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The 10 kits that changed the aesthetics of Serie A

And how they did it

The 10 kits that changed the aesthetics of Serie A And how they did it

When in 1992 British channel ITV first broadcast Calcio Italia, a Serie A fever spread across the United Kingdom. It was the first time Italian football had consistently expanded beyond its home borders. To capture the British audience - and not only - weren’t only the stars that in the ‘90s played in the Belpaese -  among whom featured Baggio, Batistuta, Van Basten, Mancini, Fuser, just to name a few - but also the aesthetics of what at that time looked like the most beautiful tournament in the world. It was, mostly, about the charm of the bursting curve and fascinating exotic kits: from Sampdoria’s hoops to FIorentina’s unique lilac palette.

The Serie A jerseys, though, for over 20 years - since the mid-’70s - had been treating Italian fans and those who followed European cups to some mind-blowing innovations, that were hardly matched by other championships. A plethora of brands, both Italian and foreign, had been incredibly good at coming up with futuristic, suave and surprising design concepts, especially if we take into account the fact the socio-political background against which Serie A was taking place: the terrorism and fear of the Years of Lead.

Just like the late-’70s Italo Disco craze represented the Italians’ will to dance street violence away, the football shirt aesthetic revolution captured a sport willing to lead the emotions of a population who was in need of both renovation in life and kits holding strong identity credentials.

Simply considering the Serie A kits’ aesthetic revolution an attempt to imitate the latest American trends of the time would be diminishing. There was no doubt a fascination for the pop and glam twist NASL introduced football to, but there also were the brilliant intuitions of a series of brands, designers and chairmen who understood the potential of marketing and the need of renovation Serie A was crying for. 


A.C. Fiorentina 1983-85 Home

When in the summer of 1981 Fiorentina launches its Farrow’s kit, featuring the club’s new crest reproduced on the chest in a size previously unseen in Italian football, a fuming supporter appealed to the city’s pretor, while a member of the club’s board, shocked, outraged, even tried to sue the team. The short-sightedness of many supporters highlighted a country still not confident with the stylistic innovations many clubs are moving towards. Apart from the new crest, a lily morphing into letter F – whose marketing idea lied in the Pontello family, then owner of the club – the kit introduced red for the first time in the history of the Viola to brighten the top’s collar and cuffs. To make matters crazier, Fiorentina replaced its classic white shorts with lilac ones, therefore augmenting the contrast between the monochrome kit and the new red details. On the back of the shirt lies another gem, a white circle hosting red numbers, an intuition that creates an equilibrium of shapes with the jersey’s front logo. Launched on the pages of local newspapers with a smart marketing operation, the kit represented a bittersweet momentum for Fiorentina that in the 1981-82 season placed second, following a dead heat with Juventus not free from doubtful referee decisions and that cost the Viola the scudetto on the last game of the season.

However, it mostly is the kit’s following design – that carrying the Opel sponsor contained into a white strip and with the tufted lily logo – that made the grace of this Viola shirt truly iconic, also because matched by the elegance of Socrates’ plays.


Inter 1991-92 Third


When in the ‘90s kits turned loose to conform to the baggy streetwear trend that first sprung in Northern England at the end of the previous decade, it couldn’t help but being a British brand, Umbro, to design some of the most iconic kits of those days. In Italy it’s mostly Inter Milan 1991-92 kit to embody the epitome of this new aesthetic wave that represented the meeting of sportswear and streetwear. With a pattern made of distorted checks that nearly take the shape of a diamond tempest that, beginning from the crest, spiral across the shoulders, the nerazzurri kit captures the lysergic spirit of the acid house, raves, and baggy-era Madchester. Although the kit rarely features among the Milanese club’s most celebrated jerseys, to us this one is a true Serie A gem.


