Rhapsodies in Blue: A Visual Guide to the 2020/2021 World Cup Uniforms

Gavin KentchDecember 3, 2020
Bright colors in the woods: Kerttu Niskanen, Lotta Udnes Weng, and Anne Kjersti Kalvaa (left to right, bibs 10, 9, and 13) race in the 2020 Ruka pursuit. (Photo: NordicFocus)

No one knows what the 2020/2021 World Cup season will bring by its end, but for three days, at least, its beginning felt like a spectator-less success. While a handful of familiar nations clogged the top of the results sheet – Norway, Sweden, Russia (plus Rosie Brennan’s time-of-day podium in the pursuit!) – there were in fact athletes from a total of 22 nations racing in the opening World Cup weekend in Ruka. That means 22 different national-team suits on the tracks in northern Finland.

We previously brought you a diachronic look at the U.S. Ski Team suit over the past decade-plus… in this installment of Uniform Watch, please enjoy this synchronic look at the multiplicity of suits currently on the World Cup. Hopefully this can help tide you over till World Cup racing returns in Davos. Additionally or in the alternative, if the roll call of nations withdrawing from international racing continues and World Cup racing this season becomes cancelled or farcically unrecognizable, at least you can have this reminder of what it looked like in Ruka for three glorious, sort of normal days.

Nations are presented in alphabetical order by common English name (that is, “Austria” rather than “Republik Österreich”). There is some brief aesthetic commentary in the captions, or you can just click on any photo to bring up the gallery feature, albeit with no captions. All photos ©NordicFocus.


Teresa Stadlober in the Ruka pursuit. Photo: NordicFocus. The Austrian flag has three equal horizontal bands of red, white, and red; per Wikipedia, “it is considered one of the oldest national symbols, with its first recorded use in 1230.” The red and white are present here on the extremities of the arms and legs, but the lion’s share of the suit is black.

Czech Republic

Luděk Šeller in the Ruka sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The Czech flag is one of multiple flags in this roundup featuring red, white, and blue. Šeller’s uniform, much like Stadlober’s for Austria, features the red, white, and blue below the knees and past the elbows, while sticking with black for the torso and upper legs.


Aveli Uustalu in the Ruka sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The Estonian flag, visible in the headband, is colloquially called the sinimustvalge (literally “blue-black-white”), Wikipedia once more instructs. Uustalu’s uniform ably checks off all three colors, here with a distinctly early-90s vibe. A matching headband completes the ensemble. The country code, “EST,” is visible on the right arm and left thigh.


Riitta-Liisa Roponen, who was born in the 1970s and still racing World Cups, in the Ruka classic race. Photo: NordicFocus. The Finland flag features a blue Nordic cross on a white background. This interpretation emphasizes the “blue” part of the flag, here visible in multiple shades and gradients. The left forearm is labeled with the country code, “FIN.”


Lucas Chanavat in the Ruka sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The French flag, much like the Czech flag, contains red, white, and blue. Of the three colors of the Tricolour, blue features most prominently here, much as with Finland. The home kit for the national football team (“Les Bleus”) is similarly blue-dominant for the jersey and shorts, though with red for the stockings covering the shin pads.


Nadine Herrmann, Sofie Krehl, and Laura Gimmler (l-r) in the Ruka pursuit. Photo: NordicFocus. This photo appears to have been staged in anticipation of this article, but was nonetheless taken live during Sunday’s race. The three colors of the German flag are black, red, and gold, in equal horizontal bands. The German uniform ably incorporates all three colors. The lettering on the lower left leg, as read from the bottom up, reads “GER.”

Great Britain

Andrew Musgrave in the Ruka classic race. Photo: NordicFocus. The Union Jack would appear to share in common with the flags of the Czech Republic and France (and, forthcoming, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, and the U.S.) that its colors are “red, white, and blue.” However, its colors are actually “gules, argent, and azure” (and they’re actually more precisely tinctures, not “colors”). The Great Britain uniform incorporates all three tinctures. (Musgrave is listed in FIS results sheets as representing “GBR,” or Great Britain, as opposed to the United Kingdom.) “GB” is printed on both arms and the upper right leg, with a flag on the headband and on the lower right leg.


