Levi’s® Activewear And The World Cup

Levi Strauss & Co.
June 21, 2018

Mexico is currently riding high off its historic win over Germany in last weekend’s opening game in this year’s World Cup. But did you know we have a connection to the Mexican team as well?

Well before our Activewear Division outfitted athletes at the National Sports Festival and Olympic Games, LS&Co. hit on a sports design breakthrough at the 1978 World Cup. But it wasn’t for U.S. athletes.  LS&Co. designed stylish kits for the Mexican National Team.

The cool green jerseys with a V-neck in contrasting white trim featured a red Levi’s® batwing on the top right. Echoing colors from the Mexican flag, the fitted long sleeve shirts included red and white stripes. The distinctive jerseys balanced the equally characteristic big haired look of players like Leonardo Cuellar and Hugo Sánchez.

Some consider the 1978 Levi’s® World Cup jerseys among the best World Cup Kits of all time. “Designed by Levi’s®, this 1978 Mexico kit was stylish and modern,” notes Tabaré Azcona of The 18, Featuring green, white and red, the jersey transcended nationalism and class.”

Back in the 1970s, Levi Strauss & Co. established its Activewear Division, venturing into athletic apparel and sportswear. To test the waters, the company focused on several major sports events leading up to the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

“Levi’s® was exploring the opportunities . . . and looking at whether we could do sportswear aside from our core products of shirts and jeans,” said Carol Yenne, who was recruited to help set up the new Activewear Division.  When LS&Co. joined the Pan American Games in 1979, Carol traveled to Puerto Rico and participated with the athletes.

These experiences helped LS&Co. work closely with competitors and test product performance and design. “We were developing samples and everything,” Carol recalled. “It was at that point that President Carter decided we [U.S. athletes] were no longer going to participate in the 1980 Olympics.” Despite this disappointment, LS&Co. applied their learnings at the 1982 National Sports Festival, outfitting 2,600 athletes. We would later go on to outfit the U.S. team for the 1984 Olympics.

Go, teams!

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