Football and fashion have long been team players. From 1960s-era trendsetters like George Best and Bobby Moore to Beckham’s Midas-like status in the style sphere today, it’s clear that menswear and the beautiful game are a tight-knit dream team.
And while Lanvin’s Lucas Ossendrijver clothes the Arsenal team now and legendary French midfielder Zinedine Zidane is the face of Mango Man’s current SS15 advertising campaign, the relationship between fashion and football stretches back to the 1970s, when the focus wasn’t on what players were wearing but the style of the supporters cheering them on in the terrace: the casuals.
Much loathed, as much by the general public as by some of the brands that became synonymous with them, a faction of the casuals was hell-bent on hooliganism, quickly giving the laddish label-loving subculture a bad name.
But we tend to forget that the casuals’ enthusiasm for certain brands of clothing was less about going undercover to cause havoc – as was the case for a violent minority – and more about plain and simple one-upmanship: who’s wearing the best brands, and who’s wearing them best? Clothes, for casuals, were a means to uncompromisingly pin your colours to the mast.
Here we take a look at some of the labels whose rise to prominence in the UK was closely linked with the subculture, their hero pieces, and why they’re still admired to this very day.
Although closely connected with many aspects of British counter-culture, Fred Perry’s ties with football casuals are equally strong. In fact, the iconic twin tipping – which the brand’s polo shirts are now renowned for – was originally conceived by die-hard West Ham fans.
Keen to wear their team’s colours, the fans approached London retailer Lilywhites of London who in turn forwarded the request to Fred Perry. The result? Blue and white tipping was duly added.
Founded in the late 1940s, the brand still produces some of the finest polo shirts in the game, each crafted from soft cotton pique and featuring the embroidered Laurel Wreath on the left chest.
From collaborations with the likes of lauded Belgian designer Raf Simons to fellow British brands Nigel Cabourn and Gloverall, Fred Perry are so much more than the casual tennis-inspired apparel brand it started out as. And it’s all the better for it too.
Born in 1975, this Italian label has – in its forty-year history – produced over 40,000 garments. Initially founded as Chester Perry, the brand was later renamed by the design virtuoso then at its helm, Massimo Osti.
Although the brand now manufactures everything from trousers and jeans to sweatshirts and silk scarves, it’s chiefly known for what many of its avid followers deem the holy grail of outerwear: the Mille Miglia jacket.
Osti’s brainchild, the Mille Miglia made its first appearance in 1988 at the world-famous annual vintage car race of the same name, sponsored that year by C.P. Company, and was soon after adopted by the casuals for its utilitarian look and feel.
Melding design features borrowed from the likes of Japanese Civil Defence uniforms and Swiss field jackets, the Mille Miglia is the original goggle jacket, packed full of functional military-inspired details including a series of well-positioned pockets and a sleeve lens through which you can view your watch – pretty handy if you’re counting down every second of injury time.
Today, C.P. Company still releases a slew of Mille Miglia-inspired jackets each season – in a variety of cuts, colours and performance materials – with other recommended pieces to look out for being the brand’s expertly crafted bomber jackets and sharp smart-casual separates, which range from short-sleeved shirts to unstructured blazers.
Started as a spin-off, diffusion line from C.P. Company, Stone Island eventually grew to become considerably bigger – and, by many accounts, immeasurably cooler – than its predecessor.
Known affectionately as ‘Stoney’ by its devotees, the Italian label found favour with football fans due to its hard wearing fabrics and the impeccable construction of its wares.
Originally headed up by Massimo Osti, the same man behind C.P. Company’s legendary Mille Miglia, Stone Island birthed a cult-like following for its distinctive markers: highly-functional jackets and sweatshirts that were the result of innovative fabric-dyeing and textile engineering techniques and, of course, the brand’s compass insignia, smartly woven into a rectangular badge and buttoned with military precision to the upper left arm.
While the label’s distinctive branding might once have been mistaken for the symbol of violent right-wing group Combat 18, it’s now shaken off its negative connotations, managing to convincingly remind us all what it deserves to be known for: achingly cool clobber complete with thermo, reflective and garment-dyed finishes.
Now, instead of jumped up troublemakers, you’re more likely to see the compass on the likes of musicians Drake and Frank Ocean, as well as British actor Russell Tovey – all of whom sport Stoney’s masterfully engineered casual wear separates and statement outerwear.
The definitive football supporter’s footwear brand, adidas has had close ties with the casuals movement since the original Forest Hills were released in 1979.
Indeed, it could be argued that the German sportswear giant was the subculture’s constant. As brand consultant and self-confessed adidas-obsessive Gary Aspden puts it in an interview with The Daily Street:
“Despite the way that the whole football casual fashion would change really quickly, adidas is one of the brands that remained consistent through it.”
From the Trimm Trabb and Grand Slam to the Samba and its iconic City Series, adidas’ trainers were the go-to for those flocking to the terrace. And little, it seems, has changed, with adidas Originals’ current line-up – from Stan Smiths to Gazelles – spectacularly popular not only among sports fans but fashion’s most influential too.
adidas’ City Series proved extremely popular with football casuals
While casuals culture isn’t exactly innocuous, it’s nevertheless an aspect of British and European history that – much like skinheads, ska and punk rock – was instrumental in informing how we dress today.
Who’s to know – without the logo-obsessed, footie-loving lads of the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, some of the labels on this list might not enjoy such widespread appeal in the UK today.
Are you a self-confessed fan of casuals style? Do you approve of our brand list?
Let us know in the comments below.