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World Cup: U.S. tries a classic look in South Africa

June 12, 2010 |  9:59 am
The uniforms the U.S. will be wearing in their World Cup opener against England on Saturday might look a bit familiar to some of the oldest of the English fans. That's because the jerseys, with a sash running from the right shoulder to the left side, is modeled after the kits the U.S. wore when they beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup, a result that still ranks as one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.

"The idea to celebrate the iconic sash from the shirt in 1950 came from the design team working on the U.S. national team kit," said Phil Dickinson, Nike's global creative director for soccer. "They wanted to marry the strong history of the U.S. national team with a sense of tradition. U.S. soccer reacted very positively to this proposal and we were able to develop it further from there."

But while the original 1950 uniforms were made from a heavy and uncomfortable wool-like material, the new Nike kits are made entirely from recycled polyester, with each jersey produced with yarn made from up to eight recycled plastic bottles.

Meaning Landon Donovan could be wearing that bottle of soda you brought last summer.

To make the U.S. kits, fabric suppliers diverted plastic bottles from landfills -- primarily in Japan and Taiwan -- then melted them down to produce yarn that was ultimately converted to fabric for the shirt. Nike, which made the kits for nine of the 32 World Cup teams, said that process reduced energy consumption by up to 30% compared to manufacturing virgin polyester. And if the recycled bottles used to make the shirts were laid end to end, that line would be longer than the coastline of South Africa.

"Having the opportunity to make the first 'considered-design' uniforms for Nike was a great moment for the whole of the team working on this project. From the designers to the development team, the materials experts," Dickinson said. "We believe we can build products that are more sustainable and that make a difference without compromising performance."

-- Kevin Baxter in Johannesburg, South Africa