Sports Uniforms: Scoocer/Football

Figure 1.--This American boy in the 1980s wear a typical soccer uniform worn by boys all over America. A colored jersey, short cut short pants, and Athletic kneesocks often matching the jersey or shorts.

Soccer is one of several sports which developed in England during the 19th century. It became to be a major European passion in the early-20th century and after World War II developed into the premier world sport. Only in the Muslim world has the enthusdiam for soccer and sport in general been relatively muted. Soccer today better known as football has an enornous following around the world where hundreds of millions if not billions follow their favorite loval and national teams around the world. Soccer has become a multimillion-dollar business with equipment and team merchandizing eclipsing actual sporting events. It is not entirely clear why soccer has emerged as the single most important sport around the world. This is especially the case because scoring which is the most exiting aspect of any sport is relstibely rare in a soccer match which is usually decided by only 1-3 goals. One factor is that virtually no equipment is need to play soccer. The only real requirement is the ball. Soccer began to grow in popularity in America during the 1970s, especially with younger children. Both boys and girls played. This was especially true in California, but steadily extended throughout the United States. Soccer has not, however, become a major professional sport in America.


Soccer is one of several types of football. This generally family of sports include rugby and destictive versions in America, Canada, and Australia. Soccer is known as football in England and most other countries besides the United States. It is probably the sport that is most accurately called football because unlike the other versions, the ball is advanced by kicking. A player except for the goalee may not touch the ball with his hands. And scoring is exclusively dione by kicking. Which is presumably why the sport is know as football around the world. Soccer became used in America because American football became such a popular sport. Soccer is played by two team sides with 11 olayers each. The ball is spherical, unlike the oblong balls used in other types of football. A soccer oval or field is about 100-115 yards (90-100 meters) long and 75 yards wide. It is officiated by a referee and two linesmen. Two goals posts and a 18 yard box are placed at both ends. These are the points the two teams attack and defend. The lbjective is to kick or head the ball between the opponents goal posts, Penalty kicks are awarded for foul play,


Soccer today better known as football has an enornous following around the world. Not other sport is so widely followed. Hundreds of millions if not billions follow their favorite loval and national teams around the world. Only in the Muslim world has the enthusiasm for soccer, but this is primarily because the interest in sport in general been muted by an overwealming concern with religion. It is not entirely clear why soccer has emerged as the single most important sport around the world. Of course being a British sport it got a leg up, rather like Scouting, by being spread throughout the British Empire. This does not, however, have explain why it prevailed over cricket anhd rugby. This is especially the case because scoring which is the most exiting aspect of any sport is relatively rare in a soccer match which is usually decided by only 1-3 goals. One important factor is that virtually no equipment is need to play soccer. And children can begin tgo plsy, or at least play at, soccer at a very young age. The only real requirement is the ball. This is a tremendius advantage in much of the world where children can not afford expensive equipment. This has been a major factor in Africa amd Latin America. Soccer began to grow in popularity in America during the 1970s, especially with younger children. Both boys and girls played. this is not the case in much of the rest of the world where it is mostly played by boys. This was especially true in California, but steadily extended throughout the United States. Soccer has not, however, become a major professional sport in America.

Soccer History

Modern football like most of our sports began in Europe during the 19th centrury, in large measure a relection of increasing affluence and more leasure time as the industrial revolution created a vast increaser in wealth accross a wide social spectrum. The game of football began modestly. Early games were wild affaits and there were graet variations in how it was played. There were certain common aspects, many of which have continued to this day. The game inspired a particular kind of determined devotion in its followers. The games that are now known as Rugby and Association Football began in England about halfway through the 19th century. The game has since spawned other offshoots, inclusing Americam and ZAustralian football. While the modern came can be traced to England, there are are records of earlier forms in China, at least 2,000 years ago. Footbal type ganes were played in many other societies, including ancient Greece and Rome as well as the Cental American Mayans. But it was in England that football began to take the recognizeable modern shape. Football developed spontaneously in the fields and streets, among farm boys and apprentices--a folk game. It belonged to the common people. The authorities of the time and the well-bred, considered it to be a vulgar, rowdy pastime. From the 14th century onwards, the respectable and the Godly observed it with distaste, and made constant efforts to suppress it. There were several reasons for this. It kept men from the exercise of their Christian duties, and from the proper occupation with the interests of their employers. It wasted time that might profitably and decently be used in the practice of archery and other military skills. But although the law-abiding mayors, sheriffs, and clerics tried to stamp it out, it was to little or no effect. What the people said is not known, but they went on playing.

