‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ certainly seemed to be the Bianchi team’s motto when it came to kit design, as their jersey didn’t change in 30 years. Simply, it’s a Bianchi ‘celeste’ blue background, with a white stripe across the chest and ‘Bianchi’ written in black. Classic stuff and something most cyclists would be more than happy to wear today, too.
Brooklyn (circa 1976)
At a time when team jerseys were only just moving from being blocks of colour — or at best stripes with a single sponsor’s name — Brooklyn was one of the first squads to bring a definite, identifiable element of design to their team jersey. The fact it advertised chewing gum and had an American name simply added to its ‘cool factor’.
Renault-Elf-Gitane (circa 1982)
The Renault-Elf jersey is not necessarily an example of design genius but it certainly assists the historical kudos of a team jersey if the people who wore it — such as Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond, to name just three — went on to become legends of the sport. Having a Formula One team feature exactly the same colours at the time helped, too.
La Vie Claire (circa 1984)
OK, let’s face it, this is probably the best team cycling jersey ever designed. Yes, it’s retro. Yes, there was a period when La Vie Claire kit seemed horribly outdated. But now it is viewed as one of the truly classic jerseys. Based on the work of artist Piet Mondrian, and designed by Benetton, it had the provenance to be a style icon, and so it has proven.
Panasonic (circa 1987)
I agree this is a bit of a strange choice, but as a young boy watching the Grands Tours and enjoying the wise-cracks of Aussie Allen Peiper, I’ve always had a soft-spot for the clean design of the Panasonic team kit. Funnily enough, the Panasonic squad itself grew out of the legendary Raleigh-TI team, which boasts a classic jersey design itself.
Z-Peugeot (circa 1989)
The 1987 Panasonic squad had another famous native English-speaker among its ranks — Scottish mountain ace Robert Millar — and when he moved to Z-Peugeot in 1989 he got his hands on another classic bit of kit. Designed to promote children’s clothing makers Vétements-Z, it was fun, colourful and cartoony. (And although we haven’t included it here, special commendation should also go to the classic 1960s Peugeot black and white chequered jersey.)
US Postal (circa 1999)
We might take the micky out of 1970s and 1980s fashion, but the 1990s were actually a particularly bad time for tasteful team cycling kit. By the end of the decade, though, things were looking up. Of course, the US Postal team leader has been struck from cycling’s collective memory, but it would be harsh to forget the smart red, white and blue jerseys that carried him to infamy.
T-Mobile (circa 2005)
Effectively a hot-pink variation of the classic Bianchi jersey of yesteryear, the T-Mobile jersey was worn by everyone’s favourite millennial Grand Tour underdog, Jan Ullrich. The jersey itself had a number of things going for it. First, because ‘big Jan’ wore it, you knew they made it extra large. And second, because it was manufactured by Adidas, it even had funky three-stripe detailing. (Because Adidas didn’t bring cycling kit into the UK at the time, I have to admit I spent a fair proportion of my honeymoon hunting round bike shops in Budapest trying to find one of these jerseys. I failed. Luckily, I’m still married.)
Brioches La Boulangère (circa 2004)
And just to appease my wife, here’s her favourite team jersey of all time. Brioches La Boulangère might have been even pluckier underdogs than Ullrich, but the French squad did the white and red of their sponsor proud — and won it some incredible television coverage — by supporting their team-mate Thomas Voeckler while he spent nine stages wearing the yellow jersey at the 2004 Tour de France.
Finally, here’s one for Vuelta and Spanish cycling fans. Admittedly, the Euskadi and later Euskaltel-Euskadi jerseys weren’t always worthy of much pure design praise, but the team’s constant bright orange colourway made it instantly recognisable. With a squad drawn up with a lot of local Spanish cyclists, and some success at both the Tour de France and the Vuelta, it was a jersey that could be worn with pride, too.
AND THE FIVE WORST…
Few people can probably remember much about the Tonton-Tapis team. But one thing you can never forget once you’ve seen it is their monochrome team jersey, which seemed to feature World of Sport’s legendary presenter Dickie Davis carrying a carpet.
Mapei (pretty much any year, but 2002 was a corker)
A classic team name, and team that was well known for classic (many would say, classically bad) team jerseys. At least Mapei kept to a constant theme, though: illustrating as many colourful bricks as possible onto a lithe racer’s body.