Snorri Eythor Einarsson in the Ruka classic race. Photo: NordicFocus. The Law of the National Flag of Icelanders and the State Arms, enacted in 1944 when Iceland became a republic, describes the country’s colors as “blue as the sky with a snow-white cross, and a fiery-red cross inside the white cross.” The blue and the red predominate in Einarsson’s suit, but the full-length zipper adds a white accent through the torso. The flag is visible on the hat, and at least on the right arm (the left arm is not visible). The upper right leg reads “ICELAND” in white.


Thomas Hjalmar Maloney Westgård in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. Westgård has a Norwegian father and an Irish mother; he is a dual citizen of both countries. He is shown here competing for Ireland, which he has represented in World Cup skiing, as well as the World Championships and the Olympics, since 2016. The flag of Ireland is a tricolour (trídhathach, in Gaelic), of green, white, and orange. Although green is dominant in this kit, all three colors are present. The Irish flag is visible on the headband.


Greta Laurent in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The colors of the Italian flag are green, white, and red. This all-blue uniform contains, well, no green or red, and only minimal white. However, the uniform is in keeping with the branding for Italy’s international sports teams; you may know its football team as Gli Azzurri, or “The Blues.” Per Wikipedia, “Savoy blue is the common colour of the national teams representing Italy, as it is the traditional paint of the royal House of Savoy, which reigned over the Kingdom of Italy from 1860 to 1946.”


Masako Ishida, who is 40 years old and still racing, in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The Japanese flag features a red disc centered on a white background. Continuing a theme of de-emphasizing white in national team uniforms (unless you’re Sweden), Ishida’s uniform intersperses red with gray. The Mizuno logo, on the right leg and both upper arms, is described on a company website as the “beautiful, free-flowing, graphic emblem of the Mizuno brand, the RunBird.” The red and black on the bottom half of Ishida’s KV+ poles complement the uniform color scheme. A national flag is featured on the headband.


Patricija Eiduka in the Ruka 10 k classic. Photo: NordicFocus. The flag of Latvia is “carmine red,” with a white horizontal stripe – the flag is faintly visible on the left side of Eiduka’s headband. The red is “a particularly dark shade, which is composed of brown and purple,” per Wikipedia. This comes through in Eiduka’s uniform, in which the red is noticeably darker than that present in Japan or Germany’s kit. An upgrade to the new Triac poles (see Lithuania below) would further the effect.


Tautvydas Strolia in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The flag of Lithuania is a horizontal tricolor of yellow, green, and red, visible on Strolia’s upper left arm. Bands of the same colors are present on the right hip. The right leg reads “LIETUVA” in yellow, and the left arm reads the same in white. Nearly the entire rest of the uniform is black. Strolia’s choice of black Fischer boots and black Speedmax skis coordinates well with the dominant color scheme.


Emil Iversen in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The flag of Norway is, like others in this roundup, red, white, and blue – or, more precisely, “red with an indigo blue Scandinavian cross fimbriated in white.” Norway’s uniforms have consistently emphasized red for decades now. Despite the consistent look, and being one of the most recognizable uniforms currently on the World Cup circuit with ample screen time in television broadcasts, the uniform nonetheless states “NOR” on the lower right arm, in case there was any doubt. The brand is DÆHLIE, née Bjørn Dæhlie, also visible in Latvia’s current kit and some former American uniforms.


Monika Skinder in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The flag of Poland is red and white, two horizontal stripes of equal width with white on top – you can see this in the flag on Skinder’s hat. Red predominates in this interpretation of the two-tone color palette, with white at the extremities. The order of red and white is reversed between the two arms, yielding an asymmetrical effect. The lower right leg states “POL” at the bottom of the red field.


