International teams started wearing the logos of their kit suppliers around the mid-70s. Umbro and Adidas have been around since the very start, when they began manufacturing kits for the German national team. Some brands like Admiral and Le Coq Sportif have faded away, while others have come through in their place.
After moving into apparel design in the1990s Nike has gained a foothold amongst UEFA national teams, and even though Puma was a bargain basement brand in the 80s and 90s it has leapt back to take over nearly all of central Europe like a carefully-planned game of Risk!
With the help of our nifty map we’ll talk you through the brands that reign in Europe, and don’t worry if your national side doesn’t make it onto the map, as we’ll talk about you as we go.
|Football Team||Kit Supplier|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Adidas|
Adidas: A Fraternal Feud
The German brand supplies the kits for more UEFA nations than any other: 24 of the 57 wear the brand with the three stripes.
Adidas and Puma actually come from the same family. Adolf “Adi” and Rudi Dassler were a partnership that started out making sports shoes in their parents’ basement after the First World War.
Things took off in the 20s, and In a piece of marketing genius, Adolf Dassler drove to Berlin from his factory in 1936 and got Jesse Owens to wear running spikes made at his factory. Owens famously won four golds in front of Hitler, and as a footnote became the first African American athlete with a sponsorship deal.
After Owens’ triumph the brand grew quickly, but during the war Adolph and Rudi fell out and would never speak again. There are even rumours Adolph denounced Rudi as an SS officer to the Americans.
The business broke up in 1949: Adi Dassler founded Adidas, while Rudi created Ruda, which would later be re-branded as Puma.
Did you know that the first ever piece of apparel that the brand designed for general sale was the tracksuit, “Der Kaiser” in 1967? And if you’re acquainted with the football pantheon, you’ll be aware that the tracksuit could only have been made for one man, Franz Beckenbauer.
This opened up a totally new business for Adidas, and it was only after this that the brand introduced its trefoil logo, as a way of stopping counterfeiters.
Their Telstar football was another innovation, introduced for the Mexico World Cup in 1970. You’ll know the ball from its pentagons in black and white. Before this most balls had been one colour, red, orange or brown.
But Fifa needed a new design that would show up easily on black and white TV screens, and the Telstar was the outcome. The name “Telstar” is a big of a giveaway once you know why it was made.
For fans of a certain age it’s the template for how all footballs should look.
World Cup 1974
By the early 70s football teams were wearing shirts designed by Adi Dassler, now in his 70s. Both the Netherlands and Germany were wearing the three stripes on their sleeves at the competition.
In the more than 40 years since, Germany has never had a different kit manufacturer. They’ve had some great ones, like their strip at the Euros in 1988 and a couple of horrors, most famously the garish design for USA 1994.
Andorra has had their kit made by Adidas since 2008. And if you’ve ever wondered about their colours: It’s a combination of the French and Spanish flags. The red and yellow are the exact same shades as on the French tricolor, and the yellow is the same as from the Flag of Spain.
One of UEFA’s easternmost national sides, Armenia has been associated with Adidas for over four years. After using all of the colours in their tricolor flag, they’ve recently adopted a plain red shirt.
Red is loaded with meaning for Armenia as it signifies the 1.5 million people killed in the Armenian Genocide between 1915 and 1923, and more historically the nation’s rugged highlands and its ancient adherence to the Christian faith.
After decades wearing various shades of blue, Cyprus debuted a new white kit to kick off 2018 qualification in a home defeat to Belgium. The shirt has a single grey stripe around the chest, but hasn’t brought them much luck so far as they’ve lost their first three qualifiers.
Domestic Cypriot teams do punch above their weight on the the European stage, most famously when APOEL hit the quarters of the Champions League in 2012. But despite some close class recently, they’re yet to make an international tournament,
The Caucasian nation switched back to Adidas in 2014 towards the end of Temur Ketsbaia’s short spell as coach. The colours have always been the same, and come from the St. George’s Cross.
Now coached by the Slovakian Vladimír Weiss, father of the winger of the same name, Georgia play in white shirts with red shorts and socks for their home fixtures, and the opposite when they travel. They’ve landed a nightmare group for 2018, but did hold Wales to a surprise draw in Cardiff in October.
