The League of Legends World Championship tournament is the high school prom of esports, where 16 LoL teams from all over the world gather to play videogames together in a competition to find out who’s the best. All sorts of awesome stuff is on display at Worlds: fine motor skills, split-second reaction times, airtight teamwork, masterful strategies. And yet, for all the scrutiny we apply to the actual gameplay, rarely do we take a step back to nitpick at the more superficial, more outward-facing thing we all pay attention to, and that’s tournament fashion.
That being said, it’s an important conversation to have, especially with millions of folks tuning in to watch these games from across the globe. To every spectator, a uniform is more than something that a bunch of nerds wear on a stage—it’s an important visual signifier of what esports might stand for in 2016. It points toward team prestige, player persona, regional esports infrastructure, and it can heavily influence not just the perspective toward an individual player, but toward esports as a whole.
In the interest of celebrating (and in some cases, gently criticizing) the apparel at League of Legends’ 2016 World Championship, we’ve ranked each team uniform from worst to best. While there’s still some progress to be made, this year’s offerings have shown that there’s a lot of room for creativity—and sometimes even capital-S Swag—in what a team can deck themselves out with in preparation for the big dance.
Scroll even one rank down this list, and you’ll see that clearly, Splyce of the European LCS doesn’t exactly have the worst uniform at Worlds. They’ve come in last place because their outfits could have been so much better.
Start with the typography and team logo, slapped haphazardly across the team’s chest like someone had five minutes to get this shit to CafePress. Then take a look at the sweatpants, which look like Gildan pajamas had a menage-a-trois with the Thundercats logo and a pit viper, then came to life and hopped into the drying machine for three hours before someone finally came to take them out. I don’t think the black of those pants matches with the gray of the jersey, but that’s a minor quibble compared to the design itself. Splyce, you’re a bunch of good-looking fellas (Trashy is my dude). Let’s push harder for better uniforms next year, yeah?
If there’s one saving grace for Splyce, it’s team coach Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi, who is one of the most dashing men in League, and who probably should have had more say in the uniform’s design.
15. Albus NoX Luna
Oh, Albus NoX Luna. The little Russian wildcard team with a big heart. You gotta love these guys—while they clearly don’t have the biggest budget and are probably stoked just to be at Worlds, they’re still up there with their light-wash Bullhead jeans and minimally-branded team hoodies. This is a uniform that shows that while the League of Legends skill gap might be closing, some of the infrastructural priorities that allocate cash toward team apparel still have room for progress.
14. Royal Never Give Up
For having one of the best teams in the world, RNG’s uniform is almost overwhelmingly pedestrian. It’s a T-shirt emblazoned with what’s either a big gold “R,” or a slanted take on the number 12. The “R” insignia is actually upstaged by the less cyber-core typography of the Hewlett-Packard and Panda TV logos above it, and I’m not really sure why the big logo in the upper right had to break the palette with an extremely out-of-place shade of blue.
But the RNG uniform’s biggest offense is that none of the shirts seem to fit on any of the players. If they’re meant to be oversized—and the wide crewneck implies that they are—the proportions are all off. See Samsung Galaxy’s undershirt (further down on this list) for how to pull that off. And if they’re not meant to be oversized—well, I’m sorry, Royal Never Give Up, but you did give up… on finding t-shirts that actually fit.
Not much to say here. It’s a uniform. Kinda boring, but not awful. I like the v-neck, and the colors are safe enough that they’re easy on the eyes. Forgettable.
12. INTZ e-Sports
Sometimes, an outfit is carried not by the quality of its design, but by the sheer magnetism of the person wearing it. INTZ comes to us with humility and grace in their uniform’s design—it’s a simple black-and-grey esports jersey with a nice little polo-style collar, paired with pale light-wash jeans. But look at these guys just one time and tell me they’re not great. They hold up the Brazilian flag with pride, hair perfectly swept to the side in wonderful colored tufts. They’re happy to be at this tourney, and it shows, regardless of whether or not they want to show off their tops.
11. G2 Esports
G2 might not have the best logo (is it a beetle? A samurai helm?), but these jackets are honestly pretty cool. Note the subtle star details across the torso, the slight two-toned blues that separate the sleeves, the yellow accents on both the cuffs and the jersey collar underneath. I kinda wish they’d unzip the jackets more (they mostly seem to play with these things zipped up), but these uniforms look comfortable, stylish, and functional. Not bad.
10. I May Gaming
I May or may not love this outfit. On one hand, it looks relatively plain—centered “iM” logo, lots of black, a stripe motif that seems to evoke Formula 1 racing. But the outfit earns major points for how cohesive it is: note the red and white stripes on the pants, the extent to which the accent colors are applied across the uniform. It’s not outstanding, but it’s a quality outfit.
Cloud9 has come a long way since their janky-ass gray t-shirt and white zip-up hoodie days. For Worlds 2016, they come dressed to the C9s (sorry) in a wonderful sky blue/white jersey wrapped in the team’s logo. The collar adds a slick black accent that hints at esports but not in a tacky way. The sponsor logos, while clearly visible on the sleeve, are small enough that you kind of have to look for them. Also, Impact (guy on the far right) looks great in this thing.