Speclialized Soccer Forms

Besides the standard sport of fottball/soccer, we note some specialized forms of soccer popular with boys. Indoor soccer allows boys to play soccer even during the winter. Soccer has been persued as a summer warm weather game. This of course because it was an open field game which could not be played in the Winter with snow and hard ground. The spread of soccer to tropical countries meant that it could be played year round. Seasonal weather conditions in countries at northern lattitudes, however, continue to limited soccer play in Europe and North America. One solution is indoor soccer. We know very little about indoor soccer at this time. As far as we know, uniforms are identical with outdoors soccer uniforms. Six-a-side soccer allows smaller groups to play. We notice some boys playing six-a-side soccer. We are not sure just what the purpose of six-a-side soccer. A British reader reports this for of soccer is played in Britain. We do not yet know if it is played in other countries. As far as we can tell, the uniforms are the same as in regular soccer. We also notice beach football. It does not seem as common as beach vollyball. but we do notice boys playing it.

Figure 2.--Goalie is the one position for which a boy dresses differently. Notice that this is the boy in figure 1 that has changed in to his goalie uniform.

America and Soccer

The world's most popular team sport is undeniably football or as it is called in Amerixa--soccer. It is obvious that soccer is a minor attraction in the United States. While interest is hysterical in Europe and South America, the sport attracts only small audiences in America. Attenadance of 50,000 to 100,000 are routine in Europe: in the United States 10,000 paid attendance is phenomenal and 15,000 fans is virtually unheard of. Why has soccer not succeded as a professioinal or even popular collegiate sport? Sports journalisrts have pondered that question for years only to come up with with a variety of vague hypotheses.


If soccer were a newcomer to America it might be explained away on that basis. But the sport has been played here since reconstruction days-which makes it almost as old as baseball and older than football. In fact, the first American football game on record was a soccer game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869. Clearly there was something about the came that did not appeal to late 19th century Americans.

Lack of experience

Ceratinlu as late as the 1950s sovver was unheard of in America. At such time it was understandable that there would be no stars to interest boys. This changed, however, in 1960s and by the 1980s more boys were playing in soccer laegues than Little League baseball. When the girls who began playing are added, the numbers are phemomenal. One would assume that it would take 10-15 years for youth experience to translate to support for professional or at least college teams. This has, however, not occurred.


One ionteresting development is the changing ethnic makeup of America. If mainstream white have not adopted soccer after oplaying in soccer leagues as youths, blacks have been even less interested. Hispanics have become the largest American minority. While Hispanics are a diverse group, one virtually common thread is the adoption of soccer as their premenant sport. As the Hispanics population and economic success grow, almost certainlt this will cahnge the sports map of America.


Even in Winter I see a number of boys wearing soccer shorts to school. During the Summer months into Fall, soccer shorts is one of the basic wearing items that is being worn by boys and girls Those who are into the sport of playing soccer, are always wearing soccer shorts.

Uniform Requirements

Soccer is a team sport where it is very important for all team members to easily recognize each other on the playing field. It is, therefore, important that all team members dress identically. This may explain the bright colors that are often used in the uniforms.

