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The Peculiar Story of Brazil's World Cup Kits

Every team has a unique look. From Real Madrid’s royal white to Argentina’s legendary stripes, there are innumerable iconic football kits, but few are as synonymous with success and history as Brazil’s canarinho: the unmistakable vibrant yellow base with green accents.

At the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Brazil found itself torn between embracing tradition and looking ahead to the future, so officials did something unprecedented, and it just happened to coincide with the Seleção’s greatest ever generation.

Origin of an Iconic Look

The Brazilian national team originally donned white kits with blue collars, but after the Maracanaço, the cataclysmic defeat to Uruguay at the 1950 World Cup final in front of over 200 thousand stunned home fans, the outfit was deemed not patriotic enough. With that in mind, Rio-based newspaper Correio da Manhã ran a competition for supporters to mail in new designs resembling the country’s flag.

The winner of the contest was Aldyr Garcia Schlee, a 19-year-old from Pelotas in Southern Brazil. He came up with the now-legendary combination of the yellow-and-green shirt with blue-and-white shorts.

Tradition or Future?

By the time the 1970 World Cup came around, the new strip was already iconic, after the Seleção conquered the world consecutively between 1958 and 1962. But with the latest edition of football’s showpiece event on the horizon, there was some uncertainty as to who would be Brazil’s kit manufacturer.

Athleta, a local business, had been the national side’s main manufacturer since providing it with the original canarinho in 1954. But English outfitter Umbro was making waves and expanding rapidly; it had also occasionally worked with Brazil before, namely supplying the kits worn at the triumphant 1958 and 1962 tournaments. A decision had to be made: Would the South Americans support its local community or would they keep up with the latest trend? In the end, they did both.

Compromise

Brazil decided that it would wear Athleta kits in the first half of each game and then change to Umbro at halftime, with the exception of the final, where the latter was worn for the entirety of the match. The only slight difference between the two sets of outfits was that the numbers on the Umbro shirt were rounder. It was an unprecedented decision and one that surely won’t ever be repeated in today’s fiercely commercialized game.

The 1970 World Cup wasn’t just the first time that a global audience could appreciate Brazil’s kits in all their colorful brilliance; it was also when they witnessed a golden generation that played equally vibrant football and ultimately ended up lifting the enigmatic Jules Rimet Trophy.

 

Illustration by pinisantoro.

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