8. ahq e-Sports Club
What does ahq’s logo look like? Hell, even I have a hard time telling based on their uniform. For the record, it’s that little insignia on the the upper right shoulder—not on the chest, but the one up above that.
Ahq’s uniform is weird, but that’s kind of what I love about it. The Taiwanese team seems to have a reckless disregard for any sort of subtlety when it comes to sponsor branding, giving prime real estate to pretty much whoever will give them cash to run the team. The outfit points toward an esports future like what we see in NASCAR—commercialized sporting entertainment where sponsor branding, at least on a superficial level, is the first impression we get of the player. It’s not certain whether esports are headed in this direction, or whether they’ll lean toward the more low-key branding we see on other uniforms, but at the very least, ahq’s jackets give us a look at esports teams as they might someday present themselves. It’s kinda evil-looking, but it’s also pretty sweet.
7. Flash Wolves
Okay now we’re getting to the good stuff. Hailing from Taiwan, the Flash Wolves sport a grey/white/black color that makes up for its drabness with sheer coordination. The stripe on the sweatpants adds a coordinated flair to the whole squad, and the fresh Nike sneakers nod toward streetwear while giving players the flexibility to move their hand around on a mousepad. This is a quality, high B-tier uniform. Well done Flash Wolves.
6. Counter Logic Gaming
The CLG uniform is nothing truly special, but it’s clean, it fits well, and it reps the United States in a way that isn’t obnoxious or distracting. The CLG logo, while prominently featured, isn’t too showy. Aside from that, the collar sports a subtle black accent, and the white lines on the shirt’s torso give it a sleek, modern look that doesn’t come across as garish.
5. Edward Gaming
By the time you’ve gotten to this point, EDG’s uniform will probably look like borderline crap to you. But never fear, dear reader, because that’s just the jersey. And as I’m beginning to believe, esports outfits are really all about the outerwear. Behold, EDG Deft, decked-out in a full set of team gear during a postgame interview:
Not only is that parka absolute fire, but it frames the EDG emblem perfectly on his chest. The jogger silhouette on the pants accents the sneakers, which are also certified fuego. Overall, I’d think this outfit was dope if I spotted it out on the street, much less during the League World Championships. In fact, this outfit is so good, it made a cameo appearance on the /r/Streetwear subreddit (I’ll let you know if I find out W2C).
They might have dropped their first game of the tourney to INTZ, but when it comes to what they wear, EDG knows what they’re doing.
4. Samsung Galaxy
Even though we’re already at the top 4, SSG is the first Korean team you’ll find on this list. The country’s high ranking makes sense for a few reasons, first and foremost being that Korean esports have been around for a long time. At this point, the region’s esports infrastructure is so well established that top-tier sponsors like Samsung will actually pay for their teams to wear slick uniforms. Second is that, well, Korean celebrities (and yes, LoL players do qualify as celebs in Korea) tend to dress pretty damn well.
From the slim-profile bomber jacket to the ever-so-slightly oversized raglan cut t-shirt, there are some truly innovative ideas in this SSG uniform. While its plain colors and somewhat off-putting branding leave something to be desired, it’s easily one of the finest outfits in the tournament.
3. SK Telecom T1
Another Korean team, another absurdly high-profile sponsorship. This time, we’ve got defending champions SKT T1, who are backed by none other than the legendary sportswear brand FILA.
If the letterman-style jacket didn’t convince you on SKT’s top uniform fashion, then the crewneck sweater should: not only is it branded with that iconic FILA logo, but the tri-toned color palette is one of the most refreshing in the entire tournament. This is a dope as hell uniform, and it’s fitting that Faker—the greatest player in the world—would be one of the guys selected to wear it.
2. Team SoloMid
As the most storied team in NA League of Legends’ (admittedly short) history, TSM is steeped in a tradition that really shines in the squad’s 2016 jersey. Staying true to the classic black and white color palette, the uniform prioritizes fit and silhouette over flashy hues. In a slight subversion of the team’s iconic logo, TSM has placed the seal in a secondary position on the chest, instead drawing attention to the players themselves. The eyes are drawn up to the faces of the five people who comprise this team—in fact, the only color to be found on these uniforms can be found on the players’ left shoulder, which boasts the flag of their home country.
TSM has always been about the players, and their uniforms convey that focus in some clever, subtle ways that really help them shine as individual personalities. It’s simultaneously personal and global, while paying heavy respect to the team’s revered name. Maybe that’s why people love these guys so much.
1. ROX Tigers
They say you should dress for the job you want, not one you have, and Korea’s ROX Tigers dress like they want to be the number one League of Legends team in the whole goddamn universe. Look at that jacket! You may not recognize this thing, but it nods quite firmly toward the luxury brand Saint Laurent Paris, whose teddy jacket in black virgin wool and off-white leather is still my fashion holy grail—and retails for a cool 2,400 bucks.
The ROX Tigers are favored to win the entire tournament this year, and the team’s top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho has been positioned in the mythos as League’s final boss, of sorts. And really, with a uniform this stunning, how can you not look at this guy and just shrivel into a fucking apricot? This is what esports players should look like—badass, confident, poised, luxurious, sharp as a needle. Because when you don’t have to worry about running or jumping or tossing a ball, why would you settle for anything less than pure, unadulterated extravagance?