It’s sad but three of the uniforms I have chosen in my list of twelve of the world’s worst sporting uniforms were worn by Australian national teams. There could be any number of reasons for this. Firstly, the colours of green and gold are pretty damned difficult to do anything with. While Jamaica and Brazil, admittedly, just manage to put together national uniforms that are just wearable, Australia and South Africa (with the same colour combination to work with) between them have assembled some of the most awe-inspiringly bad uniforms that have graced the planet. Another problem could be that Australian sporting administers just have really bad taste. Sartorial knowledge and skill is not an Australian trait. However, there are plenty of other horrible uniforms here, from lots of other places, to show that bad taste is not a rare phenomenon.
Let’s start with the 1997 Wallabies. In earlier years Wallabies wore a simple gold shirt contrasted against green shorts. Pretty horrible… but bearable. Here Australia’s handsome Captain, Phil Kearns, models the new 1997 outfit. The designer thought that it would be a good idea to not only add contrasting green sleeves but also added two strange inverted triangles (one green and one white) on one side of the jersey. I just don’t get it. It’s not only ugly but it just makes no sense. The overall effect is that Phil is kind of bent over on one side… hardly an effect to put fear into the hearts of an All Black. To describe this monstrosity as “pig ugly” is a compliment.
The second outfit I have chosen is actually beyond belief. The designer was clearly having a laugh and the Colombian cycling team management just didn’t have the sense to see it. Okay. So the basic white uniform with red shoulders looks pretty good on this team of ultra-fit and athletically attractive young women but one would have to be a fool to not notice that the body-hugging lycra in flesh-coloured pink that circles the uniform from the waist to just below the groin is as dodgy as hell. Why the Colombian national cycling body wanted to send their women off to be ogled and laughed at by the bike-loving world is anyone’s guess.
While researching this article I found so many really bad soccer outfits that I had to create an extra special list of ten to cover all the amazing uniforms that really deserved a mention. However, some soccer strips were so blissfully bad that they actually had to make the main top twelve list. Firstly, I have to take my hat off to the Colorado Caribous of 1978. My guess is that this soccer shirt was designed by the same person who designed the outfits for The Village People. It was initially intended that the players were expected to team their shirt with powder blue fur spats, high heeled footy boots and a sequin-encrusted Stetson but the team sponsors ran out of uniform money. Too bad. They would have looked great.
My next pick is the USA 2012 Olympic team uniform. What was the designer thinking? Was he or she inspired by the Hitler Youth organization? Thurstin Howell III? General Patten? Or a bunch of early 1960s surfers who had just been given a good spank followed by a bath from their mums? More likely, a little bit of each. Originally this outfit had been designed for NASA astronauts to be used exclusively for extra-terrestrial flag raising ceremonies but the Olympic team liked the image and pinched the idea. “A Platoon… atten-huh! A Platoon… stand-heeeze! A Platoon… piss off!”
If anyone thinks that curling is one of the slowest and least inspiring sports in any Olympic Games programme they haven’t seen the Norwegian curling team’s uniform. These guys are seriously impressive. There is not a door person at any night club on the planet that would even allow these guys to stand in the club entry line let alone have any hope of actually getting inside. “Come back tomorrow, gents” is not something that these guys ever hear!
I Have to get back to Australia’s contributions to my list now. Despite the fact that most club netball uniforms are so bad that many kiddies have the good sense to refuse to play the game rather than wear the embarrassing eyesores that their mums want them to put on, most international netball uniforms actually make a pretty good fist of dressing their players as well as can be expected. The New Zealand, English, Scottish and Jamaican teams all look… well… okay. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our beloved Diamonds. Take a look at this monstrosity. Here we have a gold uniform interrupted with a lop sided dark green strangulating girdle nicely topped off with an ill-placed southern cross on the right of the girdle. The designer must have forgotten to embroider a sprig of wattle on the shirt and a wombat on the bum. Attaching a foam tinny cooler to the skirt might have set off the ensemble a treat as well. Oh well. Next time.