AC Milan 1981-82 Home

The other side of Milan is definitely no short of fascinating kits too. Among these features, without doubts, the shirt introduced by the Rossoneri in 1981, another interesting combination of sportswear and streetwear. Produced by Linea Milan – the club’s own brand – the kit was sponsored by Pooh Jeans and came with a horizontally bi-chrome collar on which was placed the silhouette of the denim firm’s logo. Also unusual was the position of the team’s exciting new crest conceived by milanese design group Zeta, that instead of being placed on the heart was located on the right-end of the chest next to the sponsor. The logo represented a grinning devil whose tail morphed into a flame to represent the hellfire that Milan was supposed to ignite when walking on the pitch. Supposed to, because that season the team was relegated. Moreover, the kit stuns for the pioneering choice to interrupt the vertical stripes on the back to leave a red box for the players’ names. However, this was left empty for most of the season.

Also worthy of attention is the away kit, with its Space Age-flavoured black-and-red "braces" placed on the seam in between the shoulders and the sleeves.


AS Roma 1978-80 Home

Possibly one of the peaks of Serie A – but not only – shirt design is Roma’s 1978 to 1980 Pouchain kit. Ironically dubbed "ghiacciolo" (iced lollipop) because of its gradient yoke reminiscent of the multi-coloured ice-creams of the times, the kit marked a revolutionary moment in Italian and European football history as early as 1978. Pouchain, the shirt manufacturer, worked in close partnership with Italian graphic designer Piero Gratton, who A.S. Roma – in an unprecedented move for the times – had employed a few years earlier. Not only Gratton designed the Lupetto crest but elaborated the iconic gradient. A fascination for the burgeoning American NASL football tournament then made the rest, with the introduction of player numbers on the jersey’s white sleeves – another astounding innovation.

As if this wasn’t wonderful enough, Pouchain replicated the same magic, with a chromatically inverted yoke, on the white away kit – possibly even more elegant – making it the toughest of choices to pick one over the other. The giallorossi even bagged a Coppa Italia wearing this kit. What more could you want?


Lazio 1982-83 Home

There was definitely something going on in the air of the capital between the late '70s and the early '80s, and it wasn’t only the smoke coming from the hippies cluttered on the Piazza di Spagna steps. Well, maybe that contributed to enhancing the design creativity that also sparked on the biancoceleste side of the city. As fresh as only an American football or ice hockey jersey looked in those days, the 1982-83 Lazio home kit took the precedent set by Fiorentina’s rounded lily crest and brought it on the next level. 

The stylised eagle – halfway between 1930s rationalism and the modernism of 1980s Serie A logo design – wrapped the kit around with its wings, and became the protagonist of the half white and half sky-blue shirt by introducing blue as the third official colour of Lazio.

Even more surprising was the choice to introduce a green-and-white and a sky blue-and-red option as away kits. 


Hellas Verona 1984-85 Home

With the advent of the 1980s and the introduction of new materials different from heavy cotton, sportswear firms had more possibilities to experiment with patterns. One of these was pinstripes, that by many is considered the ultimate '80s football pattern. First introduced by both Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers on their yellow away kit in 1981-82, the template looks – especially the latter – like a, more or less conscious, inspiration for the kit adidas designed for Hellas Verona in 1984-85. Not only the kit marked the first Serie A case of pinstripe jersey, but also accompanied the gialloblù’s historical title win in 1985.

Despite pinstripes never became popular in 1980s Italian football - Adidas rarely used them for Cavese, Como and Monza kits too - they contributed to augment the charm of that season’s Hellas Verona and to give the team an exotic British underdog flavour, that also matched the hooligan-inspired aesthetics of the Brigate Gialloblu ultras.  


Juventus 1978-79 Home

1978 represents a game-changing year for Italian football and for football shirt lovers. Beginning from the 1978-79 season, technical sponsors started making their appearance on the kits of Italian clubs, hence inaugurating a decade rich in aesthetic evolutions and autochthonous sportswear brands. Among the first Serie A teams to join this trend was Juventus whose black-and-white striped knitted shirt beginning from the month of December was adorned, for the first time, by the Kappa logo. The partnership between the turinese sportswear brand and the bianconeri would soon become synonymous with many home and European triumphs until 2002.


