Revisiting a historic era in football - the mid-eighties - football writer Harry Collins look back at one of the most iconic kits of all time. hummel's suit for Denmark in 1986.
The setting is Copenhagen, February 1986. The scene consists of an assembled group of journalists and a checkerboard floor that threatens to overshadow the imminent presentation of Denmark’s kit for the upcoming World Cup in Mexico.
The event is broadcast on the solitary Danish television channel as the nation prepares to unknowingly witness the unveiling of a football shirt that will define a generation and stand alone as the iconic symbol of Danish football’s golden age, the age of Danish Dynamite.
As Morten Olsen, Frank Arnesen and Per Frimann emerged before the cameras, the anticipation that hung over the room was transformed into a frenzied hype among the media in attendance. The trio of players modelled the strip, as they played keepie-uppie in the shirt, shorts and socks that would be christened the ‘carnival suit’ amid the media circus that consumed the launch. The nickname, though spiteful in its intensions, aided only in increasing publicity and demand for the new kit.
The flicks and tricks from the Danish internationals failed to detract from the flamboyance of the ensemble produced by hummel; a proud longstanding partner of the national team.
Article continues after the picture.
Picture of the Danish national team of 1986 by Per Kjærbye @fodboldbillederdk
The top boasted a prominent black V-neck that operated as a stable emphasis on the contrasting halves of the body of the shirt. One half consisted of red and white pinstripes, complementing the opposing half; a solid red panel of familiarity within the surrounding chaos.
The shorts reflected the pattern above them, completing a patchwork flag appearance, far removed from the traditional monotonous red worn by the Danes previously. The sleeves matched the principal design but with the pinstriped sleeve accompanying the red half and the singular colour sleeve decorating the pinstriped section of the top. The embellishment of the sleeves did not end there, as hummel stamped their brand on the project with the trademark chevrons completing the finishing dramatic touch to what is a nostalgic image for many Danes.
Martin Davis-Skøth, current team sport designer at hummel, fondly remembers the sentiment behind the iconic print: “The reason I like the jersey is exactly because it is non-conformed, it is also pretty happy, the lollipop stripes remind me of the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen from when I was a child.”
The frenzied media scrum that engulfed the release of the kit transferred into a roaring trade for hummel and the ‘carnival suit’. The combination of pinstripes and traditional Danish red transcended football and became, in many ways, a national treasure that captured the imagination of the country and football fans across the globe.
Read more after the picture.
Preben Elkjær and Eduardo Acavedo, Denmark - Uruguay, 1986 by Per Kjærbye @fodboldbilleder.dk
As shirt sales soared, FIFA interrupted proceedings with a potential hitch, demanding that the shorts consisted of just one colour amid growing concerns for television coverage. This led to the contrasting panels of the jersey being accompanied by a solid red pair of shorts to match the socks. The look would be completed with navy shirt numbers; another striking design choice that added a bold strength whilst including a significant dark blue.
As Davis-Skjøth underlines, the characteristics of the brand seem as relevant today as they did in 1986:
“We have a Danish approach which means a modern individualism that does not try to be a major global brand. We know the blessings of being small and quick on our feet, which allows us to take designs somewhere different.”
‘Somewhere different’ was exactly the direction that the ‘carnival suit’ of 1986 leaned but the list of admirers was long; Aston Villa and Southampton chose to use the design for their kits the following season as the brand’s reputation grew across Europe.
Read more below the picture.
John Eriksen before his goal agains West Germany, World Cup 1986 by Per Kjærbye @fodboldbilleder.dk
hummel still enjoy a close relationship with the national side and released a replica of the classic shirt ahead of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Over thirty years since the unveiling in Copenhagen, the jersey remains arguably the most popular and recognisable kit in footballing history. The combination of design, style and attacking prowess of the side created an unforgettable and definitive icon.
With the hummel chevrons on the sleeve directing the players forward, the World Cup debutants excelled in Mexico, defeating Scotland, Uruguay and West Germany, before the run was abruptly ended by rivals Spain.
It was a superb tournament showcasing an extremely talented and attack-minded side, a philosophy that was somehow captured by the designers at hummel pre-tournament, as the shirt complemented the mentality of the squad in a dynamic approach shared by both the brand and the national team.