The Best Olympic Jerseys Countdown
Here at Hockey By Design, we pride ourselves on giving a thoughtful and details breakdown and analysis of all the designs worn by professional hockey players, to both inform and (hopefully) delight all of the readers about the beauty and detail-oriented business that is visual design. But we also love ranking stuff, because we’re like everybody else on the planet…we want to read a list of rankings and we want to disagree with that list as soon as we read it.
With the Olympics happening right now and continuing until late in the month, and since we’ve already broken down and critiqued all of the Olympic jerseys in a multitude of posts, it’s time to take that information and rank all the jerseys, from the worst of the bunch, to the best one of all. We start with the worst:
This is the first Japanese women’s team to qualify for the Olympics since 1998’s Nagano Olympics in, coincidentally, Japan and also only their second Olympics ever. And while their jerseys are nothing extremely offensive, they just don’t make a lot of sense. ‘Japan’ is in English (Japanese, or even Russian, would have made much more sense) in American-style collegiate lettering. The glossy shoulder dragon head pattern going down to the scales on the sleeves is just too much of the gloss to be considered a subtle element. And with the beautiful simplicity of the Japanese flag (and as such, the freedom to play around with a design for it) is just a complete missed opportunity. And black jerseys are just dull. Read the full analysis here. Or, read about just the Japanese logo here.
I’ve already roasted Canada repeatedly for both their logo and their jersey looking cheap and underwhelming for a nation that is arguably more hockey-crazy than any other nation in the tournament. It’s the result of over-thinking, over-designing and just not giving a design that’s inspirational to the nation at all. The shoulder glossy maple-leaf pattern is non-sensical. The logo is abysmal. The red arm-stripe on the third jerseys evoke comparisons to something else that’s really not very nice. And why is there a third jersey again, for a maximum 8-game tournament where no other country has a third jersey? Read the full analysis here.
The last two were bad jerseys for their respective countries. The jerseys that are decently designed but with flaws are in the next bunch, starting with Finland at #12. Not incredibly horrible, but the oversized flags (taking up the whole white jersey and a good chunk of the sleeve on the blue jersey) are overkill and destroy the jerseys. The blue one becomes incredibly busy without being overly interesting, with little thought to the details overall. But Nike paid just enough attention to the white jersey to make sure their logo was displayed especially prominently. Read the full analysis here.
Slovenia features the only jersey in the entire Olympics that doesn’t have a strong visual connection to the country’s flag. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels like a cop-out from Nike, especially since these jerseys are almost identical to jerseys that Slovenia have worn in previous international tournaments. Poor Slovenia finally qualified for their first Olympics and Nike wouldn’t even design proper jerseys for them. These are not badly designed, but the lack of nationalistic appeal in the same realm as the rest of the countries leaves these jerseys lacking. Read the full analysis here.
This is the first set where one jersey is definitely better than the other, but them being a group drags them down the ranking. The flag jersey is an interesting concept but for a flag like the Czech Republic’s, with the triangular element, it just doesn’t work, crowding the top half for the jersey and leaving the bottom split in two. And it creates confusion as half of the coloured jerseys are actually white. The actual white jerseys are pretty nice. Over-striped? A bit, but they actually look pretty good on the ice. Read the full analysis here.
We’re now heading into jerseys that are designed well, but with a few missteps that hurt it. For the Americans, it’s the overkill of the glossy stars on the shoulder yokes that kill any credibility to the jerseys. The rest of the design is minimal and work pretty well. The USA crest has historical precedent for the international team, but is pretty bland and seems to have some fake chroming on it, which is just as bad as the Stadium Series chromed-up logos. The elements are there for a great jersey, but some of those elements are just over-thought and over-designed. Kind of a missed opportunity. Read the full analysis here.
Austria is another case of one jersey being superior to the other. In this case, the white jersey pretty great, mimicking the Austrian red-and-white striped flag, with a solid stripe right through the chest and onto the sleeves. The red jerseys, however, don’t have that stripe across the chest (only on the sleeves), and it causes the white outline around their crest (which is pretty bad-ass on its own) stick out oddly on the red background. A white stripe would’ve helped that out a lot. But the biggest misstep, on both of the jerseys, is the glossy “Austria”. For one, what’s an English word doing representing an Austrian team in Russia? For two, because it’s barely noticeable but placed on a prominent part of the jersey, it makes no sense to use it. It’s an element the jersey could do without. Read the full analysis here.