Like Georgia’s colours, Israel’s are rooted in history and draw only from their national flag. Right now the home shirt is all white with a blue trim in the form of Adidas’ iconic three stripes.
Then it’s the reverse for away matches or colour clashes. The blue is a dark sky blue, which is from the Star of David. This resembles the “tekhelet” dye used by the ancient Israelites.
Like all the nations we’ve visited so far, Kazakhstan are yet to reach a major international tournament. They’re also the easternmost team in UEFA: So far east in fact, that the eastern boundary is on the same longitude as Nepal.
Their light blue and gold colours come straight from the national flag. The light blue dates to the pre-Soviet Khanate and symbolises the unity of the various ethnic groups that make up the population (among them, Uzbeks, Tatars, Uyghurs and Kazakhs).
The gold represents the sun, as well as a the Steppe Eagle that you can see in the crest on their shirts.
Here’s one small team that does have a pedigree of reaching major finals. The Green and White army made the World Cup in ‘82 and ‘86 (when Adidas also designed their shirts), and we all know that they were in France last summer.
What you may not know is that their kit was a big talking point. Northern Ireland have never had as much blue on their shirt as they do now, and this riled a lot of fans, enough to launch a petition against it after the launch last year.
This blue comes from the crest of the football association, but doesn’t appear on the national flag, while the kit has always been some combination of green and white.
In October 2016 Russia fell to their lowest ever Fifa ranking, at 53, which is some drop when you consider their efforts at Euro 2008. Throughout these eight years they’ve been wearing an Adidas kit, but the colours seem to change by the year.
Since the end of the Soviet Union the shirt has mainly been based on the national tricolour flag: red, white and blue, with many different variations on these coloure.
But in the last few years we’ve seen them introduce a burgundy home kit, a shade that has strong associations with eastern orthodoxy.
Under Adidas Scotland have continued to integrate a tartan pattern in their kits. The blue is from the Saltire, connected to St. Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint. This is a dark navy tone, and the reason it’s this shade is because, historically, dark navy blue wouldn’t fade so easily when exposed to the sun.
And in 2016 Adidas has also launched an unusual change kit. The new pink rosebery strip harks back to Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery. They were his racing colours, and were worn by the national team on and off from the 19th century to the 1950s.
They’ve been readopted as a tribute to Archibald Primrose, a former British Prime Minister who was also an important figure in Scottish football.
La Roja has one of Europe’s longest relationships with Adidas, having used the brand for most of the last 34 years since it was introduced for the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
Apart from during the Spanish Civil War the national team has always played in red, with yellow appearing as trim or narrow stripes. At different times, like when they won the Euros in 2008, they’ve also played with navy blue shorts.
After their impressive run to the semifinals at Euro 2016, things have never been better for The Dragons. After going through seven different brands since 1974 they’ve settled once more with Adidas.
There’s no mystery about where the red in their shirts comes from: The red dragon as a Welsh emblem could go right back to Roman times.
Did you know that the players hate their grey and charcoal second kit, as they believe it is unlucky. They lost to England with it in the summer and then went as far as to negotiating with Portugal about changing strips before their exit in the Euros.
Admiral: A Blast from the Past
Football fans of a certain age will get all misty-eyed when they remember this British brand, which was everywhere in the 70s and early-80s. You could even say it was Britain’s version of Adidas, as there was no replica kit market in the country until the Leicester-based textile company started making kits for Leeds United in the 1973-74 season.
Within months they were supplying shirts for the English football association, and was quickly adopted by Wales, Belgium and a catalogue of domestic teams like Manchester United, Partizan Belgrade, Malmö, Spurs, West Ham and Southampton.
Things started to go awry in the 80s, when Admiral started losing out to Umbro and Adidas. You can see why: When a newer version of the Admiral England kit was launched in 1980, it was the first one unveiled in the six years since winning the contract.
Crazy when you remember that most sides now update their kits every two years at most. By the 90s Admiral was nowhere to be seen in football, apart from at a handful of club sides, and was more visible in Cricket.
Who Wears Admiral These Days?
