The first choice jersey colours of some national teams are so iconic. The Dutch and their vibrant orange kit. The Brazilians with their fun and lively yellow tops. The famous Italian blue steel. The Germans and their typically efficient, no frills white and black ensemble. The Argentines matching their flair and pizzazz with their snazzy white and blue stripes. The lush green of Nigeria (and also Ireland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia etc).
It would be easy to assume all these countries use colours from their national flags. You assume wrong. Although many of them actually do, others don’t.
Let’s start with Italy. National flag consists of green, white and red. Absolutely no sign of blue anywhere. So why do they wear blue? Blue is the colour of Savoia which was the ruling house of Italy from 1861 until 1946. Until that year, the country’s flag always had the Savoy coat of arms on it too. However after World War 2, the ruling house were kicked into touch but their colour still remains till this day.
It is a similar story with the Dutch. The colors of their national flag are red, white and blue. So why the blazingly unique orange colour associated with them? The ruling house of the Dutch dating back centuries had Orange as their thing. It was the name of the ruling house (Prince of Orange also was the original title given to the monarch) and their colour. And happily, we have their football team and fans still repping it.
Surprisingly, the typically unfussy Germans have the fussiest of history with their national team colours. Black, red and gold on the flag. Should be easy enough to design a nice first choice jersey from those, eh? Nein, why stick to those colours when your national team can wear white on black, red on white, all blue and all green? All those are colours the German machine have worn over the years.
The white on black kit is the most enduring German one though. They wear that because those were the colours of Prussia which was the biggest and most powerful German empire back in the old days. Prussia ceased to exist immediately after World War 2 but its legacy lives on.
So there we go. Some of you might wonder why the big deal about colours anyway? Just get good players to kick the round object into the space between the goalposts. Colours should be irrelevant. Bill Shankly and Alex Ferguson would disagree. Bill instigated Liverpool’s change to an all red stripe in 1964 because the legendary manager believed it would make the team look more powerful. Can’t say he was wrong. Liverpool won the league that year and followed with their first FA cup the following season.
Ferguson in 1996 forced his Man Utd players to change their grey kit at half time away to Southampton. Utd were 3 nil down and Ferguson reckoned the kit colour was making it difficult for players to spot their team mates. Man Utd had only one point from four games when they wore the grey kit. He told the players to change to blue and white.
They still lost the game anyway and that was the last we saw of the ‘invisible kits’ for 21 years. Man Utd won the league that season regardless of the Southampton defeat. Atlhough the English FA fined them 10,000 pounds for the impromptu wardrobe change, Ferguson was later quoted as saying “it was the best 10,000 pounds I ever spent”. Ha.
Much ado about colours.