Talking records, it actually was the other side of Turin, the granata one, to first introducing a technical sponsor - Umbro’s diamond - on their kits for a few Serie A games as early as the 1973-74 season.


Lanerossi Vicenza 1977-78 Home

Vicenza instead of making history for the design of its kits, did so for setting a precedent in matters of marketing. Since 1953, when the city’s wool factory Lanerossi became the club’s main sponsor, for more than 30 years Vicenza played with an elegant R in the style of a twisted wool thread embroidered on the shirt. Although the team was officially known as Lanerossi Vicenza, to justify the R logo, for many seasons the club was referred to as Real Vicenza. In a way, the biancorossi really looked more like Real Madrid than Vicenza when in season 1977-78, led by a young Paolo Rossi, they came second in the league. Therefore, it is their kit from that season, with an elegant blue R in place of the more traditional red one, that is mostly remembered by the club’s fans.

The gimmick implemented to overcome the impossibility to use sponsors on shirts, also set one of the first examples of corporate identity in football history. Not only Lanerossi Vicenza represented one of the longest partnerships between a football team and a sponsor, but it also markeda unique case of a team sharing the same commercial and technical sponsor.

Similarly, Ozo Mantova - also known as "Little Brazil" - played an O their jersey, while 1958-59 Talmone Torino subtly overcame the ban on shirt sponsors by embroidering a big white T on the kit, a more than obvious reference to the turinese chocolate factory that for three seasons was the club’s main sponsor.  


Udinese 1983-84 Home

In the ‘80s, with pioneering geometrical solutions and the advent of Zico, Udinese became a surprisingly Pop team worth watching for both their football and their outrageous kits. In 1983 Americanino – one of the pivotal brands of the Paninaro scene – play the ace in their sleeve by introducing a kit whose design establishes a dialogue with the new marketing urges of Italian football. If during the 1981-82 season the club’s crest was replaced by sponsor Zanussi’s Z letter, the following year the shirt’s Ajax-style vertical black strip was interrupted in the middle by a white diamond shape to host the new sponsor Agfacolor, a type of colour film issued by the German camera firm Agfa. The white rhombus also seems to match the geometrical motif of the bianconeri’s shield-shaped crest, now back on show on the shirt.

However, this isn’t the only futuristic shirt designed for the club in those years. Just a few seasons before, in 1978-79 the then chairman Teofilo Sanson, also owner of the same-named ice cream firm, had cleverly decided to introduce the brand’s name as a vertical sponsor on the sides of the theam’s shorts. Just as iconic is the kit used during the 1984-85 season, which was characterised by three macro diagonal black and white strips; a pattern recently re-proposed by Macron for the bianconeri’s current shirt.


Napoli 1988-89 Home

With the advent of the '80s, the first synthetic kits made their appearance in Italy. Made out of fabrics such as rayon and satin, these materials gave shirts a shiny effect that became a trademark of 1980s football. One of its most iconic examples is, no doubt, the kit NR designed for Napoli in 1988-89 and worn by the partenopei as they bagged their first and only UEFA Cup. Not only is the kit inevitably associated with Maradona, but also with its sponsor Mars. Although the partnership between the brand and Napoli only lasted for a bunch of seasons, it has stood the test of times as one of the most memorable in the history of sportswear design - as also witnessed by the many recent remakes, like the collaboration between NR and Patta. Differently to other famous Napoli sponsors of the times like Buitoni and Cirio, the English chocolate brand’s groovy and funky font succeeded in standing out of the azzurri’s kits, also thanks to both its design and the exotic charm Mars bars evoked in those days, when they became a cult product with a Pop aftertaste. 


Talking Mars and Napoli, also worthy is NR’s 1990-91 red away kit featuring a white-and-blue swoosh on the chest and the club’s crest moved on the left arm to leave room to the scudetto badge.