Latvia has a pretty solid and wonderfully traditional jersey. The burgundy is a unique element for their country compared to the rest of the countries in the tournament, and they used it well. The stripes on the sleeves work well on the sleeves and the grey elements on the crest give a complimentary accent colour to the burgundy. The glossy lions on the shoulder yokes actually use that element of the Olympic jerseys well. The only misstep is the “Latvija” along the bottom of both jerseys. It’s a bit overkill and wouldn’t hurt the jersey design at all to take it off. But overall, a solid and minimal hockey jersey. Read the full analysis here.
Now we’re heading into the upper echelon of the Olympic jerseys. Russia was given the most interesting and uniquely detailed jerseys out of any of the teams in the tournament, and most of it works well. The red jersey is a very traditional Russian jersey for international play. The inclusion of the flag on the sleeves (outlined with a thin gold stripe) actually works against what would otherwise be a relatively bland jersey without it. And the double-headed eagle crest has enough detail to be interesting, but has a solid enough shape that it works from a distance as well. And that shape is replicated for the white jerseys, with a double-headed eagle being the main element. It reminds me of a Russian version of Canada’s ’72 Summit Series jerseys, and it works well. So why 6th? Some of the elements – like the wings on the sleeves, gold medals on the sleeves (and shoulders of the red jersey), white wings on the shoulders, white trim on the red jerseys – are unnecessary. Minor missteps, but these are still great intense jerseys that push the boundaries of hockey jersey design. Read the full analysis here.
The Germans have the best jerseys that work with the Nike template of having a thick stripe of colour right below the shoulder yokes (like the States and Czech jerseys), drawing from the German flag. The red stripe balances that stark contrast between the gold and black and adds a great accent to the jersey overall. The crest, another bad-ass black eagle, looks great on both the red and gold jerseys. Not sure what the glossy elements on the shoulder yokes are, but they look like a bit much and a bit overkill on an otherwise well-designed and simple jersey. It’s unfortunate that only the women’s tournament will get to see these. Read the full analysis here.
Norway’s the only team that didn’t have their jerseys change at all from the previous Winter Olympics in 2010, using “Norge” across the chest (which works great on the jersey, but on it’s own element it’s somewhat lacking) and simple stripes on the sleeves and along the bottom of the jersey. It’s minimal, clean and – especially the red jerseys – look great on the ice. Of all the things that Nike didn’t touch, this was a good choice. Whether it was Norway fighting to keep the same look or Nike not caring enough to make a new design since Norway isn’t expected to go very far in these Olympics is hard to tell. But even if they only play 4 games over the next two weeks, at least they’ll look good doing it. Read the full analysis here.
The Slovakians follow a similar design to the Germans, using their national flag as the basis for the shoulder yoke/stripe/jersey colours (albeit in the wrong order as the flag has it) and while it works well, the real interesting element here is the thin striping. It’s an element that speaks to the history of hockey jerseys, but also treated differently to look more modern. But the striping is also the lyrics from the Slovakian national anthem, which is a great – and nationalistically appropriate for something like the Olympics – little detail to include. Put the Slovakian coat of arms of the chest, and you’ve got a fantastic jersey. Read the full analysis here.
When Nike wanted to re-design the Tre Kronor – à la what they were doing with Russia, Canada and the States – Sweden basically told them to go fuck themselves. Nobody messes with the Tre Kronor, and good on Sweden for doing so. What they got was a classic Swedish jersey: simple, clean, traditionally wonderful with their unique colour combination of blue and yellow. The addition of the glossy viking ships to the shoulders is a nice subtle touch that uses those glossy elements well. A solid double-stripe along the bottom, and you have a classic and authentically Swedish jersey that has never stopped looking good. Read the full analysis here.
These are some seriously kick-ass jerseys for a number of reasons. It’s incredibly and authentically Swiss, which is what you want for the Olympics. And when you’re working with Swiss aesthetics (see: not much), it’s tough to balance those aesthetics with creating an interesting and innovative jersey design. The stripe of glossy crosses along the chest are the best use of those glossy elements on any of these Olympic jerseys. For any non-designers, trust us, this was not an easy design to come up with. It looks deceivingly simple, but there was a ton of thought and work put into these jerseys, and it paid off. It’s not overly-glamarous (like the Russian jerseys), not overly-traditional (like the Swedish jerseys) and non overly-innovative (like the Slovakian jerseys), but it’s the jersey that best creates a jersey true to a nation’s roots and aesthetics while being simple and still deceptively complex and innovative. Read the full analysis here.
Agree? Disagree (more likely)? Let us know in the comments below!