American Kit History XL

A funny look back at USA Men's National Team jerseys past
by Jeff Maurer   |   Friday, June 08, 2012

1994 USMNT denim kits

USA’s new Where’s Waldo-inspired shirts continue the long tradition of inventive US uniforms. Like an eighth-grader struggling to find his or her identity, the US has struggled with many looks (and like the eighth-grader: there was even a brief goth phase). Some of the looks were classic, but boring. Others were inventive, but ugly. A few managed to be both boring and ugly. One or two seem cool even years later. As the beginning of 2014 qualifying marks the beginning of a new era, I thought it might be a good time to look back at some of the jerseys that signified past eras of US Soccer.

Let’s start with the universally-recognized worst: the 1994 denim shirts. They weren’t actually denim, but they sure looked like denim, and I live in New Jersey so I’m pretty familiar with denim upper-body wear. Paired with the coiffed hair styles of the time, the bassist-in-a-Van-Halen-tribute-band look was complete. The shame is that the USA wore these acid-washed beauties for the first three games of the 1994 World Cup, aka the most high-profile matches the team had ever played up to that time. Apparently, the message they wanted to send to the nation was: “We’re here, and we are livin’ on a prayer. Want to go burn one in the parking lot?” Grade: F

The other half of the 1994 setup was the wavy-striped jerseys; a much better effort. These shirts were the antecedents of today’s jerseys, though they owe royalties to Sunderland instead of FC Dallas. The weird thing about this shirt is the waviness of the lines; I remember constantly looking at the TV and thinking “are those stripes wavy or do I need glasses?” (turned out the answers were “yes” and “yes”). Still, they were memorable, and not in an entirely stupid way. Grade: B

I like some of the various throwback jerseys, including this one and this one, but none of those were worn enough to really be considered as classically historical, good or bad, U.S. kits.  Grade: Incomplete

The full-time jersey that comes closest to those throwback models is the 2006 home shirt, which is the one you cried into when Onyewu was called for that penalty kick against Ghana. I like it because it’s something a bit different than the white-shirt-with-bits-of-red-and-blue-craziness model that Nike has frequently returned to over the years. Grade: A

In 2000, a Nike designer woke up, realized that he was supposed to have completed the design for the USA shirts, and hurriedly threw together this inspired number. White with blue trim...awesome. Oh, and it fits like a trash bag secured with a rubber band. You outdid yourself, you really did. Grade: C

In 2006, that same Nike designer woke up and thought “Oh man - I can’t believe I did this again! Just like 2000! Oh man - I am the world’s biggest idiot! Geez, dude, get yourself together - no more mixing liquors!” Then, after about 10 more minutes of that, he blatantly plagiarized the 1995 away shirt to make the 2006 away shirt. This shirt is Puff Daddy’s “Come With Me” to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir if Kashmir hadn’t been that good the first time. Grade: D

For some reason, in 2007 the USA played a few games wearing jammies. I believe these were full-length one-piece jobs with footies and a zipper running up the front. Grade: C-

Given this history, the current Old Glory edition looks pretty good. It also creates the possibility that US players will be given a white star to put on their blue shorts after good plays, the same way Ohio State players get a buckeye for their helmets. Hey: Donovan has 49 goals, enough for one Abe Simpson American flag! Put that plan into effect!


Georgetown Univ.
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DC United
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A comedian and avid fan who blogs about DC United for The Washington Post. He was a semifinalist on season 7 of Last Comic Standing and performs nationwide. A decent passer with a good strike from distance, but is glacially slow and has no left foot.