The shirts of Euro 2012

posted on May 31st, 2012 by Anthony

So the European Championships kick off in just over a week. Not only does this provide a feast of football, but it also – possibly more importantly – means that there are 32 new football shirts to ponder over.

It would be rude not to jot down a few thoughts.

I’m going to nick Cole’s idea and break down the shirts into the real groups the team will be competing in. I’ll pit them against each other to come up with a ‘winner’ and I’ll witter on about their relative design merits (or not) along the way.

Group A

Czech Republic

Czech Republic Euro 2012 shirts

As discussed in my posts last year Puma really nailed the whole template thing, they really use them well. That diagonal shoulder panel on the home shirt has been a feature of Puma shirts for a couple of seasons now. This one also has the addition of the blue demi(?) stripe which adds a bit of interest. I do like the modern take of the badge.

Overall it’s a decent looking shirt. I’m not a massive fan of the different shade/textured panel, which puts me off a bit. However it may look less harsh in different lighting conditions.

The away shirt I really do like. If you have ever bothered to read my previous shirt musings then you’ll know I like a classic, plain white shirt. It’s difficult to pull off and the blue cuffs and red collar piping work brilliantly in contrasting the white here. All topped off with a very good use of the badge and Puma logo it’s a really nice away shirt.

A solid entrant from the land of Berger.

Greece

Greece Euro 2012 shirts

Adidas seem to have a number of different levels of design teams. Some are competent, some are even pretty good. Most, however, produce work that is tired and mediocre. They seem to have been kept in dark, sealed rooms and have not been able to see the evolution in design that other makers have made in leaps and bounds.

These shirts are from one of those teams. They aren’t bad, but they could have been released at any time over the last decade or so. The home shirt is the worst offender. It suffers from the usual Adidas trait of having too may fussy flicks and flashes. The inclusion of the flag into the shirt is admirable, but the gradient effect somewhat ruins it.

The muted monochrome palette of the away shirt hides a lot of the fussiness, and it’s all the better for it.

Poland

Poland Euro 2012 shirts

A third team, a third manufacturer. Nike have moved up a gear recently. They seem to have taken up a lot cues from their sister (OK wholly owned subsidiary) company Umbro by embracing elegance, simplicity and quality.

This Poland shirt has bit of a story. You might notice that things are a little congested on the shirt. As joint hosts of the tournament the Polish FA had a new badge commissioned. That’s that squiggly thing on the right. There was a massive launch, the shirt looked great.

Quite rightly the fans were outraged that their proud eagle badge had been dropped. There was a lot fuss, the FA relented and allowed the classic eagle to return. Alas the squiggle also had to stay.

Classic design by committee.

So what were really classy, subtle shirts became somewhat cluttered shadows of their intended selves. A shame really. It looked a lot better before.

Russia

Russia Euro 2012 shirts

Back with Adidas again to round out the group.

One of the main issues I have with Adidas is not really their fault. It’s those sleeve badges that are integral to modern football. They really cock up the 3 Stripes on the shoulder, especially on the replica shirts that rarely have the badges stuck on. It leaves things looking a bit unfinished. Ending where they do in the middle of nowhere. It might be better to finish them sqaurely at the top of the shoulder like they did back in the late 80s.

Anyway the Russia shirts… better than the Greek’s. I am generally all in favour of diagonal sashes, but these are a bit half hearted for my liking. They’re also a bit detached form the shirt somehow by the way they are cut off by the shirt panels. It also unbalances all the other elements of the shirt by forcing the Adidas logo central.

Like the Greek shirts they also somehow lack most elements of contemporary shirt design.

Results

Winners: Czech Republic
Runners up: Poland
Russia
Greece

The Czech away shirt just pulls out the win over a feted effort from Poland. Had the Polish shirts retained their intended original balance and logo density they would have been clear winners.

Group B

Germany

Germany Euro 2012 shirts

Some of my favourite ever shirts have been German national efforts, so I’m always interested to see what they will be running out in.

The Germans obviously receive the services of the higher echelons of Adidas design team ranks.

