Not content with the debate sparked by our Top 10 Azzurri kits article earlier this year, we decided to put ourselves back in the firing line by compiling a list of the top 15 calcio kits of the past 50 years.
From the historic and nostalgic, to the stylish and iconic, there have been some incredible jerseys on the Peninsula over the past half century. Throw in the fact that Italy boasts some of the world’s finest sportswear manufacturers and the task of choosing a top 15 became a daunting, albeit enjoyable one.
To ensure a broad selection, we asked more than 30 writers to pick their top three strips from this period. We then had the pleasure of sorting through the entries and reading each writer’s reason for their choices. Some placed a priority on design and style while others were influenced by personal memories or iconic figures and key moments in a club’s history.
Any kit with more than one vote automatically went into the top 15, while the rest were put up for debate by the Gentleman Ultra editorial team. Many factors were taken into account including the historical significance of each shirt as well as the design. Finally, after a lot of fist shaking and head scratching, a final list was agreed and everyone remained friends – just!
At this point, aware of the strength of feeling regarding football shirts (and not wanting to take responsibility for the final running order), we decided to let our readers have the final say. And so to the modern day battleground of Twitter, where the images were released to an overall positive response. Retweets and Likes were collated and TGU’s list of the Top 15 Italian club kits of the last 50 years was finalised.
So, grab a cappuccino, sit back and enjoy the countdown.
15. Cagliari Home 1969/70
The colours of champions
When Cagliari won their first and, to date, only Scudetto in 1969/70, they had a strip worthy of the occasion. Inspired by the goals of the magisterial Gigi Riva, the Sardinians became the first team from the Mezzogiorno (southern Italy) to win Serie A.
More commonly associated with their red and blue halved shirts, the club’s traditional colours featured in the distinctive V-neck, the trim of which reached halfway down this splendid white jersey. For Cagliari fans, these colours symbolise success. In these colours, Cagliari became champions of Italy. Need we say anymore?
14. Atalanta Home 1990/91
As classy as Caniggia
Although the black and blue stripe pairing is more widely associated with Inter, this early 90s gem from Atalanta is more than worthy of its place in our top 15.
Simple and classy, typical of Ennerre designs from this era, the Atalanta strip reminds Neil Morris of those halcyon days when foreign football offered something new and exotic. “I had a weird obsession with Glen Strömberg and Claudio Caniggia in the late 80s/early 90s (I think it was the hair), and both players wore this absolute beauty from Ennerre while playing in Bergamo,” Neil said. “I would love to get my hands on one of these.”
13. Inter Home 1988/90
A black and blue that captured the imagination
On the subject of black and blue stripes, Internazionale have the blend just right. It’s hard to imagine the Nerazzuri shirt having the same impact if the blue were any lighter or darker. The combination is just right.
There could have been a number of Inter jerseys in the top 15, but the 1988 Ulhsport-designed edition came out as pick of the bunch. Gentleman Ultra founder Richard Hall explains why: “A beautiful kit that captured my imagination watching the likes of Matthaus, Klinsmann, Brehme, Serena, Berti and Zenga on Eurosport (every so often) and the videos you could buy in the summer,” Richard said. “This was the era of ‘Trap’ [Giovanni Trapattoni] and when I fell in love with Italian football.”
12. Parma Home 1995/97
The enchantment of Parmalat, Zola and Asprilla
Parma were a side that captured the hearts and imagination of many UK viewers during the Gazzetta Football Italia era. The club’s Ennio Tardini stadium, which always seemed to be bathed in autumnal sunshine, was a staple of many a Sunday afternoon’s Channel 4 viewing. It wasn’t only Parma’s style on the park that caught the eye, during the 1990s they had a number of snazzy strips.
Emmet Gates explains why the 1995 release is his favourite: “Parma in the ’90s, even the thought is enough to get the heart warm,” Emmet said. “Parma were playing in this shirt just as I was beginning to watch Serie A on Channel 4. I can’t put my finger on it, but I was always fascinated by the ‘Parmalat’ sponsor. This shirt evokes memories of Zola, Asprilla, Massimo Crippa and Hristo Stoichkov. I love blue/yellow and white combinations.”
11. Palermo Home 2007/08
You don’t see too many pink shirts in football, but it’s a colour Palermo have worn with pride, and considerable style, since 1907. Founded in 1900, the Sicilian club played in red and blue for the first seven years of their existence before switching to pink and black in 1907.
