Ah the 1990s - an era where football kits were far more than just uniforms worn to distinguish between two teams.
Bright, eccentric and colourful designs, manufacturer logos strewn across any part of the shirt that was free, oversized tops that looked like they’d been cut out of old king-size duvets; it truly was an interesting time.
The turn of the millennium represented a fresh start, a chance for kit manufacturers to go in a new direction, and the Italian national team did just that.
The Azzurri’s Kombat shirt worn to Euro 2000 couldn’t have been further removed from the designs that had gone before it.
Tight-fitting, simplistic and elegant, in a way the shirt was a throwback to the kits of yesteryear.
However, it also represented a new era of space-age design, with the shirt number, newly designed crest (in keeping with the minimalistic new look) and Kappa logo the only obvious features.
Italy had endured a disappointing World Cup 98, failing to progress past the quarter-final stage after being knocked out on penalties by eventual-winners France (elimination from the last eight actually constitutes failure for some countries apparently).
The three-time World Cup winners had endured 18 years without success at a major tournament and they were in need of a transformation; their new kit laid the foundations of that change.
The deep, royal blue that had become synonymous with the national team was exchanged for a lighter more vibrant shade, with the loose collar ditched for a more fitted and stylish look.
One massively notable absence of the new design was the trio of stars representing each of Italy’s World Cup wins. No longer proudly emblazoned on the country’s crest as a constant reminder of their past glories, the stars were relocated to the jersey’s sleeve.
Again, this may seem like only a minor change, but this represented so much more. After their disappointment two years prior in France and 18 years without major tournament success, it was time for the Dino Zoff’s men to stop living off the achievements of those who had worn the shirt before them.
This was their era, their time to shine and only they could influence their destiny.
The bold move very nearly worked, with Zoff’s side reaching the final, only to again be thwarted by the French after David Trezeguet’s golden goal winner.
It may seem ludicrous to attribute a country’s upward trajectory to their kit, however, while the Kappa design was seen as a symbolic changing of the ways, there was also genuine ‘science’ behind the change.
The shirt embodied Calcio, with practicality at the forefront of the kit manufacturer’s mind and style effortlessly following suit.
The close-fit wouldn’t allow for shirt pulling in the box, while the Italian’s continued to adopt their rigorous man marking system, giving them the edge over their opponents.
It didn’t take long for the plan to come to fruition, with Francesco Totti stealing a yard on Belgium defender Nico Van Kerckhoven from a set piece to head his side into the lead in their second group game.
Numerous clubs have replicated the look since, with Serie A giants Roma and Napoli, as well as Tottenham all sporting very similar designs. Meanwhile, fellow kit manufacturers such as Puma have also leant heavily on the model.
At first glance you may ask yourself just why this kit is so iconic. It’s not particularly busy in terms of design, it wasn’t the uniform of a team that lifted major silverware, so why is it so brilliant?
In truth, the Kombat design and the Italian national team were perfect for each other. With their effortless strut, toned physiques and flowing dark locks (takes deep breath and regains composure), the kit just worked.
Goodness knows the sights we would have seen if the maverick kit designers had attempted to tackle the England national team’s jersey, as thousands of middle-aged, rotund and slightly-sunburnt men embarked on a summer trip to Belgium and the Netherlands (takes further deep breath - though for very different reason), wearing skin-tight white shirts.
The kit just works. It’s iconic and it represents a changing of the guard from those 90s monstrosities, as the Italians yet again paved the way for the rest of the world in the fashion stakes.
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