Following on from the reveal of Labrum’s incredible Sierra Leone Football kits, Aloof Studio was inspired to look towards the African continent, deep diving into a world of seldom seen football shirts and picking out some of the very best to have been released since the turn of the millennium.
With such rich and varied cultural histories, football teams in Africa, both club and national, can easily draw upon a wealth of inspiration, capturing the energy and the vibrancy of their country, city or province.
1. Nigeria 20/21 Away Kit
It took 3 minutes for the Nigeria 18/19 World Cup Shirt to sell out on the Nike website. Never before has a single shirt captured the imagination of the entire world. Cult shirt status, normally reserved for 90’s European classics, was instantly bestowed upon the 'Naija' shirt, worn by the likes of Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses.
Following on from the success of the World Cup kit, Nike ditched the ‘template’ system previously employed, freeing the designers to collaborate with the teams to create something truly bespoke. Whilst the Home Kit is another triumph, with a similar pattern to the aforementioned shirt and this time inspired by the traditional Agbada robe, the Away Kit is the one that really captures our attention.
A Charcoal Grey base dominates the Shirt, with the Neck and Sleeve detailing stealing the show. It employs the West African school of thought Onaism, where Yoruba artistry combines with modern art practices. Here, Nike has taken those patterns and adapted them to create a zigzag, semi-abstracted feather pattern, in a nod to their Super Eagles nickname.
2. TP Mazembe 19/20 Away Kit
It’s little secret that Away and 3rd Shirts are the traditional platform where designers can take more artistic licence when putting something together; that’s definitely the case with this shirt from the Congolese reigning champions. When you have 17 championships and are the most storied club side in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you can definitely push the boat out when it comes to kit design.
Despite their ‘Ravens’ nickname, Mazembe’s club crest features a crocodile with a ball in its mouth, which provides the basis for this shirt. The full Black and White kit is adorned with a crocodile skin pattern, camouflaging the outline of the reptile itself. The lack of chest sponsor allows an uninterrupted design, which flows freely across the body.
3. Cape Town City 19/20 Away Kit
Whilst their Home shirt is a fairly dull, Boca Juniors type number, Cape Town City’s Away Shirt really stands out from the other change kits in the ABSA Premiership. The geometric, M90 inspired camo that adorns the front is a seamless blend of Olive and Khaki Shades, allowing the blocked Olive sleeves, neckline and back panel to fully integrate themselves into the shirt. The white sleeve tips tie the kit together, matching up nicely with the Socks and Shorts which return the favour with little hits of Olive punctuating the base colour.
4. Cameroon Home Kits 2002-2004
Instead of a great piece of design, this time we’ve opted for a ground-breaking kit that sparked controversy at the time of its release. In 2002, Puma unveiled the Cameroon kit to be worn in the African Cup of Nations, through to the World Cup. Whilst the Green, Red and Yellow colourway was fairly standard, echoing the national flag, it was the sleeveless design that incensed FIFA. The shirt was eventually banned, resulting in Cameroon’s players donning base layers under the shirts to cover their shoulders for the World Cup campaign.
The Indomitable Lions didn’t stop there though, their kit debacle and subsequent clash of heads with FIFA escalated further when they entered the African Cup Of Nations as defending champions in 2004, wearing a one-piece kit. Despite threats from Sepp Blatter, then president of FIFA, Cameroon wore the kit all through the competition, resulting in a six-figure fine and a six point docking from the World Cup Qualifiers in 2006.
The long running feud between Blatter & Co. and Cameroon was ended shortly after with Puma’s threat of legal action against FIFA. An agreement between the two was reached, wherein Cameroon would return to the accepted three-piece kit for the World Cup, and FIFA would rescind the points penalty previously issued.
5. Sierra Leone 20/21 Home & Away Kits
Earlier this month, Labrum London, headed up by Foday Dumbaya, announced the release of the Sierra Leone Olympics kit, which included two Football strips. Dumbaya, originally hailing from the West African country, worked with the Ministry of Sports Sierra Leone to come up with designs for all athletes representing the country in future sporting events, to encapsulate the historic diversity of Sierra Leone whilst uniting the country.
The Away Shirt sports a concentric zigzag pattern across the chest - 16 zigzags to be precise, representing the 16 tribes that make up the population of Sierra Leone. Dumbaya noticed a disconnect between the tribes, one which he hopes will be put aside so all feel represented by the National teams and their uniforms as Sierra Leone approach the global stage of Tokyo 2021.
The Home Shirt, which is just as striking, features a White chest panel with contrasting patterned sleeves adorned with an interlocking L & S pattern, L for Labrum and S for Sierra Leone. The patterns on both shirts are repeated across the Home & Away shorts, utilising the Green, White and Blue of The Sierra Leonean flag to bring the whole kit together and create one of the most cohesive and well designed kits we’ve ever seen.
Shop the Labrum Sierra Leone kit here.