The home shirt suffers again from being a little over fussy. The panels, the collar, the cut are all still a bit… old fashioned. It still suffers from Adidas’ urge to do ‘something’ with the design. However this shirt come out far better than most. I’m not 100% sold on the diagonal pin stripes, but I don’t hate them, there’s a nice idea in there somewhere. The rest of the shirt is well balanced and the all black adornments work really well. They were quite close to producing a brilliant shirt.

I really like the away shirt. The return to green is most welcome. The subtle two tone hooping works well. They have totally toned down all of their fussiness. It has fairly contemporary collars and cuffs, and seems to be cut much more like a shirt from this decade. It has definitely come from one of their better design teams.

It’s a really good shirt that has lovely retro charm to match a contemporary feel.

Netherlands

Netherlands Euro 2012 shirts

I’m really torn with these shirts.

The home shirt is classic Holland. Bold, orange, simple, black contrasting features. Really good.

However… those different shade/texture quarters really niggle at me. As much as I’ve tried, I just can’t really warm to them. They just don’t work for me. If they had just been more horizontal, or closer together… maybe. I don’t know, they just feel unnecessary and a bit contrived. (Note: See the update at the end)

I like it, but I don’t love it.

Then there is the away shirt. Black is what the referee wears. (Oh I’m fully aware that that is definitely not the case these days, but I’m still uncomfortable with teams wearing it.) I like the idea of the shirt, I like the little flash of orange, and the generally reversed scheme of the home shirt. I just wish it wasn’t black.

The final straw is that odd gaffer tape looking stuff that borders the orange. It takes a lot of the shine off for me, and there wasn’t a lot left to take in the first place.

I’m just not sure.

UPDATE: As I’m writing this I have just realised why the spacing and shape of those shaded quarters of the home shirt are like they are – it is to make a feature of the number on the front of the shirts that players have to wear during the tournament. This makes the shirt look more complete, and gives this element more purpose. For that I praise the Nike designers. My decisions, however, still stand because you don’t get numbers on the front when you’re playing 5-a-side with your mates.

Denmark

Denmark Euro 2012 shirts

Already in this post I have spent a lot of time not being very kind to the Adidas designers. Despite some of the same issues with the general cut and look of the shirts I find myself liking these.

The home shirt especially ticks a lot of the boxes for me. The muted shade of red is great. The overall design conjures up memories of the classic 92 shirt that saw them win the tournament. It isn’t overly fussy. The white shoulder panel works well and also helps finish the shoulder stripes in a much nicer, more satisfactory way. It’s not perfect, it looks more like a Tennis top than a football shirt, but I can honestly say I really quite like it.

The away shirt is bland, and they couldn’t help themselves with the silly little triangles coming out of the collar, but it’s inoffensive and workman like, it does the job.

Portugal

Portugal Euro 2012 shirts

Rounding off this Nike Vs Adidas group we have Portugal and a fairly standard pair of Nike shirts.

As I’ve mentioned I do like a simple shirt, and the home design is certainly that. But as I keep banging on, simple is hard. This doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. It’s also quite hard to put my finger on why. The elements are there, it just maybe lacks that little bit of attention to detail that you really need to make a simple design shine. Its hard to fault… and hard to love.

Again the away shirt has a lot of elements I like in a shirt. I have 2008 Inter shirt that features a massive St George style cross in this stye that I really like, but this cross tries just a little too hard for my liking. There are a couple of features too many. Again I don’t hate it, but it’s not a classic.

They are both, however, modern shirts that look very much from this decade.

Results

Winner: Germany (!)
Runner up: Denmark (!!)
Holland
Portugal

Well that surprised me as much as anybody I think.

Such a tough group of good, but not great shirts. In the end it came down to this – which two shirts would I buy if I had to choose from this group.

The answer would be Germany away, and Denmark home. I’m not sure why. Holland are very unlucky not to be progressing. I can only apologise to Nike, you work is technically superior, but those two shirts have something about them I just can’t ignore.

Group C

Croatia

Croatia Euro 2012 shirts

One of the most unique and striking shirts in world football. It’s hard not to like those red and white cheques. The 2012 shirt is great effort that doesn’t stray from tradition. The small cheques on the sleeve work well and bring a nice bit of variation. There isn’t too much fussiness to get in the way.

