When Denmark qualified for their first World Cup finals in 1986, excitement levels for their mission to Mexico reached fever pitch.
Despite being drawn into the tournament’s “group of death” alongside eventual finalists, West Germany, Uruguay and a more than half decent looking Scotland; there was a feeling that Denmark could more than hold their own and progress in the competition.
There was so much optimism in fact that the launch event for Hummel’s World Cup kits was broadcast on Danish television with Morten Olsen, Frank Arnesen and chums ball juggling on stage in their specialist light-weight uniforms designed to counter the Mexican sun.
That enthusiasm soon turned to mockery when the shirts were revealed to a completely unsuspecting nation, many of whom were not ready to embrace a kit that would soon be adored by a global audience.
Denmark’s half and half design, with one side of both the shirts and shorts in bold red and the other in red and white pinstripes, was quickly derided as a “carnival suit” by one disgruntled hack.
FIFA, the great bastions of football shirt tradition and virtue, were concerned that the design would play havoc with analogue television pictures and requested an alteration in the shorts to simple block colours of red or white.
Where the inspiration for the mostly red home and mainly white away colours came from is hard to say, with theories ranging from streaky Danish bacon to the candy canes from Copenhagen’s world famous Tivoli Gardens.
In the Mexican heat, the Danish Dynamite team featuring Michael Laudrup, Jan Molby and Jesper Olsen seemed to be genuine contenders as they smashed 9 goals and beat finalists West Germany on their way to topping their group and reaching the knock-out phase of the tournament.
The Danes recorded a 1-0 victory over Scotland, on their World Cup debut, wearing their mostly white away kit with red shorts.
Preben Elkjær helped himself to a hat-trick as they smashed Uruguay 6-1 in their home colours with red shorts, before German born coach Sepp Piontek’s men finished the group stage in style with a 2-0 win over West Germany in the red shirts with white shorts and red socks.
Denmark then travelled to the city of Querétaro to face Spain, where they sadly succumbed to a 5-1 last sixteen defeat whilst wearing the same colours they used against Scotland. The more the Danes chased the game, the more they conceded. It was a sad end to their debut tournament.
After the shock and awe of the group stage and the contrast of that 2nd round result, that Denmark team with attacking flair and goals galore has since developed a cult appreciation, thanks in no small part to the dynamism of Hummel’s innovative shirts of two halves.
As well as the carnival suits in red and white, Hummel also delivered a mainly green alternative kit which we don’t believe was ever worn in a full international fixture.
Hummel’s iconic and ground-breaking design was then adapted for the growing market in replica kits, with English clubs Aston Villa, Southampton and Coventry City all having template shirts in their own club colours.
Although Denmark’s shirts for Mexico 86 may not have been roundly applauded by the Danish press at the time, the kits have since achieved cult status and there are plenty on Planet Football who describe them like another famous Danish export: Probably the best football shirt in the world.
What memories do you have of Hummel, Denmark and Mexico 86?
What’s your favourite international kit?
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