From 1996-2014, Nike’s designs for the most iconic uniform in sport: the Brasil national team kit. The yellow jersey, Called Amarelinha or Little Yellow One, the home shirt for the most successful football team in the world represents the exuberant pride of the nation and is as recognizable as the country’s flag.
“Football is so ingrained in Brasil, it dissolves into the culture. It’s hard to capture the meaning of the relationship between Brasilians and the sport,” says Peter Hudson, former Creative Director who worked on Nike football apparel for seven years. “I think you have to go to events, be at a match, look players in the eye on the starting line to really appreciate what it means.”
The Brasil national team home jersey wasn’t always yellow. It took a devastating defeat in the 1950 final at home to initiate a color scheme change. After wearing white and blue for half a century, the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (CBF) debuted a new kit in yellow, green and blue — the colors of Brasil’s flag — in 1954. The design was the result of a national competition, and the new colors stuck.
Nike started making kits for CBF in 1997, after signing on as the team’s official apparel sponsor the year prior. Here, a look inside the process of creating Brasil’s national team home kit for the major competitions of 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.
“The ‘90s was not a great time for football kits. Back then, football uniforms were heavy, had horrible sublimation and bad necklines,” says Devon Burt, then Nike Creative Director for Apparel. “We wanted to bring refinement and restraint to the jersey. We went with clean, finished seams and achieved a high level of craftsmanship. It was the first time we really got into the idea of perfecting a neckline — something that seems so simple but is tricky to do right.”
Burt and team had to convince Brasil that it was the right time to bring back the crewneck collar, as the federation had been wearing a V-neck style for some time. The eventual design featured a green knit-in crewneck collar and green piping detail on the shoulders for a true sport look.
The team remained in a crewneck jersey for years to come but the kit’s strongest legacy is the N98 Jacket, a key style today for Nike Football and Nike Sportswear. The designers took the equity of what they had done for the kit and applied it to Brasil’s warm-up jacket. The N98 is still defined by signature shoulder piping.
“The 1998 design helped set a tone for who we were and helped Nike stand out on the field,” Burt says. “We came up with something simple, refined and classic. The design was about beauty paired with a lot of great innovative details.”