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Everything You Need To Know About The Milan Paninari’s

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The Paninari were a youth subculture that started in Milan during the 1980s with a passion for McDonald’s, Moncler & motorbikes.

Milan is a city synonymous with two major realms of culture: fashion and football. These realms rarely overlap. In terms of fashion, Milan’s long been known as a safe – if not slightly predictable – city for luxury brands and designers (though that is starting to change with young and dynamic designers and brands emerging here).

On the other side of the cultural divide, we have the globally recognized teams of Inter and AC Milan. Both clubs have a celebrated history and identity. The striped red/black and blue/black shirts are instantly recognizable, even if both clubs have fallen on hard times in recent seasons.

If you are to unite these cultural realms and mention Milan, football, and fashion in the same sentence you might elicit thoughts of stylish players – Paolo Maldini, Manu Rui Costa, Andrea Pirlo.

But the history of fashion in Milanese football culture is strong. And it’s had a grand influence on following movements, including the Casual scene that flowed through the veins of the United Kingdom and certainly the modern streetwear craze.

Milan Paninari Subculture

It all starts in the 1980s with a group of young Milanese called the Paninari. The Paninari were a group that would hang out at the Panino Cafe (meaning the Sandwich cafe) in a rebellion against Italy’s culinary status quo at the time – long lunches painstakingly prepared at a slow pace. The Paninari emerged from an age when consumerism was exploding and the adopted name, taken from a fast food sandwich, exemplified this.

The Paninari adopted brands like Stone Island, C.P. Company, Moncler, Armani, Vans and Versace. Timberland boots were ever-present, as were Levis 501 jeans and bomber or puffer jackets. In an interview with MixMag, Stone Island collector Archie Maher compared the Paninari to kids scouring the internet for the latest brands today.

“The Paninaro were a group of Milanese middle- and upper-class youths known for riding mopeds around the centre of Milan from café to café,” he said. “They’d wear Stone Island and CP Company alongside brands like Moncler and Versace. I guess they were kind of similar to today’s ‘hypebeasts’.”

Milan Paninari Subculture

The subculture arose largely due to deregulation in global markets that came about through the policies of politicians like Reagan and Thatcher. Markets then flooded with international brands and consumerism flourished. Silvio Berlusconi, a former Italian Prime Minister and owner of AC Milan and current dismisser of the #MeToo movement, ran ads supporting these new policies on his array of media outlets.

In the 1980s, a few zines or periodicals – like Paninaro, Preppy, and Wild Boys – appeared to cover this trend. These looks were exported to the UK, often brought back by traveling football fans who’d visited Milan for European matches. The movement later inspired the 1986 Pet Shop Boys’ song Paninaro. And the legacy lasts through to today.

Milan Paninari Subculture

“Acquisition of these designer status symbols, combined with a modern day sense of sprezzatura, or ‘studied nonchalance’, was how these wealthy youths found creative self-affirmation,” Amy O’Brien writes in Another Magazine.

Today, brands like Stone Island is still ever present in the San Siro’s Curva Sud – where the AC Milan ultras unveil their massive banners and chain smoke cigarettes – or in the Curva Nord – Inter territory. Milanese have also hopped on the streetwear train and have added brands like Supreme, Nike, BAPE, OFF-WHITE, Yeezy, and others found in the litany of stores (like Slam Jam) to the staples of the Paninari era.

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A lot of the trends of the Paninari days are also coming back. Puffer jackets are ubiquitous on Milan’s stradas and checkered Vans were the must have sneaker for much of 2017. The Paninari are also known for rolling up their jeans to display the brands of their socks – something that’s being seen throughout global streetwear shoots today.

They helped launch Stone Island from a subculture staple to a staple of the wardrobes for international figures like Pep Guardiola and Drake. And whatever comes next, the ghosts of the Paninari are sure to be an influence in a certain capacity.

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Justin Olivier Salhani
Justin Olivier Salhani

Justin Olivier Salhani is a writer, journalist, creative and amateur footballer based in Milan, Italy. He's the founder of Guerrilla FC; a creative collective/streetwear brand inspired by football and the creative director at lowsocks creative, and managing editor of Latterly Magazine. He's particularly into the intersection of where streetwear and football meet and how the two cultures inspire one another. He was previously based in Washington, DC and Beirut, Lebanon.

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