Back to soccer. Dundee united, 1953. This might have actually worked if it had been a travel rug designed for a muddy, loch-side picnic. But no. This is meant to be a soccer shirt. Striking colour combination! Grubby green. Brown. Red. Well… sort of red. Perfect to cover up those stains from spilled tomato ketchup, worcestershire sauce and haggis gravy. I can just see the Dundee boys running onto the pitch to the taunts of Celtic supporters asking them to show what they have under their kilts.
Well if the Dundee outfit is bad, this Lokomotiv Moskow one is even worse. These lime green and red outfits are so bad that they actually hurt to look at! Soccer is not only the home of terrible uniforms but it is also the proving ground for the world’s worst haircuts. The little bloke on the right is no exception. His white spikey hair is the perfect foil to the pus green uniform. Don’t tell soccer players but it is their hair cuts that make the boring lives of inner city snobby stylists bearable. Just imagine the Friday afternoon conversations around the bar where the top cutters hang out. “Did you see the cut I gave to Didier, last week? Poor bugger. I almost felt sorry for him. I must admit it wasn’t as good as the one you gave Christiano last month, though. I nearly pissed myself when I saw him. You are a genius.”
Let’s stay with soccer and take a look at the 1995 Socceroos outfit. A whole series of awful Socceroos uniforms over the last fifty years are completely outdone by this one. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that this is the team warm-up track suit… or the team jammies for international touring. Nup. This is actually the playing strip. What’s with the frikking diamonds? This shirt looks like something that was designed for a jockey but ended up in the bin when the hoop refused to wear it.
The 1970 Atlanta Hawks uniform has every principal of modernist good design thrown at it and it just demonstrates that modernism might have had its place in architecture and philosophy but as a principle of basketball uniform design it kinda makes its wearers look like weedy high rise buildings with ugly exposed down pipes. While the type face is kinda groovy, the lettering of “Hawks” on the shorts is an after-thought to remind us that these froggy-styled outfits are actually meant to represent birds. Perhaps the famous green Atlanta parrot-hawk. Maybe this Atlanta Hawks uniform was the last straw that killed off modernism in the seventies.
I hate to be mean to our neighbours from across the Tasman, especially since nearly all of their national sporting teams look fabulous dressed in basic black! Black makes sporting teams look big, powerful, sombre, serious, elegant, athletic, stylish and scary. This New Zealand 2008 Olympic Games outfit does none of those things. The model here looks like she has been booted from Hufflepuff House for incompetent use of broom stick and wand… and for wearing thongs to the dinner table. I wish I could think of something nice to say about this outfit. I can’t. I guess every designer can have a really bad day. There have been lots of bad Olympic Gamers uniforms over the years but this one is hard to beat.
Another basketball classic from the NBA that suffers from the opposite problem to the earlier Hawks one is the Milwaukee Bucks strip of 1995. By 1995 basketballers were starting to earn way more than Presidents and I reckon you would have to be offered millions of bucks (no pun intended) to be seen prancing around a sports court wearing this monstrosity. The minimalist fifties is completely abandoned with a body length portrait of a really ugly buck! A purple and a pond-slime green reindeer… with attitude. This particular buck is so non-endearing that it would frighten off Sarah Palin… which is probably the only redeeming feature of the uniform.
I am rounding off my least favourite dozen with a uniform so bad that only centuries of passion and love from die-hard supporters could forgive. The uniform of the mighty Hawthorn Hawks. Not just one particular year. Every single uniform that every Hawk ever wore. They are all diabolical. Putrid. How could generation after generation of players don the famed baby-poop yellow and adult-poop brown strip? I think I actually have the answer. I used to play for a rugby team called the Balgowlah Browns (sometimes knows as the Boozing Browns or the Brown Wombats). Our uniform was an all brown (even the collar) jersey with baby-poop yellow shorts. We knew our uniforms were awful. We actually took pride in it. As we ran on the pitch every Saturday afternoon we just knew that we would never, ever, ever, line up to shake hands with an opposition who looked worse! It was a badge of honour. We were ugly…and we loved it. Maybe the Hawks guys feel the same.