The most prominent way for a football team to project whatever image they want to project is via their kits. They’re the thing everyone sees, the literal uniform people can most identify them from.

It’s therefore fascinating to see what sort of image clubs from around the world want to put out. Is it a surprise change of identity? Is it a nod to their glorious history? Is it establishing themselves as a “brand” first, football club second? Is it all of these things and more?

Here is an extensive but far from comprehensive run down of a few kits from across the globe that have caught our eye, from the eyebrow-raising to the hypnotic to the absolutely glorious. And one that prominently features eels…

Barcelona (away)

𝙃𝒆𝙧𝒆 𝒕𝙤 𝙡𝒆𝙖𝒅 𝒕𝙝𝒆 𝒘𝙖𝒚

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 26, 2023

Oh ho! Look at this! Barcelona being all edgy! It’s Barcelona! In a white shirt! When their most hated rivals Real Madrid wear… white! Oh, how we laughed.

Apparently, this is actually a tribute to an away kit they had in the 1970s rather than a trolling of the great enemy, and much like many things Barca do, it is inspired by “the pioneering figure of Johan Cruyff”, which presumably means Cruyff wore that shirt at some point.

Robert Lewandowski in the white of… Barcelona (Photo: Getty Images)

You get the feeling Barcelona could slap the Cruyff name on a bottle of cyanide and people would buy it as a refreshing drink. Still, it’s a pretty nice, if reasonably plain, shirt.

Rating: 7

Bayern Munich (home)

And while we’re on the subject of teams who don’t usually wear white wearing white, get a load of ol’ Bayern Munich. This is the first time, as far as we can work out, that their home shirt is mostly white since the 1960s, which means Uli Hoeness won’t be the only ancient relic at the Allianz this season! Just a little joke there, Uli.

Bayern’s shirt is also predominantly white (Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

After some lengthy research (Wikipedia), it turns out that Bayern actually played in white for the first 60-odd years of their history and, despite the lack of familiarity about this as their main colour these days, this is actually a very pleasant shirt. There’s not a lot going on, but when you have the novelty factor and the white body/red sleeves combo, you don’t need to have a lot going on.

Rating: 8

Real Madrid (home)

Once those of us of a certain age have got over the crushing ennui that comes with realising the early 2000s are “retro” now, it’s a big hats off for this first Galactico era throwback.

Bellingham wearing an instant Real classic (Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Squint a little and you can see Steve McManaman scissor kicking home a goal in the Champions League final, Michel Salgado ignoring his defensive responsibilities, Luis Figo getting pelted with pork products, and Nicolas Anelka contemplating his next career mistake. It’s what they call a Proustian rush, but it’s also what they call a truly excellent kit.

Rating: 9

Milan (home)

“Calcio is BACK” announced the adverts last season, giddy at the prospect of three European finals with Italian representation. The bad news was that they lost all of those finals, but arguably even worse news is that AC Milan will be strutting around in whatever this is for the coming season.

Sorry, Milan fans (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

We all know that, despite the adverts, Italian football isn’t what it once was, but that’s no excuse for dressing up a team that have won seven Scudetti like they’re some no-mark Bundesliga team from the late 2000s.

Rating: 5

Atletico Madrid (home)

Red and white stripes is about as solid as you can get when it comes to a football shirt. Simple, but not boring. Contrasting colours. Bold and powerful. No messing. And yet, Atletico Madrid have been doing plenty of messing in the past few years. Last season saw the ‘warped bars of a rusting fence’ approach, with the famous red stripes dressing to the right for no discernible reason. The season before that, it was the ‘dog running over wet paint’ gambit. The season before that, the stripes were weirdly uneven, like they had been drawn by a distracted child with some crayons.

Atletico go back to basics (Photo: Getty Images)

Other variants were tried in years before that, but this season it’s back to basics, with classic regimented and even stripes, with solid block sleeves. And it’s good. Sometimes it’s better to be simple, solid and predictable.

