for Switzerland. “Can we talk about the Swiss team and their iPhone calendar-themed look?” he shared in bemusement. “I understand that the Swiss are known for their timekeeping and for their watch and clock-making skills, but…”
The World Cup has always been about so much more than the sport at its center, from the geopolitical backdrop to the jerseys seen on some of the best to ever play the game.
“It’s a cultural behemoth,” said Radom. “It’s the world’s largest single sporting event, and the massive interest that surrounds the whole thing extends to what the players are wearing, always.”