The Italian Job
By Matt Glazebrook, 8 February 2015
With a fine national sporting tradition and an equally impressive fashion heritage, it makes sense that Italy would lead the way when it came to combining to the two into a fresh, street-ready look.
The golden era of Italian sports-inspired style began in the early 80s, when young working-class music and football fans in Britain began decking themselves in premium brands like Fila, Sergio Tacchini and Diadora as both an aesthetic and economic statement. The high-end tracksuits, with their bold colours and front-and-centre branding, also became part of the uniform for rappers and b-boys in the emerging hip-hop scene on the other side of the Atlantic.
To celebrate 30-odd years of sporty Italian streetwear, here’s a brief history of three of our favourite brands.
Founded in Turin in 1978, Kappa earned its sportswear stripes as kit manufacturer for local heroes Juventus. While the black-and-white striped shirt was a design classic in itself, the company became a full-on streetwear concern as the decade progressed with its brash colourways and distinctive logo – a naked man and woman, sitting back to back – ensuring its status as one the most recognisable casual brands of the 90s.
Perugia-based Ellesse got its start making ski fashion in the early 60s, but made the move into sweatshirts and sporty tops a few years later. The brand's sunset-coloured 'half tennis ball' badge took pride of place on many a logo-conscious young man's chest in the 80s and 90s, but few can have worn Ellesse with as much suave style as a young Will Smith, aka the Fresh Prince, and his DJ Jazzy Jeff.
The oldest of the big three, Fila was born in 1909 but focused solely on kecks until the 70s. The endorsement of Swedish tennis Adonis Bjorn Borg established it as a serious sportswear player, while its simple, block-print zip-up track tops saw it quickly enter into the arsenal of the 80s football lad – or hip-hop head – about town.