In the international sports world, there are a lot of recognizable pieces of sports history. You don’t have to love soccer to recognize some of the national team jerseys we see during the World Cup and other international soccer tournaments. However, the national team jersey for Brazil is far and away among the most recognizable and most widely worn among international soccer fans and soccer enthusiasts alike.
We’re here to honor the man who designed and created the iconic Brazilian national jersey all those years ago. His name is Aldyr Schlee and he passed away this month at age 83 after battling skin cancer. But his influence on soccer in Brazil began long ago.
The World Cup, the famed tournament that’s held every four years to determine international soccer supremacy, began being held in 1930. In the 1950 World Cup final, Brazil faced Uruguay and suffered what they considered to be their worst loss in the history of their international appearances. At that point in time, Brazil wore white jerseys.
Apparently, that loss was enough to shake things up and they set their sights on redesigning their kits. You’d think jersey redesigns would be managed by design teams and marketing departments, but this was the 1930s, so it was approached a little differently. In 1953, a Brazilian newspaper made a contest that would accept submissions from anyone who felt they had what it takes to design the team’s new jerseys. The only stipulation was it had to incorporate all the colors of Brazil’s flag.
Nineteen-year-old Aldyr Schlee caught wind of the contest and, working as an illustrator for a magazine, set to work. To begin, he was taken aback by the parameters of the contest. The colors of the Brazilian flag are white, green, blue, and yellow, colors he found didn’t look that great together. Nonetheless, he submitted his design and won the contest. It debuted in the 1954 World Cup. The look would go on to be made famous by Brazilian superstar footballer Pele, who helped rally a World Cup victory in 1962. Then again when they won it 1970.
We’re certain you can see the jerseys in your mind’s eye: yellow jerseys with accents of green and white paired with blue shorts. Though Schlee designed those jerseys for the Brazilian national team so long ago, he himself was a supporter of Uruguay. After his recent passing, the Brazilian and Uruguayan teams both honored him before a match with a moment of silence.
Rest in peace, Mr. Schlee. Your legacy will live on in the sports community for years to come.