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Sergio Tacchini between John McEnroe and A$AP Nast

Rise and fall of a sportswear brand loved by casuals soccer fans in England and rappers in New York

Sergio Tacchini between John McEnroe and A$AP Nast  Rise and fall of a sportswear brand loved by casuals soccer fans in England and rappers in New York

The fashion world in the last years has unveiled some strange and daring collaboration, but only a few are unforeseen as the one between A$AP Nast and Sergio Tacchini at first sight. Probably we’ll never know what brought the musician and fashion icon to work with an Italian brand who saw better days, but there are many reasons why. 

On the presentation video for the collection, first Nast show off in typical hip hop fashion, sit on a brand new Mercedes but after appear a Nast in Hooligan version, hunt in an alley with his friends. It’s a cross between two world, the Terracewear of the UK arenas and the Golden Era of Hip Hop of the ‘90, that have a focal point on a brand created by an Italian tennis player sixty years ago.

Born in 1966 as Sandys S.p.A soon it changes the name in that of its founder, embroidering it on every piece not without a little bit of mythomania. Following the steps of René Lacoste and Fred Perry, Sergio Tacchini became the first italian athlete to have its own sportswear company. And if his sport results doesn’t match the ones of his peers, he had the right initiative to become a successful entrepreneur.  

The success in the sports world

For Sergio Tacchini tennis was the first love and the sport where he found the greatest success also as a brand. Starting with the sponsorship for Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis, Roscoe Tanner, Tacchini hit the jackpot with John McEnroe, who won 7 Grand Slam wearing ST.

He became a worldwide sensation when during 1981 Wimbledon insulted the referee telling him that “you cannot be serious”, the title of his autobiography and a Sergio Tacchini advertising campaign. He’d go to win the tournament against Bjorn Borg, sponsored by Fila, avenging the defeat of the previous year. 

The fame obtained on the tennis field helped Sergio Tacchini to gain sponsorship in other sports from Ayrton Senna, Dino Meneghin and Olimpia Milano and Pirmin Zurbriggen and Marc Girardelli. But above all the Sergio Tacchini’s influence became relevant outside the sports world and into the contracultural and youth movement in the UK.

The cultural impact

At the start of the decade English soccer had a dreamy span of success, in which Liverpool, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest won every Champions League, pushing more and more fans to go to Europe following their teams. Trips not only with a sporting purpose, but also that brought a lot of young working class fans to discover Italian and french brands to bring home.  The names embroidered on the tracksuit became medals that would sign where one went following the team, usually with the right dose of troubles. More the brand was obscure and uncommon, the more it had value in the tribal society of soccer fans. Between them there was Sergio Tacchini, who became a cherished brand in what later became terrace wear, the aesthetic of the arena’s stands. 

A trend that will arrive also to music, starting with the Mod culture to arrive till to ‘90s Brit Pop, finding in Damon Albarn a big supporter. An allure for italian sportswear that didn’t end on the UK terraces but it will cross the ocean.

During those years New York Hip-Hop was obsessed by Italian high fashion brands up to create fakes in the likes of Dapper Dan, so Sergio Tacchini inserted itself in the conversation on showoff and Italianness. It became a staple for The Notorious B.I.G to LL Cool J and from Nas to Rakim. A brand so impactful that Kanye West in “See Me Now” will rhyme it with Lamborghini. 

Downfall and come back

In 2007 the brand suffered from big financial gaps so it was sold to a chinese holding, who turned it to the asian market. It didn’t work so it was transformed into Sergio Tacchini International, closing the Bellinzago Novarese factories. 

Tacchini had their chance to come back to the sport sponsorship field when they went all in on a young Novak Djokovic. But their success would be their demise, and the frenetic climb of the Slovenian on the ATP rank will cost too much in contract bonuses to Tacchini. So Djokovic in 2012 at the end will close the relationship and sign with Uniqlo, leaving Tacchini without their best asset.

In 2019 finally an Italian entrepreneur, Stefano Maroni, bought Sergio Tacchini and chose to retool investing in the quality and tradition of the brand. Dao-Yi Chow, cofounder of Public School, is the new artistic director. The restyling is focused on USA and Japan markets, crossing the bridge between streetwear and high end fashion, an idea reiterated during 2020 Pitti. 

Melting the barriers, where the sartorial of the origins meet the bright eighties colours, it's a well known gateway to become relevant again. We’ll see if the collaboration with A$AP Nast will be the first step for Sergio Tacchini to come back as the Italian Lacoste.