An Ardent Defense of Cult Style Legend Jorge Campos

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Last Friday, Complex published a list of what are, in their opinion, the “25 Ugliest Soccer Kits of All Time.” It was all fun and games until we got to #8: Mexican soccer legend Jorge Campos, who is obviously a hero at both soccer ball-blocking and color-blocking. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Campos has appeared on such a list — just Google “ugliest soccer uniforms” and you’ll find plenty (virtually identical) round ups, all featuring a slot for El Brody. Which is why we’re here to set the record straight. To regard Campos’ outfits as ugly is to miss the point, to focus only on the least interesting and most superficial. With Campos, as with avant-garde art, claims of ugliness and bad fashion sense say more about the onlooker than they say about the Mexican goalie. Here are five reasons why we hail Campos as a visionary and why it is high time we recognize the true value of his fashion choices.

1. He has was a trailblazer.

In a sport that is not known for its forward-thinking – the issue of performance materials is still being debated and not wholly adopted– Jorge Campos thought it would be a good thing to impart personality to the drab solid patterns of goalie kits. Before him, the discordant looks in goalie choices were a one-time affair, or simple eccentricities. Whereas those kits were merely colorful, Campos went deep into the fashion of the sweater and expressed much more with it; not only a style of play but a lifestyle:

It was an approach that was ahead of its time. Today, Nike Lab, a consumer space where Nike showcases its most innovative products and collaborations, sells performance/lifestyle apparel that clearly bears the influence of Campos’ neon colors and geometric shapes:

2. He proposed a look of his own.

Jorge Campos was born in the poor part of Acapulco, Mexico in the late sixties. If there is a “coastal” lifestyle –a relaxed, nonchalant, quick-witted attitude towards life and its problems– Campos personified it. He did so on the pitch and it showed, from the beginnings of his career in the late eighties playing as an acrobatic forward and keeper. He also did it in his kits, which introduced a new, baggier silhouette full of bright colors — a look he designed himself and referred to in many interviews as “surfer.” This “surfer” look and lifestyle evolved throughout the years and one could say it came to a culminating point in the 1994 World Cup, when it truly went global.

3. He did so much with so little.

If you look closely at the kits and their aesthetics, you’ll see there are very few elements —  and yet so much seems to be happening with just a recurring palette of bright, fluorescent colors: yellow, pink, green, lots of yellow. And the patterns were surprisingly simple: through the use of jagged stripes, solid geometric figures managed to merge his lifestyle with his dress.

4. He was an alternative entrepreneur.

During the nineties, when the biggest sport gear brands were starting to dominate the soccer world, imposing their own looks, Campos created a label of his own: ACA Sport (ACA stood for Acapulco). Collaborating with a friend, they created and marketed their own brand of sweaters. Later came the big companies –Umbro and Nike among them– to partner with them. But unlike with Jordan, Federer or LeBron, for whom the companies tailored a brand, with Campos it was the other way around: corporations wanted what he was producing.

5. He left a legacy.

Campos left the football pitch in 2004, and his later years were more subdued in terms of fashion choices. But his bright surfer kits are still worn by kids and adults alike. Regardless of the team he played for, Campos jerseys sold millions. Kids who grew up watching him play, now take his jersey to the stadium. And we defy you to try and find some that aren’t knockoffs on eBay — they’re in such high demand, they’re tough to get their hands on.