Rating: 7

Wimbledon (general)

This season, Wimbledon haven’t so much released a set of excellent kits but a suite of them; three absolute classics that each deserve standing ovations. The white away kit is the worst, and by “worst” we mean “least good but still better than pretty much anything else you’ll see this summer”. Then there’s the Boca Juniors tribute of a home shirt, perfectly pitching that yellow band across the chest and, for a minute, taking you from south London to Buenos Aires. And then there’s the third shirt.

Our Club Shop is open until 7pm this evening, meaning you can snap-up some @umbro goodies before tonight’s Meet the Manager event with Johnnie 🛍️ #AFCW 🟡🔵

— AFC Wimbledon (@AFCWimbledon) August 3, 2023

AFC Wimbledon or Boca Juniors? (Photo: Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images)

Does it make sense that a team whose first choice colours are blue should have a third shirt that is also blue? No! Does that matter when the shirt in question is such a beautiful example of simplicity, a classic design that recalls the club’s glory days in the 1990s but in a modern style? Also no! Wimbledon really aren’t that good at football – they finished 89th out of 92 league clubs last season – but if they’re rubbish again, at least they’ll look good being rubbish.

Rating: 9

Dortmund (home)

You sort of see what they were trying to do here. The Signal Iduna Park is one of the world’s great stadiums, so why not celebrate it? But when it’s etched in black onto a football shirt, it just looks a bit weird. What’s the expectation here? That someone is going to look at the shirt, look up at the stadium, look back at the shirt and think: “Ah! That’s where I am!”?

Dortmund’s very much home kit (Photo: Getty Images)

Actually, perhaps we’re being unkind: the design of this shirt was the result of a fan contest, a total of over 15,000 entrants whittled down to a winner by a panel that featured captain Marco Reus and then a public vote. Hey, you might as well try something like this after the trauma of the final day last season. Nothing else has worked in the past decade, so why not get your fans on side?

Sentiment rating: 9

Aesthetics rating: 6

Barnsley (home)

Winning is Being Barnsley.

Introducing our kits for the 23/24 campaign, designed in collaboration with @KidSuper and @pumafootball.

— Barnsley FC (@BarnsleyFC) June 29, 2023

This, despite the look of it firmly pointing in that direction, is actually not the shirt of a briefly successful NASL franchise from the early 1980s. It is League One Barnsley’s home shirt, which itself is a tribute to their jersey from the 1989/90 season, something that is surprising if only for the idea that whoever tried to sell this to the people of Barnsley — typically regarded as a very ‘straight talking’ corner of northern England — the first time around wasn’t immediately chased out of town. Still, that was over 30 years ago, so perhaps all has been forgiven. Or perhaps it was actually really popular in the first place. You do wonder why, though…

Rating: 4

Ajax (away)

Ajax really are brilliant at a few things. One is producing and nurturing talent that the wealthiest and giddiest English teams fall over themselves to throw huge amounts of cash at. Another is looking phenomenal, which they do every year by default with their timeless home shirt, but they’re on a real hot streak with the away jerseys, too.

Introducing our new away kit. Available now. 🤍

— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) May 26, 2023

A couple of years ago, you could barely move at your local five-a-side venue without bumping into someone wearing that Bob Marley-inspired black, red, yellow and green top. Last season was a beauty in deep blue, gold and red. And this is a left turn but nevertheless a delight, a lighter palette-cleanser, like a delicate sorbet to balance out the delicious red meat that came before.

Rating: 9

Benfica (away)

Now, here’s a combination of a shirt that looks good shorn of context but also tastefully puts across a wholesome message. Those five thin stripes down the middle apparently represent the five continents, a nod to Benfica’s fans all over the world on the club’s 120th anniversary.

