In what is surely a hockey fashion first, we have decided to rank and rate all 16 competing nations’ playing shirts at the 2018 Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup.
This was no easy task, however. While the marketing power of football means that brands release kit images well before any World Cup – months even – hockey is decidedly slower off the mark. Nevertheless, we gritted our teeth and managed to collect as many teams’ outfits as possible to give you a flavour of the designs and colour which will adorn Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre over the two-week extravaganza.
Such was the task – yes, we could have waited until teams had hit town, but no tournament sporting preview would be the same without these sporting kit epics – that several factors have gone into the top 16 ranking: look, feel, retro-ness, full kit look and factoring in home/away combined efforts where possible. Enjoy!
Germany will be chasing a first final spot since 1986 when West Germany lost to the Dutch, while third remains their best showing since 1998. And it’s a fair bet that there have been some better shirts on offer in that time. Admittedly, the white and black offerings take on a different, refined look in terms of the full kit. But where have the clean, mean German shirts gone to which we have come to fear?
A new sponsor proved timely for Ireland ahead of the World Cup. Images adorned the company’s headquarters and the team were photographed in countryside splendour as they prepared for a first World Cup in 16 years, with hopes of emulating the men’s side against the backdrop of funding. In that respect, the Green Army won’t be worried about their lowly ranking here, with a kit which needs that little bit more fizz to claim a higher prize in our inaugural chart.
Indian teams always carry the weight of expectation at Hockey World Cups. And it seems as if the players will be carrying an extra burden with their 70s style neck collars, akin to a deflated travel pillow. While the traditional light blue continues, the away shirt colours add extra class, however.
Shirts need to move with the times – and no doubt designers could work wonders with China’s home and away shirts. But is there any need? The red and yellow offer stability like the team’s defence. The stem-like V-neck a touch of class.
Spain, with a fourth-place finish at their home World Cup in 2006, show the first signs of soccer-style influence, with this ever-so-slightly, Liverpool of the 80s’ feel. The red and shallow V-neck line works well enough, which is then complemented by their white-clad second strip. Now, white can often be dour, but the hints of red lift the attire somewhat.
No, it’s not a Spanish repeat. It’s fellow European rivals Belgium, who have incorporated the lion colours nicely into their design, while the white down the side gives the shirt some breathing space. The red is lacking from their second strip but the combination just edges the Spanish in our book.
10. SOUTH AFRICA
At the 2014 World Cup, the team was backed by Investec. Funding was lacking before a leading property website got on board. And, three years on, South Africa’s World Cup designs impress. The all-Green remains, while the away strip is a neat addition.
9. NEW ZEALAND
Play with the all-black strip at your peril. Not much can be done to change the iconic colour of the Black Sticks. The added incentive of Commonwealth champions yields extra class to the clean design.
Unless The Hockey Paper has missed out on some electrifying kit launches from other nations, England remains a stand out in terms of promotional activity, as you’d expect from a host nation. Adidas say that this is the first time that a kit has been designed with women in mind first (does this mean that they have previously worn men’s kits?). At any rate, the red remains first choice, while the white is unimaginative yet clean.
7. SOUTH KOREA
South Korea’s cut-sleeved, singlet style designs always seem to stand out. The nations’ colours also add a certain retro feel here, casting minds back to Seoul ’88 and the iconic Olympic logo so entwined with the GB men’s golden era.
6. UNITED STATES
Brash or brand heavy? There is always a sense of ‘Team USA’ with a corporate twist, but if you can’t pick out players, why not just leave your nations’ name emblazoned across the shirt. However, it’s all fun and pizzazz here. We’re in favour.
Australia’s famous bodysuits have been around for some time now, caps replaced by suit presentations to debutant Hockeyroos, On the shirt, it looks like the classic game Buzz Wire has replaced the country outline on the iconic home strip. But this is cast aside in sleek style with its second offering, with the World Cup’s only dark blue design – and perhaps the best away kit of them all.
The Netherlands, thanks to the consistent success of their men’s and women’s hockey teams and subsequent backing of the team, move with the times when it comes to kits. And why not, when home games are a sea of Oranje and there is money to be made from apparel and yearly design changes.
Italy, heavy outsiders to make it past the group stages, atone with two bookies’ favourite retro, soccer-style classics. Oozing class from an era of fuzzy televisions and chain-smoking coaches, the Italian hockey team will hope to play in HD at the World Cup.
Japan’s Cherry Blossom kit goes straight into second spot thanks to its smart, fashion-heavy design. The neckline is seemingly taken from the traditional Chinese dress – Cheongsam – which is also worn in Japan, while the blossom adds gloss. The white away strip trumps their rivals’ offerings too. But we will see them beyond the group stages?
The light blue and white vertical strips with global sponsor has been ever-present for the South American powerhouse in recent years. The strip has oozed status since the new century, mainly thanks to the great Luciana Aymar. Now it’s the turn of the younger generation to show strength in a Las Leonas shirt, a design which has been supplemented by a second strip which has claims to even usurp its home one. And for us, that makes it No 1.
Do you agree? Have your say below…
The Hockey Paper’s World Cup coverage is supported by St. Bert’s Clothing