Euro 96 - ranking the best shirts of the tournament
When football last came home.
But the summer of 1996 was so much more than Baddiel, Skinner and dentist chairs, and I’d argue that this glorious tournament is actually the closest we’ve ever come to football shirt nirvana. Alongside the 16 competing sides came 8 separate kit manufacturers, each eager to make their own stamp on the competition and serve up something a little different.
While more recent international tournaments have been cursed by generic templates, every single side at Euro 96 was brimming with a sense of individuality and distinctive character. Yes, templates did still exist, but the sheer variety of brands ensured none of these felt tiresome or overdone.
This was years before the unwavering dominance of Nike and adidas, with the logos of Olympic, Reebok and Lotto sitting beside the most famous national crests. Every single one of them is a baggy, exuberant masterpiece, but we’ve taken on the unenviable task of ranking every single shirt worn at Euro 96.
24. Russia - Home
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this Russia shirt. In fact, it’s actually really smart, and to have it sat right down here at the bottom just shows how high the standard was at Euro 96.
The final design produced by Reebok, this was far more subdued than the kits they’d worn in previous years, with just the smallest hints of red and blue on the collar and sleeves. There’s no doubt that it’s simpler and classier than its predecessor, and the shadow pattern running through the white colourway really is quite lovely.
Even with them constantly mixing up the shorts and socks, this just pales in comparison to the other home kits worn that summer, to be completely honest. Having said that, I’d still happily spend my hard-earned cash on getting hold of one…
23. Denmark - Away
Guest Commentary from Museum of Jerseys:
A 12-year old lesson was seemingly forgotten as hummel and Denmark initially launched a white change shirt with red sleeves, a reverse of the home style. At Euro 84, it had been a similar case, but the away kit had had to be replaced with a version with less red as they took on Norway, Switzerland and the USSR in their World Cup qualifying group.
For 1996, a similar revision had to take place as the holders were in a group with Croatia, Portugal and Turkey. As it happened, they were the ‘home’ team for two games, but when the white shirt was worn against Portugal it appeared with the matching home shorts.
22. Russia - Away
I think the Russia design looks a bit stronger in red, to be honest. The shadow pattern is there once again, while the collar and cuffs are again used to complete the traditional trio of national colours.
Worn in a 3-0 defeat against Germany, it’s fair to say this shirt didn’t really provide much in the way of luck, but it’s certainly an improvement on Reebok’s previous designs - with the Bolton brand choosing to oversize their logo and stick it on the right shoulder. That was just a bit too much for me, but Russia can be relatively proud of this one, even if it is a little... dull.
21. Netherlands - Away
Guest Commentary from Museum of Jerseys:
Most countries – England a notable exception – tended to wear straight reversals of their first-choice kits when required to change up until the 1990s, when manufacturers began to experiment as commercial considerations came into play.
For the Netherlands and Lotto, that meant a design where the white faded into an orange panel near the shoulders. Quite stylish, certainly, but questionable in terms of a second kit’s primary function - that of solving clashes.
The Dutch had to wear this against Switzerland in their group and Roy Hodgson’s side had pretty much the same design in red and white, creating something of an overall clash.
20. Czech Republic - Away
I just can’t look at this shirt without thinking of Karel Poborský. Worn in that triumphant quarter-final against Portugal, the sight of this classic away shirt (combined with those curly locks) presumably still has Vítor Baía breaking out in a cold sweat. I’m sure he never ventured off his line ever again.
Naturally, such success on the pitch made this one of the most iconic Czech shirts of all-time, and the design itself is pretty solid. Based on the same template as their Bulgarian neighbours, this white away strip features a striking Puma pattern down both sleeves and serves as a direct reversal of the memorable red home kit.
19. Switzerland - Home
Famously frustrating England at Wembley, this fantastic Switzerland home shirt marked yet another beauty from Lotto. Drenched in the traditional colours of the national flag, the gorgeous gradient pattern was the perfect complement to the collar, sleeves and crests, all marrying up to create a very smart design indeed.