A century on from the colour swap, Lotto – one of the great Italian sportswear makes – produced a fine jersey for a side that boasted Andrea Barzagli, Edinson Cavani, Fabrizio Miccoli and Amauri in its ranks. The traditional pink and black was complemented with a gold trim, which added a nice extra touch to an already sharp design.
10. Verona Home 1984/85
The kit of miracles
During the 1984/85 season, coach Osvaldo Bagnoli led Verona to the Serie A title against all the odds. The miracle was also achieved in style, wearing this beautiful blue and yellow jersey which kicks off our top 10. Verona resident Richard Hough says the strip is still fondly remembered in the city: “It’s a simple design, authentic city colours – happy memories!”
The large, yellow V-neck, faint yellow pin-stripes and Canon sponsor are stand-out features of this simple but highly-effective, design. A true classic.
9. Torino Third 2014/15
The most moving of tributes
Not too many people would have predicted a team’s third choice jersey would have made our final list. However, in 2015/16 Torino did something out of the ordinary.
Luca Hodges-Ramon, Gentleman Ultra managing editor, explains why this strip is so special: “Admire the elegance of the design, which comes as no surprise when talking about a Kappa kit. Appreciate the nod to modernity, with the #SempreForzaToro on the inside of the collar. Marvel at the subtlety of the navy base, complemented by the splash of granata on the collar and sleeves. And then there is the pièce de résistance: the large stylised print of the bull, adapted from the club’s emblem and nickname (Il Toro). Finally, in one of the most moving tributes I have seen on a football strip, look carefully and the bull is shaped by the names of the most important players in Torino’s history. These names include the ‘Caduti di Superga’, the fallen heroes of the Grande Torino team who won five titles in a row before the Superga air disaster in 1949.”
8. Venezia Home 1998/99
A design as iconic as its City’s canals
Possibly the most love-it-or-hate-it strip on our list comes in at number eight. There really isn’t any way black, orange and green should work on a football shirt, but somehow Venezia, perhaps rather aptly for a city noted for its style, made the colours sing in this strip from the late 1990s.
With its paint-splash effect, the Venezia kit is one of the most iconic of the modern Italian football era. The fact that the Venetians had Alvaro Recoba – one of 1990s Italian football’s most enigmatic characters – on loan from Inter for part of the campaign, adds to the shirt’s allure.
7. Roma Home 1987/88
Oozes Italian design at its finest
With their deep red and yellow club colours, Roma have had some outstanding jerseys over the years. The colour combination seems to lend itself to classy calcio kits, and the 1987/88 jersey is a stand out. The collar, lupetto badge, Barilla sponsor and Ennerre logo – everything about this strip oozes Italian design at its finest.
Personally, whenever I see this strip, the image of midfield enforcer and die-hard Romanista Bruno Conti furiously dictating play springs to mind.
6. Vicenza Home 1977/78
Resplendent red and white stripes
The second oldest strip on our list comes in at sixth place. In season 1977/78, a Paolo Rossi-inspired Vicenza finished runners up in Serie A, the club’s highest top-flight finish. Rossi and co, who ended the campaign five points behind champions Juventus, looked resplendent in their red and white stripes. The plain design with V-neck appeals to the football kit purists out there.
At a time when jersey sponsorship was banned, Vicenza had the logo of their wool company owners embroidered on the shirt. This was, quite possibly, one of the first examples of shirt advertising, albeit by stealth.
5. Napoli Home 1987/88
A cult classic and historic double
The simple sky-blue Napoli jersey is one of the most famous in Italian football. The strip was brought to worldwide prominence when, somewhat incredibly, the club signed Diego Maradona in the summer of 1984.
What makes the 1987 edition of the strip so special is that the Partenopei were sporting the Scudetto shield – in addition to the Coppa Italia badge – on their jersey for the first time, having won their first Serie A championship the previous season. The Buitoni sponsor and Ennere logo are two iconic emblems of Italian football strip history.
Personally, this is an extra special strip for me as it was the first-ever full football kit I owned. Even more special was the fact that my two brothers and I were gifted the strips by our Aunt Rose Reilly, who was playing professionally in Italy at the time.