One thing had puzzled me about the design – namely that I have seen two versions of it. The one above with a blank panel, and one where the cheques are complete. After a bit of investigation I have found that official shirts being worn by the players in the tournament have that gap to allow a number to be clearly displayed on the front of the shirt. (this also led to the update on the Holland home shirt).

As it happens I kind of prefer this one to the ‘proper’ completed cheque shirt. It actually adds something to the design. It’s a pretty great shirt all told, in either form.

I’m not quite so enamoured with the away shirt. The cheques always get included, but they feel a bit shoehorned here. It’s not awful, but it feels a bit neglected in comparison to the more well thought out home shirt.

Spain

Spain Euro 2012 shirts

Not shirts befitting the reigning World and European champions.

Oh you want me to elaborate.

Home shirt is classic Adidas laziness. Could be a Spain shirt from any time in the last 10-12 years.

Away shirt… Dear Lord MY EYEEEES!

Maybe that stripe thing is send the opposition goz eyed and fall over.

Italy

Italy Euro 2012 shirts

Puma’s second entrant.

The home shirt is quite refreshing as it’s quite unlike anything else around. It conjures up warm, hazy images of Paolo Rossi and Toto Schillaci. It muddies those memories a little with the over bearing pattern in the fabric weave, but the roots are there. I applaud them for that, it exudes Italianess.

The away shirt is decent shirt, but is the exact opposite of the home shirt. You could take the badge off the home shirt and still know who it was. The away shirt is like an off the peg pub team shirt. Which is a shame. That doesn’t make it a bad shirt, it’s nice, but sat next to individuality of the home design it feels like a missed opportunity.

Ireland

Ireland Euro 2012 shirts

First you will have to use your mental Photoshop to doctor out the hideous 3 sponsor logo. I don’t know why Ireland persevere with that tactic year after year. Aside from the bags of cash obviously. They won’t be wearing it like that in the tournament.

These shirts seem to divide opinion. Cole actually deemed them to be the worst shirts in the tournament. I have to disagree with that.

The shirts themselves are Umbro’s lovely collared template. Basically the England shirt from 2010. That is a great basis to build from. It’s cut beautifully, it’s made from quality material and feels great to wear. It’s not the trendsetter it was two years ago, but it has held up fairly well

The Irish home shirt doesn’t need stripes. They don’t look bad, they just aren’t needed. It cheapens the classy look somewhat.

For the away the story is quite similar. I like the single stripe. I don’t like the overly fussy gradients that cheapen the effect.

Neither are the worst shirts on show… but they have managed to throw away a lot of promise with some interesting design decisions.

Results

Winners: Croatia
Runners up: Italy
Ireland
Spain

A poor group. Croatia and Italy both have really strong home shirts, and very weak away shirts. Yet they still manage to coast through.

Eire could have been much better with only a slight adjustment here and there. Spain should have been much, much better.

Group D

France

France Euro 2012 shirts

France saw what was coming and ditched long standing partner Adidas some 18 months ago.

Nike have already provided one set of absolutely gorgeous shirts as part of their lucrative deal. These are the second offering.

There’s no difficult second kit syndrome. Here we have two more absolutely beautiful shirts.

Contemporary, classy, simple and chock full of Frenchness. Unlike other teams in the competition both home and away shirts are equally strong.

A formidable tournament favourite. I can’t pick at anything.

Sweden

Sweden Euro 2012 shirts

Umbro’s second tournament offering.

The home shirt is classic early to mid 80s Umbro retro styling. The shirt that Liverpool wore to glory at the 1984 European Cup Final in Rome. But yellow and blue. And with a collar. I like it because of that.

Umbro produced one of my favourite shirts of recent times with their Southampton shirt from a couple of season ago. That was very similar to the Swedish away shirt, just that was white with a red sash. I don’t think that it works quite so well here and I’m not sure why the Swedish crest is pushed all the way out to the shoulder like it is… but it’s OK. It just feels a bit recycled. Umbro are at their best when producing bespoke designs.

