Trikot History: The German National Team

Football merchandise has come a long way. My dad told me that back in the days he and his friends knew an old lady in town who knit scarves in either blue and white or black and yellow and gave them to kids in exchange for doing chores around the house.

That lady was the closest thing to a ‘fan shop’ my dad and his buddies had access to in rural Westfalia during the 1960’s.

Official Germany shirts weren’t even a thing until 1965. The concept of wearing sports apparel outside of a sporting venue was unknown to Germans. Before the German apparel company Erima produced the first licensed Trikot ever, the DFB actually had to pay a Frankfurt-based tailor to make them.

Adidas and the German FA have been working together since the 1950’s. Everybody knows the legend of Adi Dassler, who designed the first proper cleats that helped Germany upset the Hungarians on a rainy pitch in Bern in 1954, but the sports-equipment giant from Herzogenaurach didn’t supply the DFB with kits until the 1980’s, since there wasn’t much money to be made; shoes and balls were the main cash cows.

In 2016, Adidas and DFB agreed to extend their most-recent contract through 2022 at 70 million Euros per year. The partners also have an agreement that grants Adidas the privilege to match any offer the DFB receives whenever the kit manufacturing deal is up for renewal.

Germany’s biggest sports brand can’t afford to lose ‘Die Mannschaft’ to their American nemesis Nike, so they’ll probably pay whatever it takes. Not only is ‘Die Mannschaft’ one of the most prestigious sports teams in the world, but making these kits is also a lucrative business. In 2004, Adidas released total sales numbers for the first time. 400,000 kits were sold that year domestically. A decade later, retailers were able to move two million shirts, meaning roughly one in forty Germans bought a 2014 kit.

History of “unser Trikot”

Every reveal of a new DFB kit is a big deal in Germany. Adidas has made a real event out of it, and people love to argue about every new design in social media. When Adidas introduced white shorts in 2014, people went nuts. A petition was started and some high ranking politicians weighed in on the matter.

The iconic Schwarz und Weiss colors are a national symbol. For some people they are just as significant as our flag. And I bet there are people overseas who don’t know exactly what the German flag looks like, but will scream “Germany!” as soon as you show them a picture of Thomas Müller.

Why is the color scheme different from Germany’s flag colors?
Nowitzki and Schröder wearing the actual German colors

When the DFB was founded in 1900, a German nation didn’t exist. We were rather an alliance of various kingdoms and empires. Prussia was the biggest and most powerful German empire at that time. So the DFB colors were actually picked with the Prussian flag in mind. The Schwarz-Rot-Gold flag didn’t exist back then.

The black and white colors are explainable, but what’s up with the green kit?

Well, green is the DFB’s color. That color has no connection to any national insignia, but when away jerseys were introduced, and the DFB had to pick a secondary color scheme, they faced a big dilemma: black, red, and gold all didn’t work.

Black was a no go because the Waffen SS wore black. Germans in black uniforms weren’t a welcome sight in Europe for a long time. Red was the color of the Nazi party, and gold didn’t work simply because on black-and-white TV sets gold looks like white.

So “DFB Grün” was the backup choice they came up with.

For Japan/Korea 2002, Adidas introduced a black DFB away shirt for the first time in history.

The evolution of the DFB logo.
The evolution of the DFB logo.
Who wore it best?

These shirts are an important part of German tradition and history. Whenever Götze’s World Cup winning goal gets replayed on TV or YouTube, you’ll see the jersey, too. There have been many iconic teams in DFB history, but which team wore the most iconic jersey?

Here are my personal top five:

#5: the “Sommermärchen” (2005-06)

There wasn’t a single drop of rain throughout that whole tournament, and I was drunk for three weeks straight. When the “Summer Fairy Tale” finally ended, I was broke, aged by at least five years, and my college work had suffered badly.

But I would do it all over again.

Side note: Screw you Grosso!

The 2006 kit seemed pretty cool at that time, but a decade later we have become so used to minimalistic jerseys, that the 2006 edition looks pretty dated. There is too much going on and the numbers font is just horrible.

BUT this was the World Cup where Germans showed the world how far we’ve come since the dark days of WWII and how friendly we actually are. So I guess it was alright that Adidas went with a creative and cheerful design. People were buying #13 Ballack and #20 Podolski shirts like crazy, and it was socially accepted to wear “unser Trikot” again for the first time since 1990 (more on that later).

#4: the “7:1” (2014-15)

Not only did we win the whole thing, “7:1” was also one of the biggest wins in world sports history. While the team was great, I personally didn’t like the 2014 home kit at all; white shorts and that red v-shape thing looked strange to me.

But the away shirt, which looked like a rugby shirt, was just brilliant. The red and black color scheme with silver numbers on the back just looked so classy that I hope Adidas makes a throwback soon. The day after Götze’s strike sank Argentina, Germans rushed to sports retailers and demanded a jersey with the golden FIFA patch on it. Adidas chartered whole cargo planes to haul jerseys from Asia to Germany as fast as possible, but some had to wait till September to finally receive their order.

Of course, the white kit sold better, but the red and black rugby shirt might be the most popular away kit I’ve seen so far. And it makes sense; not only is it a historic jersey, it’s also a cool-looking shirt, period.

#3: “Oscar the Grouch” ( 1986-87)

Germany was nicknamed Die Panzer by foreign media outlets for a reason. The 1980’s DFB teams rolled over opponents like tanks. There wasn’t any “tiki-taka” or “Joga Bonito” going on, just headers, cheap shots, and suffocating defense. West Germany were something like the NBA’s “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons. Google “Schumacher Battiston,” and you’ll understand why.

