Watching the 2014 World Cup, I've seen that almost all nations print the players' names in capital letters on the back of their jerseys*. Why do they do this? Considering that humans read sentence case text better than they read all caps, it seems illogical to typeset the names in this manner.

Furthermore, the all-caps pattern is not just restricted to football (soccer). Every league in the NFL as far as I am aware, sets players' names in all caps.

What is the rationale behind this? Is it that all caps reduces white space and actually makes it easier for referees to read players' names, or is it something of a legacy that started years ago?

*Italy is an exception, they print names in all lowercase


4 Answers 4


I suspect there's very little need for legibility. The referees are meters away from world famous celebrities - I think they'll be able to recognise them. Secondly the numbers on the shirt provide much greater legibility making the name largely redundant.

So what do the players names on shirts do? I'd guess their main role is to increase sales of replica shirts.

  • Not all sports stars are famous to everyone, even inside their community. Outside of a few superstars (Beckham, Ronaldo, Ronaldino, Ronaldinino) its unlikely that the Referee would recognise every member of a team, especially for low rank teams.
    – user31914
    Jul 22, 2014 at 2:09
  • It's all speculation and I can't speak of the NFL, but the OP mentioned the World Cup. This is a very high level with professional referees who will live and breath the game and no doubt study the teams they are going to be refereeing. I made the point that the numbers on the top are more likely to be used (which is especially true if the referee hasn't heard of the player).
    – edeverett
    Jul 22, 2014 at 9:07

The name is just for show. Some teams play without name and use their sponsor. Some players have their first name and others have their surname, even in the same team. They are definitely not for any form of recognition by an official party. That's what the number is for.

So it's just a designers preference. And although it is harder to read, it's also more memorable because of it. It's not something you read without actually reading it.

And of course people are more inclined to buy a shirt with their idles name on it.

  • +1 for a common sense answer. I too think it's just a design choice. Jul 21, 2014 at 18:45

This isn't always the case:

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It's to make it more readable, however referees only need to know the players numbers for their report & for cautions. That is why you can have players having the same surnames.


When you are far from the letters, you can see them better if they are uppercase because they are all TALL.

If you have lowercase letters there are short letters inside the text.

In this specific case, you do not want the text to be legible, you want the text to be readable.

  • 2
    A quote from Miles Tinker, researcher, on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_caps : "All-capital print greatly retards speed of reading in comparison with lower-case type. Also, most readers judge all capitals to be less legible. Faster reading of the lower-case print is due to the characteristic word forms furnished by this type. This permits reading by word units, while all capitals tend to be read letter by letter." That is, those "short letters" allow us to read more easily because the word has a particular shape. They're an advantage, not a hindrance. Jul 21, 2014 at 14:42
  • 2
    Tinker's research proposes one model of reading. It is not the only model nor is it the most recent research on the topic. For example, see this paper which argues for greater readability of upper case type. Jul 21, 2014 at 17:50
  • I would assume there's a difference between reading a name and reading paragraphs? Jul 21, 2014 at 18:43
  • When you are an adult walking with a child in a stroll there is a reason it is a "de facto" social norm you go closest to the cars and the child goes farther: You are TALLER, so the cars can see better you than the child.
    – sergiol
    Jul 22, 2014 at 10:44
  • BTW, althought it does not happen always, in France the road-signs are commonly upper-case.
    – sergiol
    Jul 22, 2014 at 10:49

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