England

England Euro 2012 shirts

As I’ve mentioned may times it was that England shirt going into the World Cup that Umbro reinvigorated the football shirt designing community. I don’t think I am overstating things with that remark. They continued that trend with the second Peter Saville inspired shirt – which was too short-lived for most peoples liking – and now going into the Euros we have these shirts.

The biggest departure for the home shirt is Blue. All traces of it have been obliterated . A bold move that, as blue has been a mainstay of the England shirt since… well, forever.

It sticks firmly to Umbro’s gorgeously Tailored template. If you haven’t ever worn one of these shirts you really should. They’re a really substantial piece of clothing. The classic white is well contrasted with the all red everything else. This is to ramp up the englishness of the shirts and pay homage to St George. Overall it work well. With the red shorts that will be worn in the event of colour clashes it is even better.

The collar is… interesting.It can be turned up to reveal more red, which I like. However, I’m not sure I like the collar shape iteself all that much, and it looks even odder when turned up. It’s a nice attempt at something new though.

The away shirt is another bold move. Since 1966-and-all-that red has generally been the favoured away colour. Not this year, blue is back.

I have no problem with blue. It’s been used a few times in the past. I’m just not a fan of this particular blue. It’s a bit dark for my liking. I’d actually like to see the colours reversed, with the lighter blue in the collar being the main shade. Overall though it’s a good shirt that’s hard to find fault with other than the colour.

It will be interesting to see where Umbro go next with England. I’m wondering how long they will be brave enough to stay so minimal.

Ukraine

Ukraine Euro 2012 shirts

Here we are back with Adidas.

I can barely be bothered to repeat myself.

So I’ll just say “meh”.

I will add that at least they have tried to add some national identity to the shirt by incorporating some traditional national elements to the design.

It’s just a shame it looks horrible.

Harsh maybe, but you get the idea.

Results

Winner: France
Runner up: England
Sweden
Ukraine

An absolute romp for France. England were give a run for their money, but ultimately just edge out Sweden. Ukraine failed to trouble the scorers.

Quarter Finals

Q1: Czech Republic Vs Denmark

Not a glamour tie by any stretch.

Quite a cagey affair, with the plucky Danes giving their best with their retro tinged Adidas home effort. However the class and modernity  of the Czech’s away shirt proves just too much for them.

Winner: Czech Republic

Q2: Poland Vs Germany

If I was a tabloid hack I would be chucking in all sorts of WWII references, but I will steer well clear.

Ultimately the Poles are weighed down by the weight of their extra crest and left to rue what might have been. The class of the German away shirt was too much as they stereotypically invade the semis.

Winner: Germany

Q3: Croatia Vs England

This one heads to extra time. Both home shirts have red and white merits. It comes down to both side’s weaker away shirts, and on that basis England do just enough to hoof it into the Croatian box and earn a dodgy pen in the 118th minute.

The referee has nothing to answer for in terms of nationality. Honest.

Winner: England

Q4: Italy Vs France

On paper it looked like such a tantalising prospect. And for 20 minutes it was a fairly even match. Then the shiny elements of the Italian home shirt wore people down, and the French racked up a cricket score.

Winner: France

Semi Finals

S1: Czech Republic Vs England

Tournament football is a strange beast. I’m not sure anybody will have seen either of these teams reaching the final. But here we are, and one of them will.

There’s no doubting England have the better home shirt. There’s not doubting that the Czech posses the nicer away shirt.

It’s a tough decision. Hand on heart which would I prefer to spend money on. I would have to go with Czech Away – it’s my article, deal with it.

England lose on pens. In the semi. Again.

Winner: Croatia

S2: Germany Vs France.

More WWII references and stereotypes to avoid.

Alas the German penchant for efficiency and invasion could not be powered by a lovely away shirt alone.

French arrogance, and an uncharacteristic lack of white flags when the chips are down results in a resounding victory for Les Bleus.

Winner: France

The Final

Seriously I could have saved myself 3,000 words and just type this next sentence.

France romp home to the most clear cut victory in Euro history.

I will leave you with this photo shoot to prove the ultimate class and unadulterated Frenchness of these shirts.

Boris Diaw French Expo1

Winner: Vive La France