One of the most storied North American football biographies is that which we file under the name “New York Cosmos”. And it has an iconic kit history to match.
The current team bearing the Cosmos name, with authentic lineage, is based in Uniondale on Long Island. This incarnation was formed in 2010 and plays in the club’s iconic white - with a fitting green Third kit - in the National Independent Soccer Association, but 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the original side’s formation.
Entering the United States football landscape in 1970, and soon joining the recently-established North American Soccer League (NASL), the Cosmos - a shortening of “Cosmopolitans” - strode onto the pitch in green shirts as first choice for the majority of their early years, with squad numbers in yellow and white - appearing on the fronts and backs - and yellow contrast necks and collars often being the only further method of identification.
The colouring was a tribute to reigning World Champions Brazil, and the Cosmos had also sported a particularly Brazil-like yellow shirt, blue shorts and white socks kit during this period, which took on extra significance when Brazilian superstar, and three-time World Cup winner, Pelé joined the club in 1975. Soon, the New York Cosmos were in their most famous, Santos-aping, white shirts - with green (and yellow) trim - as Pelé was joined by, first, Italian striker Georgio Chinaglia, and then Pelé’s former international teammate Carlos Alberto and West German legend Franz Beckenbauer in 1977.
The unmistakable New York Cosmos swirl crest was generally present and correct on the shirts in this glory-filled period, and only the “New York” wording was dropped when the side decamped to Giants Stadium in New Jersey. But the full name was restored in the later years, as Pelé departed, Johan Cruyff teased but never quite signed in toto, and the writing started to appear on the wall that the US soccer experiment was failing. Later years saw indoor football - along with navy replacing green in the palette - but the Cosmos, in its original guise, was soon to be no more.
Regardless, what a ride. Everyone can picture a New York Cosmos shirt, most likely in white with green, but with a neat round neck, or a huge flapping winged collar - and squad numbers and names stitched on the back long before Europe had countenanced adorning its players in a similar fashion - and the range has provided some true highlights of on-pitch aesthetics.
With a little help from manufacturers Denken Soccer, Champion, Umbro - who also supplied the rebirth side after its establishment - Aertex, adidas, Athleta, Admiral, Ellesse and even Ennerre, the New York Cosmos holds both a lofty position in the history of global football, and in the history of football kit design.
This article has been produced in association with, and is sponsored by, Toffs - The Old-Fashioned Football Shirt Company.