Time and again sports marketers take it too far. Nelson Smith gave us a great reminder that this ugly blight on the sports we love continues to this day, but as a collective institution soccer has a stomach churning history of displaying jerseys that need to be seen to be believed.
Searching through the archives of terrible soccer kits we’ve learned that the 1990s was not the glamorous period we fondly remember nowadays. During the boom years under the Clinton administration where Seinfeld and Friends dominated television screens and the world was treated to real bands like Metallica and Nirvana, soccer was letting itself down.
It defies belief how these designs were ever given the green light, even with the gift of hindsight. In 2015 football clubs need to release 3 new jerseys every season to boost revenue, including a home kit, away kit and a 3rd in the unlikely event both styles clash with the opposition for that weekend. This method is taking a leaf from the Apple model to keep the same customer buying a new product, very clever yet incredibly cynical.
This wasn’t really the case 20 years ago, which makes us wonder why they went to these eccentric lengths. While the game has been professional for a few decades and counting, it feels like these kits were designed by a group of blind volunteer grandmothers. We can say without doubt you will not see any member of the public wearing what you are about to witness – that is a Sportster guarantee!
So get ready to peer behind the fingers covering your eyes and have the spew bucket ready, because these are the 20 ugliest soccer jerseys that should never have seen the light of day!
20 Dundee United FC 1993 Kit
Where should you start with this monstrosity of a design? The grey and dark blue kit worn by Scottish club Dundee United in the 1993 season would have driven any supporter to madness. The obscure painting is reminiscent of a Rorschach used by psychiatrists to analyze the mental state of patients. Whoever made this decision clearly had a lot going on behind the scenes because we cannot understand how a mish-mash kit like this got through the head office.
19 Scunthorpe United 1993-94 Kit
Sometimes a lower league outfit will want to make a splash to stand out from the crowd. If only someone was there to explain to them they didn’t mean making it on a jersey! The pink kit with blue and yellow poker dots is a horrendous attempt by the lowly British club to set themselves apart, but it screams disaster. Just to rub it in for good measure, their major shirt sponsor “Pleasure Island” is plastered dead center of the top. They must have had a sense of humor.
18 TSV 1860 Munchen 150th Anniversary 2010 Kit
Retro soccer kits are all the rage nowadays. If you want to join the cult of the hipster you need a man bun, beard, vinyl record collection, coffee card and an old fashioned jersey to tell people “I was a fan BEFORE it was cool!” German club TSV 1860 Munchen (yes that is their actual name) brought out a limited edition kit in 2010 to celebrate their 150 years of existence with a blue and gold top. The design was a painted collage of previous players and all we can say about it is thank goodness these only come out every century-and-a-half.
17 Norwich City 1992-93 Kit
Seriously, what were they thinking? The English Premier League kicked off with a bang in the 1992-93 season, bringing in a wave of new stadia, television coverage and exciting foreign imports. The EPL has never looked back since, but its success is in spite of horrible kits like this from the Norfolk outfit. The team known as the Canaries ran out to play Arsenal, Manchester United and the rest of the competition with the bright yellow jersey spotted with little green figures covering it.
16 San Jose Clash 1996 Kit
Note to fashion designers – yellow, white and fluro green do not mix as colors. Former Major League Soccer franchise San Jose Clash found that out the hard way during their 1996 season. The club tried to make people forget about the whole incident by renaming and rebranding their entire set up to eventually become the San Jose Earthquakes, yet we can’t help but linger back to those days of the mid 1990s when the colors made absolutely no sense. To make matters more confusing, the white, yellow and obscure green had navy blue shorts and navy blue striped socks. Why?
15 Tottenham Hotspur 1977 Kit
Traditionally the North London club has kept things rather simple down the years. Their long history in English football has seen them present in plain white with a small blue strip down the shoulders. Then in 1977 they wanted to do something a bit different. In came the off-color yellow with blue stripes, a decision that still baffles the mind. The stripes looked like half completed suspenders and the magnitude of the fading yellow is enough to make you feel ill.
14 LA Galaxy 1996 Kit
We would be saving ourselves more time by explaining to you what colors missed out on the 1996 Galaxy kit than the ones that made it in. This black, green, yellow and red mixture is a bizarre concoction which oddly enough continues a pattern. Like the San Jose 1996 kit, it had sharp triangular edges running down the sides of the sleeves. Perhaps the creator needed some work after the Power Rangers series was winding down, but either way we’re happy the club has moved on to much bigger and better things.
13 Dundee United 1953 Kit
Oh no, they’ve done it again. Or should we say, did it before. Yes our favorite Scottish outfit Dundee United tried to break new ground with their washcloth/dinner table cover design. The top that would now be considered unworthy for purchase at a thrift shop had a smart white collar and simple logo displaying their name as an acronym ‘DFC’, yet the other 98% of the outfit is ruined by the brown, blue, red, yellow and green stripes.
12 Birmingham City 1992-93 Kit
England’s second tier can be an unforgiving environment. Players go in hell for leather and end up battered and bruised after a hard 90 minutes. So with all that being said, why on earth would Birmingham City decide to put their players through the humiliation of wearing their 1992-93 kit? To rub salt into the wounds? The plain blue jersey is “decorated” with a pattern of yellow and green spots that look like Lego blocks and makes absolutely no sense.
