Thursday, 9 July 2015

#32 & #31 - USA 1994 Home & Away Shirts by adidas

Some things in life are great, not so much vicariously, but because something else exists (also consequently great). For example, certain film trilogies - you can watch one of the series but you enjoy it, generally, with the knowledge of the two others and their content - Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy - natch - and the careers of Blur and Oasis - both bands were bound for stardom but achieved greatness through dovetailing. Y’know what, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t be all that without the Father and the Son either.

Numbers 32 and 31 in our list demonstrate this principle. The two USA shirts worn at the USA '94 World Cup in the USA - what I'm getting at is "U-S-A! U-S-A!" - carry enormous merit in their own right, but it is as a pair, a tag team referencing the American national flag, that they nail it.

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It is perhaps incongruous that we place the Home shirt at number 32. Not only is this committing the traditionalists' cardinal sin of placing elevated importance on the change shirt rather than the ostensible first choice colours, but it also means we discuss Old Glory's stripes before its stars. In fact, the only benefit of this ordering is the agreeable flow of this article's title.

Because, yes, the USMNT Home shirt in 1994 was actually the wavy red and white striped example, and not the "denim" starred version worn in the United States' three group games. With the latter so notorious, not a lot of people know that, and herein lies a true injustice.

Constantly in its other half's shadow, like Victoria in relation to David Beckham, few people realise how refined and knowing the perceived lesser partner is. With subtly waved stripes suggesting the fluttering of the flag of the United States of America, and this theme echoed on the collar and cuffs which had been trimmed more conservatively on contemporary equivalents, this marvellous twist on a perennially obstinate habitué of kit styles - the immovable vertical stripes - would actually also have been a fabulous way to outfit CD Guadalajara (Chivas) of Mexico.

However, the fact that this shirt is my own personal favourite of the two is a moot point - and the minutiae of Chris, Rich, John and I's decision-making processes is not something I'll bore you with - as there's no "I" in "equally and mutually complementary dual component release football jerseys". The Home without the Away is not nothing - far from it - but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Away - that shirt - has been written about in great detail elsewhere, but suffice to say it is one of the most controversial shirts ever, certainly in purist circles*. The all-American denim stylings (in reality a sublimation effect on a shirt similarly densely textured to its Home collaborator) appalled many but continue to excite collectors and kit historians to this day. But its importance goes far beyond its '90s exuberance and Luddite-goading, as it carried the starred side of a very special coin.

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The famous "denim" shirt and the criminally underrated striped Home represented not just the US Soccer Federation, but also the American nation as it dealt with the pressure of entertaining - in every sense - and this inseparable duo were designed to inspire and tug at the heartstrings of the US public and get the rest of the world on board. The Away had the stars, the Home had the stripes, and together they waved over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As adidas's partner, Fifa took its showpiece tournament to a previously insufficiently tapped market, the German manufacturer made one last marketing statement - with several beneficiaries - before the USSF contract was taken over by Nike.

Two shirts, one mission. As far as football shirt design goes: mission accomplished.

*The purists really would have been up in arms had the shirt been paired with a denim-styled pair of shorts trialled in a game prior to the World Cup. Football wasn't ready for double denim on the pitch just yet and Home plain blue shorts and rich red Aways were used, and swapped, at the tournament proper.

Written by Jay, resident blogger on

Jay can be found on Twitter and are on Facebook and Twitter.

This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.

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