Alexander Bolshunov in the Ruka pursuit. Photo: NordicFocus. The Russian flag is yet another tricolour, and yet another red, white, and blue (readily visible on Bolshunov’s right biceps). In practice, however, red is dominant in the Russian national kit, another uniform that, like Norway’s, has long been near the front of the men’s field, and has had a consistent color theme for many years that makes it easily recognizable. Nonetheless, the lower right leg states “RUS,” in a 70s-era curving script, in case there is any doubt. The red of the Swix Triac 4.0 Aero poles completes the effect; the Rossi boots and S2 skis don’t hurt, though the sidewalls appear closer to orange in this photo. Bolshunov’s glove contains the Russian coat of arms on the back, and a subtle flag on the ring finger.


Anja Ilic in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The Serbian flag is, well, another red-white-and-blue tricolour. That is expressed here as a subtle fade through all three colors, passing through something closer to purple around Ilic’s midsection, and with abstract whorls on the lower right leg. There is what may potentially be the Serbian coat of arms near the left shoulder, though it is difficult to tell for sure. The design elements on the right arm and lower left leg represent the four firesteels of the Serbian coat of arms, which is visually a relatively low-key part of this race suit but may conceptually be the coolest thing in this entire article.


Janez Lampič in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The Slovenian flag is, well, another red-white-and-blue tricolour, though the flag also contains the Slovene coat of arms on the upper hoist side. Iconography for the coat of arms does not seem to be present in this suit. Rather, it emphasizes the blue of the red/white/blue color scheme through the torso, fading to white at the extremities. “SLOVENIJA” is spelled out on the upper right leg. There are more sponsor logos on the arms, and fewer on the legs, than is often the case for World Cup uniforms. (This is by convention rather than by regulation; while the total surface area of all commercial markings on a race suit has an upper limit, “The number of markings is not restricted,” per the relevant FIS regulation, and they are proscribed only in the torso area covered by the bib.)


Lots of Sweden on the podium in the Ruka classic sprint: (l-r) Maja Dahlqvist in second, Linn Svahn first, and Jonna Sundling third. (Photo: NordicFocus.) The Sweden flag features a yellow or gold Nordic cross on a blue background; at the risk of being a culturally illiterate American, you may recognize this from such stores as IKEA. The Swedish suit, however, foregrounds white, and has for many years. Blue is present at the extremities, with some yellow bands. As for sponsors, Sweden reverses the logo placement of the Slovenian suits: relatively little on the arms, but three large logos down each leg, plus a horizontal “BAUHAUS” across the waistband.


Nadine Fähndrich in the Ruka pursuit. Photo: NordicFocus. The Swiss flag features a white cross in the middle of a square red field. There is some red, on the left arm of this suit, but not much, and scant white. This comes in contrast to other Swiss national team kits; the first colours for the national football team are red and white, and have been since 1895. Dario Cologna, similarly, won Olympic gold in 2010, 2014, and 2018 in three variations on red and white, though the overall effect was tending more toward red and black by 2018, and the Swiss World Cup race suit has in recent years been predominantly black. The blue of Fähndrich’s suit does evoke the flag and coat of arms of both the Zürich and Lucerne cantons, which are blue and white.


Ruslan Perekhoda in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. The flag of Ukraine is a horizontal bicolour of blue (representing the sky) and yellow (representing wheat); it is shown on Perekhoda’s hat, and again on his upper right arm. Blue is present throughout the torso, yielding to a mesmerizing pattern of fluorescent yellow geometry through the arms and knees. I love this suit so much. Then again, this reporter once raced at U.S. Nationals looking like this, and at World Masters looking like this, so, caveat lector.

United States of America

Hailey Swirbul in the Ruka classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus. This year’s American suit represents only a slight change from last year’s: there is a darker shade of blue used for the background, and some of the sponsors on the arms have changed. Otherwise, however, this is the “candy cane stripes” kit from last season. Stars are present on the lower right leg and left arm, with stripes on the left leg and lower right arm.

Gavin Kentch

Gavin Kentch wrote for FasterSkier from 2016–2022. He has a cat named Marit.

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