11 Athletic Bilbao 2004-05 Kit
Spanish football is the world of the “haves” versus the “have not’s.” Aside from Barcelona and Real Madrid, more often than not the remainder of the franchises fight off for 3rd place and the scraps left over. Basque club Athletic Bilbao have a proud history of developing players who are native to that region, so it shocked the world when they chose to wear a white kit with what appeared like a 3-dimensional drawing of various blood lines drawn in no particular order. It was a stark contrast to the straight red and white lined jersey made so famous in season past, and it only took the one season for the original to return.
10 Kansas City Wizards 1996 Kit
Home kit or away kit – it doesn’t matter so choose your poison. To give you an insight into the psyche of a jersey like this you need context. 1996 was a great time for science fiction and celebrating all things unusual. Kansas City Wizards attempted a psychedelic bright blue, dark blue, yellow, green and red wave pattern intertwined in front of a plain black top. The opposing kit did no favors, keeping the same rainbow look but changed the black to the white background. You expect something a bit more clever from a team named the Wizards.
9 La Hoya Lorca 2013 Away Kit
How on earth did it come to this? The lower league Spanish club La Hoya Lorca took advertising in soccer to a whole new level when they adopted a kit completely awash with peas! Yes, the food peas. The disgusting jersey certainly made a splash in the newspapers but their sponsor and club went too far. Considering the amount of PR and expertise in this department for 2013, this is an own goal of epic proportions!
8 Bury FC 1992-93 Kit
Small English outfit Bury had no problem clashing with anyone else’s jersey in the 1992-93 season. This shocking purple/green/silver get up is an embarrassment to the sport and a worthy recipient of being in the Top 20 list. Sponsors Macpherson had no shame putting their name smack bang center of the top which manages to cloak the club emblem. From a distance it looks as though it’s a jersey depicting static on the television with the waving “W” lines painted from side to side. Deplorable.
7 Barcelona 2012-13 Away Kit
Barcelona can play in a woolly jumper for all we care, they’ll still win titles with their scintillating play. But what possessed them to go with an orange and yellow mash up “sunset” style kit for their 2012-13 season is yet to be answered. To make matters worse, their top sponsor the “Qatar Foundation” displays all that is wrong with modern soccer, embracing the money rich oil barons at the center of the FIFA corruption scandal. For one of the wealthiest clubs in the game, this was a moment to forget for the Catalan giants.
6 VFL Bochum 1997-98 Kit
The rainbow pattern simply doesn’t work. German outfit Bochum kept up the camp tradition of bad 1990s kits for their 1997-98 campaign with this atrocious effort. The fabric combined fluro green, yellow, red and orange waves on the sleeve with dark blue, purple, white and half sky blue. The colors have no links with Bochum’s tradition and looks like it’s an edition sent out in celebration of a gay pride parade. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but we know this wasn’t the intention. It’s just a shockingly ugly kit.
5 Juventus 2011-12 Away Kit
The Old Lady Juventus have rejuvenated themselves back into being the European heavyweights from the 1990's. A season relegated after the scandal that rocked Italian football in 2006 has culminated in a Champions League Final barely months ago, yet their 3rd kit for the 2011-12 campaign left people wondering if they were taking their soccer seriously. Complete with bright pink and a black star, the Juve jersey stood out like a sore thumb and looked about as appetizing. Their success subsequent to this fashion mishap is in spite of it, not because of it.
4 England Goalkeeper 1996 Kit
David Seaman was a great of English football. A stalwart for the Arsenal defense that won trophy after trophy, it was expected that the man between the sticks with the big mustache could be a colossus and help England win their first major football trophy since World Cup 1966. None of that eventuated, instead the goalie had the humiliation of wearing what can only be described as a car crash of a jersey. The combination of bright red, purple, green and yellow has to be seen to be believed, an utter travesty of a design.
3 Mexico Goalkeeper 1994 Kit
Goalkeepers need to stand out from the crowd. In tight spaces, the man or woman with the gloves need to be able to be differentiated to avoid heavy contact in the penalty area. Fair to say Mexican keeper Campos had no problem achieving this in the 1994 World Cup. The Christmas tree on steroids styling somehow got the tick of approval and to this day remains one of the seven wonders of the world.
2 Coventry City 1970's Kit
No one should need an explanation why a brown soccer jersey is a bad idea. Former top flight English club Coventry City threw away any notion of fashion sense by adopting a pure brown jersey and shorts with double white stripes lined down the sides. Mix this in with some funky haircuts and facial hair, and this was a mess of epic proportions. Coventry quickly reverted back to their sky blue colors and haven’t been tempted by the brown since.
1 Colorado Caribous 1978 Kit
Is this a professional soccer team or a Dolly Parton tribute act? Quite frankly, there aren’t enough words created in the English language to explain how horrific the formerly named Colorado Caribous’ 1978 kit is. One feature stands out above all others for obvious reasons, creating the image that the players would prefer to be at a rodeo than on the soccer pitch. After 19 of the ugliest entries you will see in the fashion world, Colorado takes the cake for the ugliest of them all!