The gradient isn’t as pronounced as on the Netherlands away strip (also made by Lotto), but instead provides a delicate snowy dusting to liven the whole thing up a bit. I wonder if Roy Hodgson liked it.
18. England - Away
I never liked this shirt, but I appreciate many others have a soft spot for it. It doesn’t just make me think of a distraught Gareth Southgate, but the grey colourway (it’s definitely just grey) is simply… not very nice to look at. I’m always up for brands trying something a little different, but this is just as depressing as actually getting knocked out of the competition. It’s a no from me.
Guest Commentary from Gavin Hope (Football Kit Geek):
England’s away kit in Euro 96 is arguably the most recognisable of the tournament, despite only being worn just once.
The design gives you everything you need to know about mid-90s football kits. Designed as a shirt that could be worn by supporters with jeans, the colour which was marketed as “indigo blue” (but was commonly described as grey) was the first time England had moved from their traditional red as first choice change colour.
Okay, putting my cards on the table… I love this shirt. Being 19 at the time, I was absolutely the target market for this shirt and, of course, I owned one (I wish I knew where it was now) and wore it throughout the tournament. It personally holds so many good memories of that summer: from when Paul Gascoigne lobbed Colin Hendry, to when Shearer and Sheringham destroyed the might of the Netherlands and, of course, that Stuart Pearce penalty.
The kit made only one appearance in the tournament - the famous semi-final penalty loss to Germany at Wembley, and will be remembered by many for the heartbreak in that game. My final thoughts about this kit: is this the only football tournament kit to make it into the lyrics of a number one song… “tears for heroes dressed in grey”!
17. Bulgaria - Home
When I look at this, all I see is the intimidating figure of Trifon Ivanov. It might be based on the standard Puma template of the time (also worn by the Czechs), but that Puma sleeve-graphic looks pretty damn strong in those shades of red and green - particularly since it's mirrored on the accompanying green shorts.
This is by no means anything really special, but it sits at the heart of a golden generation of Bulgarian football. Cult figures like Ivanov and Hristo Stoichkov have allowed this shirt to take on something of a cult following of its own, even if it could never live up to the infamous adidas design from USA 94.
16. Turkey - Away
Guest Commentary from Museum of Jerseys:
Nowadays, firms use major tournaments to premiere new designs, with shirts ever lighter despite seemingly being made of more plastic bottles than ever, while there is another record in terms of breathability.
That was generally the case in the mid-1990s too, but adidas did cut a corner with the white Turkey shirt as the design was very similar to that used by the Republic of Ireland at the 1994 World Cup, with three vertical bars that faded as they travelled down the shirt.
With Ireland changing to Umbro immediately after USA 94, it wasn’t a bad thing that this design received more exposure – and fans of Karlsruhe and Stockport County got to enjoy it during 1996-97 as well.
15. Czech Republic - Home
Of the four shirts to use Puma’s template at Euro 96, the Czech Republic home shirt does it best. Worn in the Wembley final against Germany, it features the same sleeve pattern, button collar and large crest as the away shirt, while also featuring the same oversized national crest.
Matched up with white shorts and blue socks, the traditional Czech colours work particularly well with this template, especially when it’s being worn by players like Pavel Nedvěd and Karel Poborský. This was an exciting, often exhilarating, Czech Republic side, so it’s nice to see their shirt just about lives up to their success on the pitch.
Still, they aren’t even close to being runners-up this time.
14. Denmark - Home
The Danes have always had beautiful football shirts, and I’m so pleased they’ve reunited with hummel in recent years. At Euro 96, Denmark sported a slightly more restrained design, after two years of some wild experimentation on hummel’s part - perhaps they eventually realised they could never replicate the success of their wonderful 1986 shirt.