Uniform Garments

The soccer uniform has no headgear. Primarily because of the need to head the ball. Bous and girls wear the same simple uniform, a jersey, short pants, and kneesocks. Soccer is the only sport for which kneesocks are always worn. The reason for knee socks still being universal in soccer, is that they are necessary to keep the shin protectors (the only required protection) in place. Cleated boots are also worn. The jersies varied. Some had collars, most did not. Gernerally they had crew necks, but "V" necks were also worn. A goalie may add gloves and wears a different jersey than the rest of the team so he can be easily identifided. One California sport shop operator in the 1980s was suprised at the popularity of soccer shorts. He reports that he had not imagined the popularity of short pants. Boys and girls from elementary through college were buying soccer shorts. The soccer shorts started as short shorts in the 1980s, but began to become longer at the end of the decade. The popular brands were Adidas, Umbro, Hummel, Lotto, etc. Now that Nike has entered into soccer sports that includes both shoes, balls and soccer uniforms, Nike soccer shorts are becoming popular with boys and girls. When I had the store, I misjudged the popularity of soccer shorts. I was ordering this item as part of the uniform. I could not keep up with the demands. Both boys and girls would buy several pairs at a time. Finally, I was ordering them from my vendors by the thousands.


There is one position on the team, however, where the member is uniquely dressed, in a seperate colored or designed jersey. This position is that of "goalie." This boy in the scans is shown in his regular colored uniform of green shirt with white trim, white shorts, and green knee socks with white tops. When he played the position of "goalie," he changed to his yellow shirt, and donned a pair of gloves (apparantly to help him stop the ball easier). Gloves, because the goalie is the only player allowed to use his hands to touch the ball. Although his knee socks appear darker, than in his regular uniform picture, they are the same green. The only difference is that he apparantly didn't turn down the tops to below his knees, but, rather, actually pulled the socks even higher so that they almost reached above his knees.

Figure 3.--This image shows American boys in their soccer uniforms. By the late 1990s soccer shorts looked mich like those worn in the 1920s, a sharp contrast to the short-length shorts wirn in the 1970s and 80s.

Changing Styles

A major change in soccer uniforms occurred in the 1990s. Following changes in the styles of short pants worn generally, boys began wearing larger jerseys as well as oversized shorts. Similar changes occurred in basketball shorts. In many ways these shorts were similar to the soccer uniforms worn in the early 20th century. Boys also began wearing heavier kneesocks. Some boys wore heavy socks under ordinary sport kneesocks.

Team Uniforms

Youth soccer uniforms are significantly influenced by professional teams. A Scottish reader tells us, "Here in Scotland our most sucessful club - Glasgow Celtic - wear green and white hooped jersies. Loads of kids round here wear replica jersies in the Summer - the other half of the city wear the blue jersies of Glasgow Rangers. I'm from a mixed Catholic/Protestant family so I don't get to steamed up about it all."


Soccer is played all over the world. It is most popular in Euope and South America, but there is no country in the world that it is not played. Even the austere Taliban which banned kite flying could not prevent boys from playing soccer. The uniforms are fairly standard around the world. We notice vert few differences in the uniform associated with specific countries. Islamic countries generally frown on the short pants commonly worn for soccer. There are also some differences associated with cklimate such as German boys wearing tights to play soccer during the winter.

World Cup

What every national soccer team aims at of course is victory in sorld cup. Each nation forms a national team from the various teams competing in their country. This is complicated somewhat by the fact that many teams employ foreign players. Some players can claim dual nationality. Other countries such as England have several national teams (England, Scotland, Ulster, and Wales). A British reader writes, "I can send you a picture of boys dressed in the kits of some of the countries used to promote British TV coverage of the last World Cup (held in Australia and which England famously won with the last kick of the game).All the teams are not represented--England are twice for some reason! - the boys at left and third from left.You can the red rose logo – (my Yorkshire cousin – who also played Rugby (Union) at school hated this as,as you'll know, Yorkshire is the White Rose county as opposed to fierce rivals Lancashire who are Red Rose). I don't know why Enland picked the Red Rose – probably because the shirt is white. The proper socks are red – as the boy far left has.The boy second left wears the famous strip of the “All Blacks” - New Zealand,and the fourth left is the green and gold of the “Boks” - South Africa with the springbok logo.To my shame I don't know what ! the boy at far right is wearing – it could be Fiji or Tonga (it is not Australia I'm fairly sure).Maybe someone will know.They are all English boys – but that does remind me – Rugby is fairly big in Japan too.They are not of course wearing proper Rugby boots.


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Created: January 22, 1999
Last updated: 10:23 PM 12/10/2010