4. Juventus Away 1995/96
Bold, brash and full of stars
The only away strip to make our list is one close to the hearts of Juventus supporters. Ricci Potts is one such fan, who recently snapped up a vintage version of the blue and yellow (Turin’s city colours) strip, having been unable to purchase one in the mid-90s. “I love the boldness of it: the clash of the blue and yellow but particularly the vastness of the two stars on the shoulders,” Ricci said. “I thought this was a cool touch at the time, each star represents 10 Scudetti won and Juve are the only club with more than one so why not make them as huge as possible?”
The strip’s most famous outing came in the 1995/96 Champions League Final, when the Old Lady of Turin won her second European Cup, beating holders Ajax in the final following a penalty shoot-out at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
3. Sampdoria Home 1990/91
The perfect backdrop to a championship winning season
(Source: @Sampdoria via Twitter)
Let’s be honest, a full top 15 countdown could have been filled with Sampdoria kits alone! The blue jersey with white, red and black horizontal stripes across the chest is instantly recognised the world over.
This Asics-designed strip stands out as it adorned the shoulders of an outstanding group of players including Pietro Vierchowod, Atillio Lombardo, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli, who led the Genovese side to their first and only Scudetto in 1990/91. It is also worth mentioning the club’s ever-cool badge, featuring the local sailor Baciccia smoking a pipe, which sits on the shirt’s left sleeve.
As James Evans concludes:“Has there ever been a more aesthetically satisfying backdrop to a championship winning season?” We can’t help but agree. An all-round work of art and more than worthy third-place in our top three.
2. Fiorentina Home 1998/99
Fila, Nintendo and Batigol – what’s not to love?
(Source: Gabriel Batistuta via Facebook)
Fila, Nintendo and Gabriel Batistuta in Fiorentina viola – it’s quite a combination. Though perhaps not one for the football jersey purists, this strip is one of the most iconic of the modern Italian football era and is also loved by Goldeneye and Mario Kart enthusiasts!
This was certainly the case for Franco Ficetola: “The image of this shirt on the Panini cards album must be one of those things that made me fall in love with football. It was there, purple and white, with the Nintendo sponsor, that was the only console I had back then. I used to play Super Mario Kart every day, so the fact that I was fond of Fiorentina that season came as no surprise.”
The classic viola top is combined with white stripes on the sleeves, which also include the club badge on either side.
Some strips become special due to their association with a particular player – and it’s difficult not to think of the great Batigol unleashing a trademark thunderous shot when you see this Fiorentina classic.
1. AC Milan Home 1988-90
An all-conquering classic
There will be many a former Serie A defender from the late 1980s who still wakes up in a cold sweat at the very thought of this jersey. Sported by Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan in their strutting pomp, the likes of Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten have ensured this strip – with its thinner stripes than most recent Milan offerings – has legendary status among Rossoneri faithful.
Richard Hall recalls his father bringing him the red and black jersey back from a trip to Italy, even though he had requested an Inter top! “If I fell in love with Inter in this era, then Milan also captured the imagination and were the first team I thought were unbeatable,” he said.
Ju Ralph also remembers being captivated by Sacchi’s Milan side as they conquered all before them. “I was drawn into Italian football by that Milan team and van Basten as they dominated the late 80s and early 90s,” he said. “It was a perfect starter before the explosion of Italia 90 and everything that came from that. As a 10-year-old, the sight of him [van Basten] playing and scoring goals in a defensively tight league was something I hoped I could replicate, sadly it was only on the training pitch or in my garden!”
A unanimous choice among Gentleman Ultra readers as the best calcio jersey from the past 50 years.
Readers’ Pick: Lazio Home 1986/87
Mindful that we could never please everybody, we decided to include a readers’ pick on our final list. The most popular suggestion on Twitter proved to be Lazio’s famous eagle-designed strip from 1986/87, which the Biancocelesti recreated for their 115th anniversary during the 2015/16 season.
Honourable mentions also go to FC Bari’s 1991-92 home kit, suggested by Mark Neale, and Cremonese’s 1992-93 Uhlsport-designed red and grey home strip, suggested by Andrew Luckock, which the club wore when they lifted the Anglo Italian Cup at Wembley in 1993.
Words by Martin Dunlop: @Dunlop85
Grazie to all our writers and readers who contributed.
For vintage and match-worn Serie A shirts click here