Either way, this more traditional aesthetic certainly works much better for them, befitting the reigning European champions as they attempted to defend their crown. The introduction of all-white sleeves might make it all seem a little “too Arsenal”, but this is another smart strip unlike anything else in this competition.
13. Croatia - Away
Davor Šuker. Peter Schmeichel. One wonderful chipped finish. It was in this shirt that Croatia really announced themselves on the international stage, pummelling the holders Denmark with just a flash of their famous red and white checked styling.
Sitting on the shoulders, this gorgeous coat of arms pattern has become a staple of most other European Championships since, but Euro 96 was the first time we got a taste for Croatia’s irresistible character. The famous pattern clearly isn’t as pronounced as on the home shirt, but it still injects fresh life into an otherwise plain colourway from Lotto. Lovely stuff.
12. Portugal - Home
Portugal’s Euro 96 shirt was, unfortunately, completely ruined by the font. Produced by Olympic, this was yet another kit bursting with originality, a far cry from the Nike templates A Seleção have sadly endured in more recent years.
Sat at the base of the terrific collar sits a tiny Portuguese shield, which is also displayed more prominently as a huge shadow pattern - alongside the same armillary sphere found on the national flag. It’s worth noting that this particular shield was used as Portugal’s kit crest up until the late 70s, so this feature was a really lovely little blast from the past.
This is a wonderfully proud and patriotic design, introducing much more green across the shoulders to flaunt the national colour palette. That font on the numbers, though. That's the kind of Clip Art special which leaves me in need of a strong paper bag…
11. France - Away
This is magnifique. France have a long history of producing gorgeous football shirts, and their Euro 96 efforts were certainly no exception. This stunning white away shirt featured in both penalty shootouts against the Netherlands and Czech Republic, and I’m sure the opposition keepers were only slightly distracted by those flamboyant, arching stripes.
For me, France and adidas really hit their stride in the mid-90s, and this was the latest entry in a string of bold, flamboyant templates. An old-school adidas logo sits beneath a fantastic striped v-neck collar, while a subtle shadow stripe pattern runs throughout the crisp white colourway to really polish things off.
10. Turkey - Home
Oh yes. This might be based on a basic adidas template (the same as Romania) but there’s little doubt that the glorious Turkish colour palette certainly gets the most out of it. The striking white stripes look incredible against the vibrant shade of red, while subtle black accents run throughout and feature yet again on the v-neck.
They might have failed to win a game (or score a goal), but there’s no question that this Turkey kit at least made some sort of impact out on the pitch. It’s every bit as bold and brash as great retro shirts should be, and is perhaps one of the clearest signs that generic templates don’t always have to be a bad thing.
9. England - Home
This was supposed to be the shirt that brought football home, and it so nearly was. Gazza pulling out the dentist’s chair, Shearer and Sheringham destroying the Dutch, the shootout win over Spain: this England shirt sat at the very heart of all these memorable moments.
The crest was moved across to the centre for the first time ever, sitting beneath a new text-based Umbro logo and an absolutely stunning collar. An injection of turquoise can be found running throughout the design, freshening up this classic look and providing the home nation with something truly special.
For me, this is one of the best England shirts of all-time, and it’s the shirt I think of as soon as I hear the words “Euro 96”. It’s just a shame we crashed out in that “indigo blue” monstrosity.
8. Romania - Home
Guest Commentary from The Kitsman:
I remember when I played for one of the top 6-a-side teams in Lincoln. I say “played for”, I spent most of the time on the bench. They were a big deal. They even had a manager. He used to bring this kit bag with him every Thursday night. Inside were these very thick and heavy retro shirts. One of those sets of shirts was this deep yellow adidas design.
Like I said, it was really heavy material, proper made-to-last stuff, awful when wet. It reminds me exactly of what this Romania shirt looked like. The template I seem to remember looked identical.