Admiral is seriously big in the Caribbean. Aruba, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and more all have their kits made by the English brand.
But in Europe the only side with Admiral on their shirts is one of the newest Fifa members, Gibraltar. The British Overseas Territory plays with red a home shirt, taken from their flag. The coat of arms forms a crest on the right side of the chest, and this dates all the way back to 1502.
Gibraltar will never have big expectations, but might be capable of surprising some unsuspecting mid-level sides at home. Many of the Lincoln Red Imps players that won the home leg of their Champions League Qualifier against Celtic in July are in the squad.
Erreà: Back with a Bang
Founded around the time Admiral were fading from view, Erreà is an Italian apparel brand that seems to come and go every few years.
In the 1990s they hit the Premier League with Middlesbrough, back in the days of Juninho and Emerson. Then they made a short-lived comeback with Norwich City in 2013, who had just won promotion to the top flight.
But if the Parma-based brand was struggling for visibility up to 2016 it hit the jackpot at the Euros, when Iceland reached the quarters with their kit, capturing the world's imagination in the process.
The blue, white and red in their shirt all have straightforward origins. The national flag was unveiled in 1897: Blue is for the sea, white is for the snow and red symbolises the abundant volcanic activity on the island.
Givova: Italian Upstarts
The newest brand on our map was founded in Italy in 2008, and makes the shirts for a raft of teams around the world that, to put it diplomatically, you might not be aware of.
To give you an idea of the level we’re talking about, some of the most high-profile club sides are Iraklis in the Greek Superleague, KF Ferizaj, who play in the Kosovar Superliga and Bnei Sakhnin FC in the Israeli Premier League.
But by far the most recognised are Chievo in the Serie A, who have worn Givova shirts since 2009 and have a contract up to 2017.
The only national team in the world with Givova on their shirts is Malta, who signed on the dotted line with the brand back in 2010.
Michael Mifsud and his teammates wear a “warm red” home shirt, the same tone as the Maltese flag, which has its roots in the 12th Century and the Knights of Malta. The away kit is the exact reverse of the home, with a white shirt and red shorts.
As Mifsud, who had a decent career in the English leagues, nears his retirement Malta have had a hard time making a dent against the big European sides. Right now they’re as low as they’ve ever been on the Fifa ranking, at 178.
Hummel: A Danish Import
If you always assumed that Hummel was a Danish brand, since they’re the only national side that ever seems to wear it, you’d be wrong.
The company was actually founded in Germany in the 1920s, and it wasn’t until the mid-70s that it was absorbed by its Danish importer and its HQ moved to the city of Aarhus.
And the classic chevron logo also might have a surprising origin if you don’t know the ins and outs of the manufacturer, or your German vocabulary. “Hummel” means bumblebee in German, and the lines are actually the pattern of a bee’s abdomen. You learn something new every day!
Hummel is one of those kit-makers that has occasionally appeared on one or two shirts in every league, but is making a bit of a comeback.
Nearly all the main Danish Superliga sides have ties with the brand, as do SC Freiburg, now back in the Bundesliga and Deportivo Alaves, who just made a return to La Liga.
Denmark: Back Where They Belong
And after a 12-year absence, Denmark has signed a new contract with the manufacturer after opting for Adidas in 2004.
You wonder why they ever left, when all of the best moments in Danish football came with Hummel’s chevron on their sleeves. Think of Danish Dynamite in 1986 or their triumph at the Euros in 1992.
One side that has stayed loyal to Hummel all this time is Lithuania. Their kit combines the national colours of yellow, green and red, which appear in the nation’s tricolour flag.
This dates to 1922, a few years after the country declared independence in the First World War, but the colours have historic links to Lithuanian folk art.
Jako: Watery Beginnings
This German brand was started in a garage in a suburb of the town of Mulfingen, in the southwest of the country. And if you’re curious about the name, it’s a kind of portmanteau of the Jagst and Kocher Rivers.
And the reason? When the brand was founded by Rudi Sprügel in 1989 it was with the purpose of supplying kits for football teams based between the Jagst and the Kocher, both of which are tributaries of the Neckar. Fair to say Rudi set his sights small at first.
