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Soccer (or football) is the most popular sport worldwide. Its fame has far exceeded any other sport, and over 250 million people in over 200 countries all over the world play it. Soccer uniforms have played an important role throughout the history of the sport. In this article, we explain the evolution of the soccer uniform from its beginnings to the present day.
Early versions of soccer first emerged in England in the 18th Century. Throughout soccer’s long and fabled history, the rules have changed, making the game more exciting and consequently, increasing its popularity. And with all the changes that the sport has faced, players’ equipment has evolved significantly from the early days to today’s uniforms, made with the latest technology to improve performance and comfort.
The First Uniforms
In the early days of football, players wore what they had available at the moment. As a result, members of the same team played with different outfits each. Therefore, to distinguish players of the same team from the other, they used to wear caps or bands across the chest, waist, or shoulder.
Later in 1867, the first football associations stated that players of the same team should play in the same outfit. That is why they introduced the red and blue striped uniforms. A few years later the teams were adopting colors according to the school they belonged to.
Improving the Equipment
From 1870 on, the popularity of the sport, as well as the media attention, spurred the evolution of the uniform.
In 1874, the shin guards were introduced and after that, it was the turn of the shoes. Players that used to use everyday work shoes, started to wear hard leather boots with spiked soles to prevent slipping. Later on, specially designed soles with “cleats” were adapted and quickly accepted.
Then, the purpose of the player’s equipment changed, allowing them to stay cool as well as protecting them from bodily injury.
Soccer uniforms generally consist of a jersey top (short or long-sleeved), shorts, socks, shin guards, and soccer shoes or cleats.
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20th Century Uniform
The beginning of the 20th century came with a considerable increase in the popularity of the sport. This made changes in the equipment more evident.
The numbering on the jerseys emerged around the 1930s with the purpose of differentiating the players of the same team. It was also established that the goalkeeper wore a different color from the rest of his teammates. This way, the referees could recognize him easily on the pitch.
Later on, the addition of numbers and distinguishing colors/logos were used for the first time to help fans and players alike identify each other on the field.
In the 1940s the materials of the shirts also evolved. Cotton-made jerseys changed to synthetic fibres, which were much lighter and more comfortable to play with. In the 1950s, polo necks were replaced by V-necks. Football boots also evolved and were shortened, leaving the ankle uncovered, a novel design introduced by the Adidas brand.
During the latter part of the 20th century, the jerseys of the professional football players, in addition to representing the club colors, were sponsored by various brands, such as Nike and Adidas. The jerseys soon became commercial, with teams selling replica shirts of their notable players.
The evolution of technology continues making the soccer uniform lighter and more breathable than ever, with fabrics made from blends of cotton, nylon, and polyester. From the birth of football to the present day, uniforms have evolved with time to meet their aesthetic and functional purposes.
And they will continue evolving to enhance the performance of athletes.
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