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. 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. The team ended its half-century run in white and blue after an assumed tournament victory was snatched by a devastating defeat at the Maracanã Stadium in 1950. Four years later, the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (CBF) debuted a new kit in yellow, green and blue — the colors of Brasil’s flag. The design was the result of a national competition and the new colors stuck.
Nike signed a partnership deal with CBF in 1996, and has designed and manufactured all of the federation’s uniforms since. Here’s a look at the process of creating Brasil’s national team home kit for the major competitions of 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.
1998: THE SHIFT FROM V-NECK TO CREWNECK
The genesis: “The ’90s were not a great time for football kits. Back then, football uniforms were heavy, had horrible sublimation and bad necklines,” says Hoppins. “We wanted to bring refinement and restraint to the jersey.”
The result: The shirt featured a green knit-in crewneck collar and green piping detail on the shoulders for a true sport look. Designers achieved a high level of craftsmanship through clean, finished seams.
The impact: “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,” says Hoppins. The designers applied the bold look to Brasil’s warm-up jacket. The N98, a key style today for Nike Sportswear, is still defined by signature shoulder piping.
2002: INITIATING A UNIFORM UNIFORM
The genesis: “Nike was determined to make a strong visual statement for Korea and Japan, so we took a uniform aesthetic across all our national teams,” says Hoppins. “We also wanted to lead with innovation and deliver a product that would stand up to the high heat and humidity on the field.”
The result: Cool Motion, a two-layer system that consisted of a Dri-FIT mesh base layer to wick sweat to the lightweight polyester-woven twill outer layer, attached via interior shoulder seams. (Although visually striking, it did not turn out to be Nike’s most successful apparel technology and players occasionally had difficulty taking the shirts on and off due to their construction and Cool Motion was retired two years later.) The crewneck was trimmed down. The shirt’s deep marigold yellow changed to a bright lemon shade to reflect the youthful team’s more aggressive, dynamic style.
The impact: “We realized something important that year: it’s not about Nike and making a brand statement,” Hoppins says. “It’s about the fans and the country and the culture, and if we get it right for each country, those fans will love Nike all the more.”
2006: SHIFTING TO CULTURAL DETAILS
The genesis: Nike Football moved away from the one-design-fits-all approach for uniforms and tapped into the heritage and culture of each team.
The result: The simple and powerful design allowed the solid yellow to shine through and was balanced with green trim. Again, the neckline was a focal point. Designers went through many iterations of crews and V-necks before arriving at the Mandarin stand-up collar as a more distinctive variation on the crew. “It was a bit different and fresh, the way it drew the eye in and allowed for more movement at the neck,” Hoppins recalls.
The impact: It was the first year Nike Football generated a culturally relevant number font on the jerseys for national team kits. For Brasil, inspiration came from the country’s currency, art, architecture, graffiti and road signs, resulting in a font that was fluid and playful — reflective of Brasil’s artful style of play. “Nike did a lot of research about what the jersey means to the country, to the hundreds of thousands of fans. What we learned reinforced the fact that we had to tread incredibly respectfully and carefully, but again, we’re Nike so you have to push it forward as well,” says Hoppins.
2010: NOT MESSING WITH THE DESIGN
The genesis: For competition in South Africa, Nike’s Global Football Apparel designers referred to what is perhaps the most celebrated era of Brasilian football, the early 1970s. “The simple T-shirt style of 1970 is often called the perfect jersey, it reflects a golden period for the team,” says Hoppins. “So, 2010 was kept really simple; it’s the innovation and the extra details that make it Nike.”
The result: Those extra details included a silicon stripe on the sleeves that are infused with a dot pattern that became a hallmark of Nike Football design. The kit also carried elements intended to honor and spark the passion of the players, such as an inner neck graphic reading "Nascido para jogar futbol” or "Born to play football," and a Brasil graphic on the outer back neck. The lightweight textured Dri-FIT Knit poly fabric reduced cling and incorporated laser venting to aid airflow and cooling.
The impact: While the aesthetic was faithful to historic Brasil uniforms, the 2010 kit was the most technologically advanced kit in the history of football. It was a major leap forward in sustainable design, marking the first time Nike began making jerseys from 100 percent recycled polyester, diverting millions of water bottles from landfills in Japan and Taiwan.
2014: SUBTLE DETAILS FAKE SIMPLICITY
The genesis: “Cool under pressure” was the latest design mantra, which entailed re-focusing on details to reflect the country’s heritage and passion. “It’s like designing a second flag for a country, you need to honor the past, the country and its culture,” says Hoppins. With that, the designers set out to create a uniform that delivered on four design pillars: performance, style, soul and sustainability.
The result: It took four years to develop the jersey material, which had 56 percent more airflow than previous versions and was composed of 94 percent recycled polyester and 6 percent cotton — giving it the feel and drape of cotton and the thermoregulation properties of polyester. “From a distance, it’s clean and simple, but up close you discover subtle details like laser venting and a small printed crest embedded in the bottom of the number on the back,” says Hoppins. The CBF crest over the heart is bigger than previous designs and has metallic gold thread woven in to catch the sun during play.
The impact: New body scans paired with tension maps showed how a garment performs in motion, resulting in the shift to a slim-cut fit that reflected how body types have changed as speed and pace become privileged in the game.
2018: NAILING COMFORT
The genesis: With a desire to help teams reach “lethal speed,” design for 2018 sought solutions for decreased weight and increased breathability and mobility.
The result: The newest team jersey features Samba Gold (taken from the jerseys worn during the 70s when the games were first broadcast in color), a more vibrant yellow than the home jerseys worn over the last 20 years, and a neck tape on the back collar that reintroduces blue to the home kit in a highly visible way and for the first time since the 60s. The jersey also introduces Nike VaporKnit, an evolved version of Nike AeroSwift. Anti-cling technology via a fine rib line on the inside of the jersey gives athletes a locked-in feeling, while ventilation holes that were precisely mapped throughout the jersey provide ventilation when and where needed, allowing for more air flow while the athlete is in motion.
The impact: “Nike VaporKnit is lighter due to the open hole texture knitted into the garments,” says Hoppins. “Effectively, there’s much less yarn than past shirts. The outcome is a shirt you can play and be comfortable in for well over 90 minutes.”