But Jako made their biggest coup to date when they sealed a deal with Bayer Leverkusen at the start of this season. The Bundesliga side are easily the largest side to wear one of their shirts to date.
Before this season you could see the brand a lot in the Belgian First Division A, at Kortrijk, and occasionally in the Bundesliga with Hannover, Darmstadt and Eintracht Frankfurt in the last few years.
Macedonia and Moldova
A Jako shirt has yet to appear at an international championship, as it is currently worn by two of UEFA’s younger nations when it comes to football.
The Macedonia kit incorporates the national flag’s distinctive sun design, with rays emanating from the top right-hand corner. Moldova’s bears all of the national colours, with a blue shirt, yellow shorts and red socks.
These shades are exactly the same as Romania’s, and were adopted in 1990 in recognition of the close historic ties between the states.
Joma: Spanish Staple
This manufacturer has been based in the Province of Toledo, south of Madrid, since 1968. It is strictly about the nitty-gritty of sport, so only designs technical items for sport, be it tennis shoes, football boots, athletics gear or football shirts.
The brand is just behind Nike and Adidas in the sportswear stakes in Spain, and right now a fifth of La Liga sides have a kit made by Joma. That’s Granada, Villarreal, Leganés and Espanyol, but also now in the Premier League with Swansea.
They supply kits to teams in more than 70 nations, and have a serious presence in eastern Europe.
Bulgaria and Romania
Which leads us to their two UEFA representatives. Bulgaria switched to Joma in 2015 and retained their typical colours of a white shirt with a green trim and green shorts.
We haven’t seen Bulgaria on a big international stage since the days of Stoichkov, while the national colours of white, green and red have been largely the same since it was liberated from the Ottoman Empire in the 1870s.
Joma has also made kits for Romania since 2015, and the kit as the same as ever, with yellow the predominant colour “justice”, as well as blue “liberty” and blood red “fraternity”.
Kelme: 90s Throwback
If the 70s in England belonged to Admiral, the 90s in Spain were all about Kelme. During this decade they were the official apparel for the Spanish Olympic team at Barcelona in 1992, and even produced the kits for Real Madrid from 1994 to 1998.
These days they’ve moved away from apparel and are now mostly about shows, and that’s mostly specialised footwear for cycling, tennis and athletics.
But apart from Greenland–yes, there is a Greenland national team, even if they’re not recognised by Fifa!–Kelme provides the gear for only one national side. And that one is also the youngest in the UEFA zone, as Kosovo only became an official member in May of this year
Before this “partially-recognised nation” declared independence it wore red and black, which are colours shared with Albania. But these have been replaced by a blue flag and gold shorts, which appear on the flag that was first presented in 2008.
Legea: Big in North Korea
This Italian sportswear company is based out of Pompei and has extended its reach to places you might think would be “lost” to an international firm. Legea provides the kits for Pyongyang City, Sobaeksu and April 25 in the DPR Korea League, and also made the shirts for North Korea at the 2010 World Cup.
Mostly the brand has ties with amateur football clubs in Italy, but in the last few years has signed a few deals with top flight sides in Bulgaria and Cyprus like CSKA Sofia and Aris Limassol.
On the national stage, Legea has been linked with Montenegro since it formed a national team in 2008. The kit is all red with gold trim, exactly the same as the flag, which was officially adopted in 2004.
Macron: Custom Designs
Another Italian apparel company, Macron has been around since 1971, but has only been involved in football kits since 2001. They’ve picked up some fairly big names in that time and have drawn some admiring glances for their personalised kits.
Right now Stoke City and Crystal Palace have Macron kits, as do Aston Villa, Bolton, Millwall and Leeds United. Even bigger names on the continent include Feyenoord, Sporting Lisbon and Real Betis. While in Italy Cagliari, Bologna and Catania all wear the name on their shirts.
But if you’ve watched Serie A in the last few years you’ll surely have noticed Lazio’s unique jerseys, and these are the work of Macron too.
Italy’s Adriatic neighbours, Albania first wore Macron shirts at Euro 2016. As with Lazio, it could be the beginning of a fruitful partnership.