Proper baggy sleeves and a collar that reminds me of the newer adidas 'Condivo' range, with that deep V neck design. The team badge, player number and adidas logo were all centralised too. This played well to the positioning of the plain yellow centre of the shirt, which opened up from the downward blue stripes that ran down from the shoulders.
Those stripes ran into the shorts too, which proves my point that sometimes it's the way the shirt looks with the kit that improves it. All the national colours are represented throughout. The yellow being the primary, with the blue and red adding to the details. All in all, it’s a strong design and will be remembered fondly as worn by national hero: Gheorghe Hagi.
7. Netherlands - Home
When Patrick Kluivert scored against England, he veered off celebrating in a shirt which, well, showed other Dutch players celebrating. Sitting atop that traditional shade of orange is an enormous shadow graphic, with a faded image of the Dutch celebrating at USA 94 taking up most of the shirt. Yep, Lotto went pretty big before bidding “vaarwel” forever.
The outstanding white collar and cuffs feature stitching of the national flag, rounding off one of the most adventurous strips ever worn at a European Championship. Okay, so it’s essentially the same as the shirt worn 2 years earlier, but the addition of that celebratory graphic really does make it stand out. It’s perhaps not for everyone, but I’m definitely a huge fan of this one.
6. Spain - Home
Guest Commentary from Dominic O’Malley (Kit Kingdom):
I remember thinking Spain’s shirt for Euro 96 was unlike anything else I could recall, granted the previous home shirt had a similarly off-centre vision, but this was something completely different.
From a distance and, for some bizarre reason, it conjured up a biblical imagery cos’ it kinda reminded me of something a priest would wear. The vertical stripes laid within a draping of deep blue fascinated me and even the collar lent itself quite well to my peculiar thought process.
The coat of arms was proudly displayed on the chest and the Spanish flag was a vivid contrast on the sleeve, so along with the print detail, it was a shirt I kept finding things to like about.
adidas did some lovely things with it and when Miguel Nadal ensured its exit from the competition with a missed penalty against England, I was a bit sad to see it go.
It’s got a fine (church) wine vibe and I genuinely think it just gets better with age.
5. Italy - Home
Guest Commentary from Gavin Hope (Football Kit Geek):
Italy’s home kit was the only Nike kit on show at Euro 96, this was probably the last tournament where there was not a substantial presence like we see now from this global manufacturer, also taking into consideration that the Swoosh did not even appear on the players’ kit, it would seem at first glance that there were no Nike kits at all within the tournament. The removal of a logo on the Italian kit was a choice made by the Italian Football Federation decades before, who believed that the badge alone should be on the Azzurri kit, a tradition kept on players kits until 1999.
This is an absolutely classic kit, the rich blue used with the addition of gold trim used through shirt, shorts and socks gives the kit a classic feel. This, for me, outside of the Kappa years, is probably the best Italian national team kit we have seen.
The only part of the kit I am not keen on is the inclusion of “Italia” on the base of the shirt, a sign of the times for those supporters who would wear the shirt untucked and showing the “Italia” branding on their backs - however from what I can see in videos of their games this was a detail that was not included in the players’ versions of the shirts.
Worn in all three group games in its traditional blue/white/blue combination, it was not lucky for the team that was runners-up in the previous tournament (USA 94), with the loss against Czech Republic costing them their place in the quarter-final. This meant not only leaving England earlier than expected, but it also meant the away kit (a reverse of the home kit) sadly wasn’t seen at all in Euro 96.
4. Scotland - Home
Guest Commentary from The Global Obsession:
Perhaps it’s just my age and a reflection on the fading fortunes of our national team, but Scotland’s 94-96 shirt will always be my favourite of our home kits. While tartan is not really a pattern which could ever be described as ‘subtle’, the SFA’s own custom iteration is deployed here in a wholly understated fashion adorned with luxurious purple trim, a colour historically under-utilised in football fashion (particularly at international level).
