I’d always been aware of Romania’s somewhat peripatetic relationship with kits when I was growing up, but of course back then it was much harder to research.
In recent years, the sheer inconsistency of the timeline has become more apparent and, thanks to the comprehensive nature of The Rec Sport Soccer Statistics Foundation and the availability of so much footage on YouTube, it has been possible to piece together a history of their kits.
It’s not complete, as some games have been impossible to source (Romania did enjoy playing Israel and Greece a lot, for instance, and most Januarys brought obscure friendlies against Asian opposition), so it could well be the case that there are even more variants than what is compiled here.
Why start with 1984? Well, going back further would have been even more difficult to research, and Euro 84 was their first appearance in a major finals in 14 years – fittingly, their three games there saw them wear three different kits.
The home was all-yellow, the shirt a classic adidas style, wrapover v-neck with tonal hoops, which would be seen again during the 1980s. It was worn against Spain.
The away kit was red – or, rather, both away kits were red. Against West Germany, Romania wore a white-trimmed version of the home, and again this would be seen again. However, for the final group match against Portugal, a different one-off red kit, with black trim, was worn. Portugal were in a white kit for this game.
In the World Cup qualifiers that autumn, the long-sleeved version of the home – with numbers now absent from the shorts – was used.
In January of 1985, they renewed acquaintances with Portugal in a friendly in Lisbon, winning 3-2. Portugal were in their more familiar red this time while Romania were in a kit which looked like it belonged in the 1970s, with its inset neck panel.
It wasn’t seen again and neither was the ensemble worn against Turkey in Craiova – red shirts, yellow shorts and blue socks.
For much of the rest of the year though – including both games against England and at home to Northern Ireland – the red and white Euro 84 away was used, though with new shorts which featured a subtle shadow stripe.
The all-yellow was back for friendlies against Egypt and Iraq in early 1986 as well as the 3-0 loss away to Scotland, while the game at home to the USSR saw the red shorts – not the away set but ones with yellow stripes – used.
Against the all-blue of Greece, red socks – again, not the away set – were added to the mix.
And, at home to Albania, a totally new kit was seen. The shirt featured narrow red and blue diagonal pinstripes, while the shorts were now blue.
Oddly, the same style, in short sleeves but with a red neck and adidas stripes and no crest (foreshadowing later events), had been used by Romania’s U21s two years earlier, against England at Portman Road. In their meeting in Romania, the 70s style inset-neck kit was worn.
Back to 1987 and the senior team, and the wrapover v-neck was back for the return game against Spain, a 3-1 win. Away to Austria though, the diagonal pinstripe shirt was now matched with yellow shorts and socks. A 0-0 draw meant they missed out on qualifying for Euro 88 by a point to Spain.
In a 1988 friendly away to a team who had qualified, the Republic of Ireland, Romania made a rare appearance in (crestless) red shirts without red shorts, as a blue set were used.
In another friendly, away to the Netherlands, who would go on to win the competition, an all-blue kit was used, with the template quite popular around Europe at the time.
For instance, Bulgaria would be wearing that template when they hosted Romania in October of that year in the first of what would be a successful World Cup qualifying campaign for the visitors.
The Romanians would be in the yellow-blue-red look for the first time, with the shorts now featuring a very fine white pinstripe.
At home to Greece, the shorts and socks colours were reversed.
The following year, 1989, began with a 1-0 home friendly win over Italy as the wrapover v-neck shirt came back again, to be joined with the pinstriped shorts and red socks.
The diagonals returned away to Poland, while the all-red wrapover v-neck kit had its first outing in four years away to Greece.
World Cup qualification would come down to the final two games, both against Denmark. In October, Romania lost 3-0 in Copenhagen, wearing the diagonal pinstriped shirt, pinstriped shorts and yellow socks, as the red set would have clashed…
…then, for the return in Bucharest a month later, a 3-1 win which meant they topped the group, the red socks were back (Denmark wore white socks), but new shirts were worn – the diagonal pinstripes had been deleted, while the adidas logo was lower.
World Cup year began with Romania playing two friendlies against high-profile clubs. On January 28, they met Olympique Marseille and the same style shirts as used at home to Denmark now had a sponsor’s logo – Onet, seemingly a French company providing cleaning services to businesses.
On first seeing the grainy footage, I actually thought it was an outsize Opel logo. With the fall of Communism and the ousting of Nicolae Ceaușescu as leader, the previous crest was dispensed with.
A week later, they were in Germany to take on Bayern Munich – on this occasion, for the only time in the period we are looking at, they donned white, the same style as worn against Holland in ’88.
At the end of February and start of March, they started playing countries again, going up against Egypt and Algeria. There was yet another new kit – similar in style to that used by Hungary, Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland. The socks now had mismatching black stripes.
As the World Cup neared, the all-new kit which would be worn for that was used twice, not in its ‘proper’ form on either occasion.
Against Egypt, the red shorts from the away kit were with the home shirt and socks:
Then, against Belgium in the final warm-up match, they wore the blue pinstriped shorts and blue socks.
For Romania’s first World Cup game in 20 years, the USSR were the opposition. With the Soviets in white, Romania wore their new red away strip as they won 2-0.
Incidentally, the makers of the Orbis World Cup ’90 part-work sticker album – who had originally included Denmark as they expected them to qualify ahead of Romania – expected a blue change kit:
For the remainder of their games, a 2-1 loss to Cameroon, 0-0 draw with Argentina and the last-16 penalty shootout loss to the Republic of Ireland, the home kit was donned. For some reason, the blue shorts had the players’ numbers on the right leg, while on the away shorts they were on the left.