The word is that Macron took the time to create a personalised shirt for the Red and Blacks, which is something that Adidas had refused to do for “smaller” European nations. Macron’s design includes stylised elements of the black eagle that you see on their national flag.
Nike: The Other Big Player
It’s hard to imagine now, but in the early-90s Nike was nowhere to be seen in football, apart from on the turf. Many players wore the boots from the 80s onwards, but apart from a brief spell with Sunderland in 1982 no team wore their shirts.
That all changed in 1994, when Italy as well as the club teams Arsenal, PSG and Borussia Dortmund all started donning the swoosh design.
Not long after, Brazil was signed up when they were at the height of their powers in 1996, and that was Nike’s way into the football apparel market.
The now easily recognisable red and white chequy comes from Croatia’s coat of arms, which was only adopted in 1990 but had been a symbol for the Kingdom of Croatia as early as 1495.
Every kit that Croatia have had, since their first in 1990, has showcased this pattern in some way. In the late-90s, and the days of Davor Šuker, the pattern was moved to one side, but has recently taken over most of the shirt.
The blue that you can see, either as trim, piping, or in the socks, relates to the flags of Slavonia and Dalmatia.
After decades with English supplier Umbro, England signed a five-year deal with Nike in 2013. They’ve continued the trend towards simplicity, doing away with the noisy blue and white motifs and large crests of the 90s and 00s.
The Three Lions are no closer to a making an impact at tournaments with Nike, having arguably performed worse than ever at the World Cup in 2014 and the Euros this year. All this despite Nike having designed “England’s fastest ever kit”.
In 2010 France broke off a 28-year relationship with Adidas, during which time they played in some of the most iconic kits of all time, to join forces with their biggest rivals. Whatever their maker, Les Blues have always worn some combination of the nation’s Tricolore.
Some will tell you that these mean liberté (blue), égalité (white) and fraternité (red), but apparently white was the traditional royal colour and red and white represent Paris.
The “aeroswift” technology that failed England served France a little better on home turf in the summer, but couldn’t prevent defeat in the final at the Stade de France.
Nike hooked up with the Netherlands at the same time as Brazil in 1996, back when they had what was possibly the most exciting collection of young talent in world football.
The trim, collars and material may have changed down the years, but one thing that will always remain is their orange colour.
And, since the flag is red, white and blue, you may have wondered where the orange comes from. Well, it’s the colour of the Dutch royal family, which is the House of Orange-Nassau. And they’re held in high-regard for spearheading the Dutch Revolt against Spain in the 16th-century, resulting in an independent Dutch state.
The new European champions have also had a long association with Nike, dating to 1997. After many years of threatening, but never quite going all the way Portugal played pragmatic football and eased their way into last summer’s tournament, hitting their peak just in time for the final stages.
As for their colours, like many nations Portugal ascribed values retrospectively to their traditional red and green in the days of the authoritarian Estado Novo dictatorship. Green meant the hope of the portuguese people, while red stood for the blood of the people killed fighting for Portugal.
But the colours are historic and were present in 1640 when Portugal regained independence from Spain.
Puma: Rudi’s Side of the Story
We’ve had to wait a long time to find out what Das got up to after falling out with Adi after the Second World War. He founded Puma in 1948, having previously toyed with “Ruda” (Rudolf Dassler), and you can see how that name didn’t catch on.
The amusing thing is that to get away from Adi Dassler, Rudi didn’t move to a different town. But instead both stayed in the relatively small Herzogenaurach in Bavaria: He just moved to the opposite bank of the Aurach River.
To this day these two massive multinational corporations have their headquarters in a modest town of 23,000.
Back from Obscurity
Unlike Adidas, which has gone from strength to strength, Puma has had to go away and come back stronger. And since Rudi, like Adi, was first of all a shoemaker, the company speciality had always been footwear.
Even when the brand became obscure in the 90s the Puma King remained one of the best-selling boots in the market, famous for that white tongue.
But now it’s back in the big time, visible on the international stage with Italy since 2004. On the domestic front, Puma sealed a record-breaking deal with Arsenal and also started sponsoring Borussia Dortmund in 2012.