Lovely (Photo: Getty Images)

That’s nice, isn’t it? Sort of like a global hug combined with the latest in sweat-wicking sportswear technology. Do the stripes look a bit like a game suitable for ages 4-11 at an interactive children’s museum? Yes, a bit, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Rating: 8

PSG (away)

You might think these kit rating pieces are fripperies, just a bit of fun, but ACTUALLY, they’re a valuable platform to talk about the crucial issues that face our game and, indeed, our world. So let’s talk about horizontal bands across football shirts: of course you tend to think of Boca Juniors and thus consistently magnificent designs, but there is something else going on here, which is that they’ve also become a handy vector for teams to more effectively display their front-of-shirt sponsor.

PSG have strayed into the band style (Photo: Getty Images)

Take this PSG shirt: a six- or so-inch band across the middle of the shirt that is just perfect for the Qatar Airways logo. It feels like an increasingly cynical ploy, that the primary purpose of the kit is not for the team and fans to look the part, but to sell luxury flights to the Middle East. Is this super low-wattage, dad-on-Facebook-thinking-he’s-uncovered-a-great-scandal thinking? Perhaps. But maybe that’s what they want you to think. The shirt’s quite nice though.

Rating: 7

Inter (away)

There are a couple of things going on here. Firstly: great design, top work. We’re a big fan of a sash here at The Athletic ’s kit rating HQ and whenever Inter go white with their away shirt, it usually works really nicely. But what’s with the weird digital break in the middle of it? Was this designed when everyone thought their shirt sponsor this season would be cryptocurrency firm Digitalbits, a relationship that was ended after they failed to come up with the actual currency required to pay Inter?

Inter’s kit features a sponsor break (Photo: Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

They’ve had to slightly awkwardly adapt the logo of their new sponsor, Paramount Plus, which, in the wider scheme of things, is a minor thing but just an illustration of how these things can go slightly awry.

Rating: 8

Juventus (away)

Different but nice (Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Your kit reviewer has a few things in common with Ringo Starr. One is that people don’t ask either of us for autographs these days, which in Ringo’s case is because he told people to stop doing it a few years ago; it remains a mystery why I don’t get pestered. Another is that I am also all about peace and love, which is why I have chosen to gloss over the horror show of Juventus’ home kit, which looks like a promotional T-shirt for a mid-range safari park, and instead focus on the loveliness of their away kit. You could argue there’s a bit too much going on, but the pink, white and light grey work really nicely, allowing the black Adidas stripes to pop as they always should do.

Rating: 8

Roma (away)

Is there an argument to make that a club’s kits can be too good? Not in a lazy co-commentator, “he’s hit that shot too well” sort of way, but if a club consistently decks their players out in such a long succession of beauties, it’s easy to start thinking of them as a lifestyle brand with a football club loosely attached. Arsenal are dancing along that tightrope, Venezia fell off it a while ago (more on that later), and you could say Roma are wobbling, too.

Roma are onto another winner (Photo: Getty Images)

We could have picked this season’s home shirt, which is also a peach, but this alternate really is the stuff. The only slight quibble is that it looks a lot like an international shirt as opposed to a club one, but maybe that’s because there’s no sponsor at the time of writing.

Rating: 9

Wrexham (home)

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. I know what you’re all thinking, so we should address it. Yes, this does look exactly like the shirt of a mid-table Eredivisie team from circa 2012. All the kids are saying it on TikTok or whatever. We’re just following the zeitgeist here. Beyond that obvious, screaming comparison, it’s a pretty lovely number, particularly the collar and sleeve details. Although it does look a bit like someone has cut out a bit from the collar because their neck is too big.

Wrexham go Dutch (Photo: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

We’ll gloss over the sponsor and how weird it is the United Airlines logo is on a League Two club’s shirt because, let’s be honest, they’re on there for the same reason we’re writing about the Wrexham shirt alongside Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Rating: 7

Inter Miami

Messi in pink (Photo: Omar Vega/Getty Images)

There’s something that isn’t quite right about Inter Miami. I think it’s that the football always seems slightly secondary, that David Beckham decided he wanted a brand first and then attached a football club to it rather than the other way around. Signing Lionel Messi is part of that and the pink home kit is, too, which isn’t to say it’s a bad shirt or that pink is bad, just that it was chosen as part of the brand, to have maximum commercial impact.

