Soccer (or football ) is the world’s most popular sport. Soccer’s popularity has far exceeded any other sport, being played by over 250 Million people in over 200 countries throughout the world. Early versions of soccer first emerged in England and date back to at least the Eighth century. Throughout the long and fabled history of Soccer, the rules have changed, its popularity has increased, and the game has become more exciting. Amidst all of the changes that the sport has endured, one aspect of the game has remained constant – Players have always worn some type of uniform.
Soccer uniforms have played an important role throughout the history of the sport, allowing players to stay cool and to protect them from bodily injury. Soccer uniforms generally consist of the following components: short or long-sleeved jersey top, soccer shorts, soccer socks, shin guards and soccer shoes (or soccer cleats).
Around the year 1870, popularity of the sport and media attention spurred an evolution of the Soccer Uniform. The primary function of the Soccer Uniform was no longer to just keep the player cool and safe but rather to identify the player and the team to which they belonged. 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.
Numbers on the back of soccer uniforms were originally determined based on a team’s starting formation. Numbers 1-11 were given to the starting players of each team. Substitute players were assigned numbers beginning at 12.
Here is the original breakdown of the numbers assigned to soccer players on their uniforms:
1 – Goalkeeper
2 – Right back
3 – Left back
4 – Stopper
5 – Last man/Sweeper
6 – Middle fielder
7 – Right winger
8 – Striking midfielder
9 – Striker
10 – Striking midfielder
11 – Left winger
Soccer players wore jerseys that were tailor made from durable, natural fibers in a variety of collar designs. Laced crew necks and wide horizontal/vertical stripes were very common among soccer uniforms of the early 20th century.
In the 1930s, collared rugby-style shirts replaced crew necks. A great example of the shift from laced crew necks to rugby style shirts was most visible with the 1933 Arsenal red shirt with white sleeves, and a wide, white collar. In the mid 20th century the “Continental Style” of soccer uniforms came to existence. This style of soccer uniform was evident by light-weight synthetic fabrics and a short-sleeved v-neck style shirt, creating a look that evolved into the modern soccer jersey.
During the later portion of the 20th century, jerseys worn by professional soccer players patronized various brands such as nike and adidas and Jerseys soon became more commercial as teams sold replica jerseys of notable players.
Technological and Industrial advances continue to produce soccer uniforms that are lighter and more breathable than ever, boasting fabrics that are made from cotton, nylon and polyester blends. From the early creation of soccer to the modern age, soccer uniforms have evolved with the times and continue to serve their aesthetic and functional purposes.