Puma clearly holds sway in Central Europe, like a modern day Habsburg Empire. We don’t need to talk about the historic links between Austria and Germany, as played out on the pitch in the Disgrace of Gijón in 1982.
But in 2004 the coach Hans Krankl felt Austria were too similar to their northern neighbours. So after always playing in a white shirt and black shorts, Austria switched to their blood red hue from their flag.
This is said to date to the 13th-century, when Leopold V, Duke of Austria removed his battle gear after the Siege of Acre to find his white shirt covered in blood, except for a white band where his belt had been.
After rotating through Kappa, Nike and Diadora, Italy settled with Puma in 2004 and have remained with them ever since.
Like the Netherlands, they play in a colour that doesn’t appear on their flag, and just like the Netherlands this is because it is the colour of a historic ruling family.
Azure blue is the colour of Savoia, the house in power from 1861 to 1946. The green, white and red tricolour is actually pretty recent, adopted in 1946 for the foundation of the Italian Republic, even if the colours have appeared on the flag of the Cispadane Republic as early as 1797.
During their draw against France at Euro 2016 Switzerland had a few “costume malfunctions” with their Puma shirts, as every time an opposition player grabbed a handful it created massive tears. This was put down to a faulty batch, though Xherdan Shaqiri quipped, “I hope Puma does not produce condoms”.
The exact origin of Switzerland’s white cross on a red field is disputed, and may go back to the 3rd century, but the colours have definitely been used since at least medieval times. The combined troops of the Old Swiss Confederacy carried the banner at the Battle of Laupen in 1339.
The only colours that appear on either Switzerland's home or away strip are red and white.
Umbro: Fading Force
If there’s one brand that’s suffered from the dominance of Adidas and Nike it’s the British manufacturer Umbro. First, the name: It’s kind of a portmanteau, as its elements are taken from Humphrey Brothers Clothing, and the company was founded in Manchester in 1924.
Cast your mind back to the World Cup in 1994 and a raft of teams wore the Umbro logo on their shirts. Umbro seemed to have a monopoly on South American teams especially, with Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Bolivia all wearing Umbro.
England had a 30-year partnership with Umbro, which ended just recently, and now only ten international teams in the world have shirts supplied by the manufacturer.
Although their logo wasn’t on the shirts in the early days, Umbro has been providing kits for football teams since 1934. In 1958 Brazil won the World Cup wearing Umbro, and when England lifted the trophy in 1966 they also had Umbro apparel.
But since being everywhere in the 90s Umbro has lost ground, and is only worn by a handful of top flight teams around the world, and three UEFA international sides, which we’ll list below.
After two decades wearing white, or white and blue stripes, the Milli recently opted for an all red home strip and all blue away, with only traces of blue on the home kit and red on the away.
On the Azerbaijani flag, the red means “progress”, while the blue represents the country’s Turkic people.
After being viewed as a team just above the minnows like Andorra and Malta, Azerbaijan have made their best ever start to a qualifying campaign, winning two and drawing one, beating Norway at home.
The Boys in Green have been with Umbro since 1994, and that won’t change anytime soon as they’ve just signed a contract up to 2020.
Ireland have never dabbled with any colour apart from green, although the exact shade has differed down the years. Green has been a Gaelic colour for centuries and carries a wealth of meaning, from republicanism and revolution to simply the colour of the Ireland’s landscape, known as the Emerald Isle.
In 2016, for the first time since Serbia and Montenegro became separate teams, Serbia have adopted an all red kit, with a red shirt, red shorts and red socks. This hasn’t been to everyone’s taste, as many purists would say they should play in red, blue and white, the colours of their flag.
Red and blue go back a long way in Serbia, to at least the time of King Vladislav in the 13th century. As for the World Cup 2018, the Eagles have got off to a good start, beating group favourites Austria and going unbeaten in their first three fixtures.
So That’s the Whole Kit and Caboodle!
We’ve trawled through the UEFA zone so you don’t have to, and explained some of the history behind the kit suppliers and the strips that the national teams wear.
Do you prefer the simplicity of, say Nike and Umbro’s kits, or the boldness and sense of identity created by Macron and Adidas’ custom designs.