But at least the iconic green shirt worn in the 1986 final looked beautiful. Germans also have fond memories of the color green, because in 1972 West Germany wore green when Beckenbauer and co. became the first German side to beat England in Wembley.

By contrast, during the 90s, the DFB switched to a butt-ugly shade of green that almost looks turquoise:

Butt ugly green.
Butt ugly green.

But I really dig the original “DFB green” and apparently I wasn’t the only one, since Adidas released a 1972 throwback for Euro 2012.

Euro 2012's throwback kit.
Euro 2012’s throwback kit.

On the 2016 away jerseys Adidas went with green sleeves to honor that tradition.

#2: the Good, the Bad and the Really, Really Ugly (1990-91)

The 1990 reunified Germany squad.
The 1990 reunified Germany squad.

Italia 1990 was the first major tournament after the Berlin Wall came down. Lothar Matthäus won back to back Ballon D’ors and Beckenbauer proclaimed that Germany won’t be beaten for the rest of the decade once the GDR players would join the team.

For the first time in DFB history, the shirt featured the black, red and gold flag, this was no coincidence as national pride was on an all time high.

Design-wise this jersey was a quantum leap. This design is still so hot today, that you can buy Italia 90 style throwback gear off right now if you like.

Normally, that 1990 jersey would be my undisputed winner, but the legacy of that iconic shirt is tainted by a photo that shocked the world.


This picture was taken in Rostock during the “ 1992 Lichtenhagen Riots”, when local Neo-nazis burned down refugee shelters and attacked random refugees.

That guy celebrates the ongoing riots with a Hitler salute, which was apparently more important to him than hitting a bathroom. The European stereotype of “Der hässliche Deutsche” (the ugly German) was back: arrogant, piss drunk and racist.

Wearing a Germany shirt became an absolute no go for years. I wanted a USA 94 Germany kit for my birthday so badly, but my parents refused to buy me any Germany gear whatsoever. Even though Die Mannschaft has become a diverse team and Neonazi influence on German society is minimal, there is still an active debate going on whether it’s appropriate for Germans to celebrate their heritage like any other nation. Millions of people died in two World Wars that were caused by German patriotism, so where does genuine support for the DFB team end and dangerous nationalism start?

One thing is clear though, as long as idiots like these show up at Germany games abroad, the debate won’t die.

Dynamo Dresden ultras
German Hooligans at the Euro 2016.

#1: the Ultimate Germany Kit (1996-97)

The "classic" Germany trikot.
The “classic” Germany trikot.

Euro 1996 in England was a great tournament the battle of attrition between “Ze Germans” and the host nation in the semi final was one of the best matches I’ve seen in my life. It came to penalties, Andreas Köpke denied Gareth Southgate and Andreas Möller came through in the clutch. His overconfident penalty turned Wembley into a funeral home for a moment. Watch Möllers celebration and you’ll get that this 1996 squad had a certain swagger about them.

The 1996 team never dominated or entertained, but they carried an aura of invincibility with them. Bierhoff’s Golden Goal against the Czechs symbolises the 1996 run perfectly: It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.

To me, England 96 was the most beautiful DFB kit ever. The shirt stays true to the historic black & white color scheme, but in a unique way. The sleeves, the stars above the badge and the collar all had some “Schwarz-Rot-Gold” in there. The Times New Roman font they used for kit numbers and names was the coolest looking font ever. I also like the badge design.

The kit has aged pretty well, since that minimalistic design was decades ahead it’s time.
It is no coincidence that Adidas has revisited the England 96 design scheme twice already.
If you look closely, you can see that the World Cup 2010 kit and Euro 2016 kit are a hommage to this classic England 1996 kit.

Trikot 2010 WC Klose
The 2010 World Cup trikot.
The 2016 Euros trikot.
The 2016 Euros trikot.

Three Ugliest DFB Trikots of All Time

#3 The “Balotelli”

At Euro 2012 Germany had the best roster by far and everybody looked forward to the inevitable rematch with Spain in the final, but Mario Balotelli had different plans. Sigh.
The jersey sucked, too. What are those slim lines for? Either do a real flag or a black and white shirt. This one is neither.

The oh too subtle 2012 home Euro kit.
The oh too subtle 2012 home Euro kit.
#2 The “Let’s forget this ever happened”

A crappy team in a boring grey design. This pretty much sums up Euro 2000 from a German perspective. The guy wearing #11 is Paolo Rink by the way, yup the DFB was pretty desperate back then. They were so bad that they even managed to lose to England.

Trikot fadsjartimg
The forgettable Euro 2000 trikot.
#1 The “Cringeworthy”

The USA 1994 Away Kit wins by a landslide. I don’t think I have to explain why.

The 1994 WC trikot - the ultimate hipster kit?
The 1994 WC trikot – the ultimate hipster kit?

Although there seems to be a market for this uniform among Hipsters in London, Berlin or Brooklyn, who want to support Germany in a unique and ironic way. USA 94 was a pretty embarrassing tournament in other aspects, too. First Stefan Effenberg was banned for flipping off fans after a terrible South Korea game (1:1), then Germany lost to Bulgaria in the Quarters. It was one of the biggest upsets in football history.

But it was the song Die Mannschaft recorded recorded with the Village People (I’m not making this up), that really made USA 94 a “World Cup to forget.”

I would love for you to put down your personal favorites in the comment section.

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