Happy Birthday to defender Harvey Neville, we hope you have the best day! 🎉🥳

— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) June 26, 2023

The away kit feels less part of that and more like an actual football shirt rather than one of 11 two-legged billboards, the pink working really nicely as a contrast to the main black body of the shirt.

Rating: 8

Toronto FC (third)

Feel the rhythm 🥁🎊

Introducing the Toronto FC x @adidas Energy Kit

Get yours at @ShopRSApparel. Also available on

— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) July 3, 2023

Holy hell. Well, you can’t fault their boldness here. Or maybe you could fault their boldness if you saw this shirt while driving, got hypnotised like Kaa from the Jungle Book was staring at you and crashed your car into a tree. Because that’s not out of the question.

Bold? Yes. Good? No. (Photo: Getty Images)

Look, bold is good, it can be a pleasing point of difference to the templates that some clubs and manufacturers put out and it can be fun. But it can also be a brash mess that looks like the result of a tropical bird that has flown at full speed into a window.

Rating: 4

Venezia (‘pre-match’)

I suppose we’re playing into Venezia’s hands here by continuing to write about them in pieces like this because other than having a stadium that is essentially floating and their frequent eye-catching garb, they would be a fairly nondescript football club.

They’re currently in Serie B, where they have been for the majority of their history having spent one season with the big boys in the past couple of decades and last won a major trophy in 1941. Essentially the main thing they have going for them is their status as a minor fashion brand rather than any particular tangible success on the pitch.

For the launch campaign of the pre-match jersey designed by Bureau Borsche and made by Kappa, Venezia FC pays tribute to the soul of the city inspired by its people. Photo by Sam Gregg#ArancioNeroVerde #Kappa #KappaSport

— Venezia FC (@VeneziaFC_EN) July 6, 2023

Still, fair play to them: releasing stylish gear that gets plenty of traction on Instagram has got them much more attention than most other second-tier teams, so in that spirit we have chosen to review a kit that they aren’t actually going to wear in games, this being their “pre-match” shirt… which presumably means “warm-up”, but it’s tricky to tell. It is, grudgingly, a beaut and you wonder why more teams don’t experiment with this three-colour stripes approach, for an away kit at least.

Rating: 8

Werder Bremen (home)

If the decision-makers at Hummel were here now I would shake them firmly by the hand and gift them a prize ham. Whoever has decided most of their kits should hark back to the glory days of the 1980s, with the half-and-half/thin stripes combinations, deserves a raise and a two-week, all-expenses-paid holiday somewhere warm, with people bringing them drinks with little umbrellas in them.

Thank you, Hummel (Photo: Carmen Jaspersen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Southampton kit is a smasher and it’s a damn shame they won’t be showing it off to as many people as possible in the Premier League, but somehow Werder Bremen’s green is even better. Thank you to Hummel and thank you to the people of Denmark for giving us Hummel.

Rating: 10

FC Volendam (away)

FC Volendam’s new eel-inspired away kit is definitely going to divide opinion

— COPA90 (@Copa90) July 11, 2023

What if more clubs based their shirt design on symbols of local industry? Sheffield United’s kit would have steel girders on them. Juventus’ would feature small but economical cars. Newcastle could replace their club badge with an oil rig. Volendam is a small fishing town just north of Amsterdam and, as such, their shirt this year is inspired by… eels. And their kit announcement photos featured their players holding… eels. That’s… eels. It’s the sort of thing you stare at, realise the world is full of very strange things, blink a few times and move on.

Rating: Eels

(Top photo: Getty; Logan Riley, Daniele Badolato/Juventus FC, Angel Marchini/SOPA Images; design: John Bradford)