By Alonso Guzmán Barone
The classic contrast between black and white in design will always guarantee that sleek and modern look. No matter the medium, there’s something quite exquisite about its simplicity, and football jerseys are no exception. This is the story of a one–off – or three of them – told in black and white.
On February 9, 2005, the Netherlands faced England in a friendly match that saw both countries take a stand against racism as part of Thierry Henry’s Stand Up Speak Up campaign. A week previously, Arsenal and Manchester United had played at Highbury with special patches on their shirts but here Nike – the sports titan behind the campaign and kit manufacturer for the Dutch – suggested to the Football Association and their kit manufacturers, Umbro, to incorporate unity symbols or messages into their uniforms and even take the liberty to use custom-made kits if desired.
The FA and Umbro arranged for a special inscription to be placed below the chest numbers of England’s alternate red jersey: ‘NO TO RACISM’, a phrase that was becoming flagship in FIFA campaigns. On the other hand, the iconoclastic Nike saw this friendly as a creative opportunity to leverage Henry’s campaign and to add to its marketing, and decided for a bolder move in conjunction with the KNVB: an entire black and white kit, honouring the campaign’s colour-scheme and utilising the Total 90 uniform template.
The jersey’s front was divided equally in black and white panels with contrasting markings. The black section at the front left went all the way around the back, leaving only the right sleeve untouched and creating the space for the white fonts and numbers. The left shoulder showcased the marking ‘Stand Up Speak Up’ with no space in between words, in white capital fonts. The finishing touches were provided by all-black shorts with numbers and markings on the left leg, and a pair of white socks with markings on the front and black vertical stripes at both sides. The “black and white cookie”, as I referred to the kit at the time, was a truly elegant and confident look for the occasion.
To match this one–off uniform, several Dutch players like Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Dirk Kuijt, Johnny Heitinga and Khalid Boulahrouz wore the campaigns matching double rubber-bands on their wrists. Also, as it had been a custom of the Netherlands in previous years, the chest design on their jerseys included the flag for the two countries and a commemorative date inscription.
This move represented Nike ‘being Nike’ and truly Dutch: giving contrasting colours to a contrasting nation and leveraging their brand with the Stand Up Speak Up campaign. On the same night, fellow Nike sides Portugal (away to the Republic of Ireland) and Russia (clashing with Italy) wore the same design – the Portuguese without any shorts numbers while Russia had theirs on the right leg.
A half-and-half ‘special’ cookie, the making of an iconic kit.