Romania’s first game after the World Cup was a friendly away to the USSR at the end of August. They wore the shirts as had been used against Marseille, but without the Onet, obviously, while the yellow shorts (a more golden shade) and socks had white stripes.
The Euro ’92 qualifiers began with a trip to Hampden Park to face Scotland. While the shirts were similar to those used at the start of the year in that they had two arm rings, this was a different design and featured a shadow stripes. It was used by Cameroon at the World Cup and Marseille among others.
Due to Scotland’s red socks, Romania wore blue socks and opted to go with red shorts.
The next two games – Poland in a friendly and Bulgaria in the qualifiers (a 3-0 loss) – were at home, but for both of them Romania wore an all-blue kit, in the same style as the United Arab Emirates had at the World Cup and a design used by France, Poland and Bari. Outside of these two games, it was never worn again.
Romania rounded off the year with a 6-0 win over San Marino and the same shirts as worn against Scotland returned, with the more usual blue shorts and red socks.
Away to Switzerland in early 1991, these shirts were worn with yellow shorts and socks…
…and then away to Spain in a friendly, two different neck styles were seen on the short-sleeved versions.
The 1991-92 season signified the introduction of the adidas Equipment era, with aggressive branding in the form of bold, over-the-shoulder stripes. Romania would have a new kit, but of a different, almost unique, style – a River Plate change shirt is the only other example I can find.
Featuring asymmetric red and blue flashes, it was first used at home to Scotland.
For the game against Switzerland, a long-sleeved set was used – these didn’t have the red and blue markings on the right-hand sleeves.
A 1-1 draw with Bulgaria meant that Romania missed out on Euro ’92 by a point in what was a very tight group.
The same kit was in use as the World Cup qualifiers began with a 7-0 win over the Faroe Islands and then a 5-1 victory against Wales.
Then, in a friendly away to Mexico, there was another new outfit – this time a recolouring of the Arsenal 1990-92 home template.
This kit was worn for the remainder of the year, including against the soon-to-be-defunct Czechoslovakia – who had what was essentially the Arsenal shirt as their home – and for the first half of 1993.
Arsenal were again the inspiration for the kit worn against the Faroes and Israel that September – this time it was the ‘bruised banana’ away, but with matching shorts.
In the penultimate qualifier, a 2-1 win at home to Belgium, the blue-sleeved shirts returned, but with the new crest of the Romanian federation now featuring.
In the final qualifier, away to Wales in Cardiff, Romania wore adidas Equipment shirts for the first time. A 2-1 win put them into a second successive World Cup finals.
There was little consistency in early 1994, as both the bruised banana and the blue-sleeved shirts were worn in friendlies. Then, in the last few warm-up games before travelling to the USA for the World Cup, Romania wore short-sleeved versions of the shirts used against Wales, this time paired with blue shorts.
Logic would have you think that the World Cup kit was going to be some approximation of this, but instead it was another all-new outfit, the same template as worn by Liverpool and Cork City in 1993-94, and which would also be seen on Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway in the US.
It was the first time Romania had had numbers on the front of their shirts.
Having topped Group A with wins over Colombia and the hosts (there was also a 4-1 defeat to Switzerland), Romania then beat Argentina 3-2 in the second round to set up a quarter-final tie with Sweden.
Romania were the ‘home’ team but, in the bright weather conditions, there were concerns that Sweden’s white change kit could clash and so both teams wore alternatives.
The Romanian change kit was in the same format as the first-choice but in red, with yellow the secondary colour and blue the third – except for the socks, where they switched positions.
Adding to the confusion, replica versions of the shirt had two blue stripes and one yellow.
Sweden triumphed on penalties, and when Romania got back in action in the autumn – a 3-0 win over Azerbaijan in their first Euro 96 qualifier – they wore the same kits as before the World Cup, albeit with shirt and shorts numbers now added.
New (numberless) yellow shorts, in the same style as the blue, were worn for the rest of the year.
In early 1995, the World Cup kit returned, but now with plain yellow socks.
In September ’95, Romania played Brazil in a friendly. At first glance, it might appear that the shirts were the same as worn against Sweden, but the striping was now the same as on the replicas. In addition, the socks had three blue hoops.
The rate of variation had slowed down by now, and the 1996-98 set of kits were as stable as Romania could hope to have, but there was still room for some small inconsistency.
The style was the newest adidas template. They must have produced a lot of it, because Crystal Palace and Stockport County both had change shirts made from that bench, Romanian crest and all in the fabric.
In the Euro ’96 opener against France, as well as a competition patch and Fair Play logo for the first time, the kit had socks with a small Romanian flag on them…
…but it was absent for the matches against Spain and Bulgaria.
A UEFA ruling? I don’t know, but the flag was back on the socks for the World Cup qualifiers while the shirts were now devoid of the patches and the front numbers.
During this period, the only call for a change kit was away to Lithuania in April 1997. The traditional red kit was in the same design and long sleeves were worn – but because the short-sleeved shirts used what is known as a ‘batwing’ style (body and sleeves are the one piece of cloth), the extra length was literally stitched on, with the fabric pattern running perpendicular to the rest.
Incidentally, if you’re ever looking to buy a Romanian matchworn thumb from the mid-1990s, a good rule of thumb is to look at the crest for verification – the players’ shirts had the red ‘swoosh’ on top, while replicas had yellow on top.