In fact, the version of the shirt as used at the Finals had to be altered slightly from the qualifying kit as UEFA didn’t approve of a perceived over-use of the Umbro logo, hence the purple ribbon along the top of the sleeves didn’t appear on the kit as used at the tournament. Another difference comes with the numbers on the front which hadn’t previously been used on this design, but which complement and improve the shirt significantly, giving a pleasing central focus which draws the eye.
While I personally tend to like a Scotland kit to include white shirts and red socks (the ensemble which followed this one for World Cup qualifying employing these to excellent effect), there’s something about this all-dark version with its strokes of yellow and purple that I just find inherently pleasing, and which reminds me of happier times, hot summers and the days when the Tartan Army brought their colour and noise to the world’s major tournaments.
3. Germany - Home
Good grief, this is classy. The previous international tournaments had seen much more exuberant, flashier Germany kits, and this adidas effort signalled a completely different change of focus. This is smart, intimidating and downright beautiful all at the same time, and it’s surely a favourite for anyone who loves a big, fat crest…
Guest Commentary from Dominic O’Malley (Kit Kingdom)
This shirt faced an impossible task in following the previous season’s offering, but adidas did what we’ve commonly seen after one outrageous design - they toned it down massively. To such good effect, in fact, the simplicity spoke to me like the gentle whisper of a stripper. It felt a tad sordid, but I liked it anyway.
The detail in the collar and cuffs was exceptional, the shielded monochrome badge looked sinister AF, the flag coloured stars above that and the alignment to the centralised adidas logo was “sehr gut”. So I pretty much bathed in the subtleties of it whilst other people were a little more entertained by the squads’ number 11. Therefore, the timeless class of this shirt will live on in my mind like Oliver Bierhoff’s winning grasp of it.
2. Croatia - Home
Yes, yes and yes. I’ve always been a huge fanboy when it comes to Croatia kits, and the love affair started as soon as this burst onto the scene at Euro 96. This striking checked pattern is something we’re all accustomed to by now, but 24 years ago this had me picking my jaw off the ground and (quite naturally) begging my parents to buy me one.
While the away shirt featured just a subtle splash, here the classic pattern from the coat of arms was allowed to run riot, turning the entire design into an elaborate design of red and white checkers. If you look a little closer, you’ll see a shadow pattern of the national crest running throughout, completing a shirt which is packed with character and captured imaginations all over Europe.
This was Croatia’s first-ever international tournament, so talk about making an impression. Oof!
1. France - Home
Vive la France.
Euro 96 was jam-packed with awesome shirts, but the France home kit was nothing less than a stylish work of art. Gorgeous striped panels of white, red and blue surge down from the shoulders, sitting atop Les Blues traditional colourway and a beautiful shadow FFF pattern running throughout. Magnifique, indeed.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly that stunning French lace, preventing us from getting a little too hot under the collar and rounding off one of the most exuberant France kits ever made. Worn in victories against both Bulgaria and Romania, this adidas masterpiece sadly didn’t feature in the knockout rounds - perhaps it would’ve been a different story if it had.
After all, nothing quite distracts the opposition like a beautiful football shirt.
Guest Commentary from Museum of Jerseys:
When Rangers signed a deal with adidas in 1992, they were outfitted in one of the German firm’s ‘Equipment’ designs, featuring a set of three white bars over each shoulder – almost identical to France, who had a non-contrasting neck and red and white bars.
While adidas gave sufficient differentiation to their two blue, white and red contracts in 1994, for 1996 – Rangers’ last adidas home strip – the kits were almost identical, with the laces on France’s neck the only major difference to the untrained eye apart from the crests and Rangers’ sponsor.
Delving closer, the fabric patterns were unique to each shirt as well, but it all smacked of laziness from adidas.
And that’s it! France might have suffered penalty heartbreak back in 1996, but they can at least boast having the best shirt of the competition - at least according to FOOTY.COM! But what do you think? Tell us your favourite shirt of Euro 96 in the comments below…