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How Stone Island became associated with football hooligans

Stone Island has become a well-known designer clothing brand, worn by celebrities, including popular rappers, across the globe, highlighting its high-end appeal.

However, its roots were much more modest. Stone Island became popular among young people in Milan in the early to mid-1980s and quickly became an emblem of the subculture of football hooliganism in the late 1980s and early 1990s in England. Find out how this happened below.

The Origins of Stone Island

Stone Island was founded in 1982 in a north Italian town called Ravarino. Fashion designer, Massimo Osti, who also founded C.P. Company in 1971, set up Stone Island as a high-quality clothing brand for men.

The technical fabrics and distinct compass rose badge embroidered on the left sleeve of jackets, coats, and t-shirts made Stone Island stand out and helped it on its way to becoming a cultural phenomenon. ‘Get the badge in’ is a phrase associated with Stone Island and still acts as a unique selling point for consumers looking to buy designer clothing.  There’s even a ‘Get the badge in’ X/Twitter account with over 200,000 followers – for brand devotees to show off their Stone Island badges in their pictures.

‘Paninaro’ Group Popularises Stone Island

Shortly after the brand’s launch in 1982, Stone Island was adopted by a group of young people in northern Italy who were obsessed with designer clothing and American-inspired consumerism.

This group was called the ‘Paninaro’ as they met at the Al Panino sandwich shop in Milan to show off their latest gear – typically by Stone Island, C.P. Company, Moncler and Levis.

Stone Island captured the attention of travelling British fans during the 1980s, when English teams enjoyed a successful period in European competitions. On May 30, 1984, Liverpool played Roma in the Champions Clubs’ Cup at Rome’s Stadio Olympico, which saw Liverpool lift the trophy after a penalty shootout.

Liverpool fans didn’t come away with just a trophy, though, as they discovered Stone Island while exploring the city of Rome. Ever the trend setters, Roma fans wore the jackets with the symbolic compass rose on the left sleeve, inspiring Liverpool fans to sample the brand and bring it back to England.

Former Everton player Derek Mountfield, who won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1985, spoke to BBC Sport about the shift in fashion culture among English supporters. He said: “Fans would go to Europe and bring back clothes.”

Many other English fans were introduced to the Italian clothing brand in the 1980s during European away trips, and soon Stone Island spread in English culture to become a subcultural phenomenon.

Subculture in Britain Begins

Quickly, the subcultural movement labelled the ‘terrace casuals’ became embedded within British football fan culture. Young fans and hooligan firms were inspired by the Italian fashion style and would wear Stone Island and other designer-branded clothes to games, instead of their traditional club colours. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Stone Island had fully spread among the ‘casuals’ groups, leading to its increasing reputation as hooligan uniform.

Firms in England consistently wore Stone Island jackets and coats to games, for example, the Birmingham City Zulu Firm. In fact, Stone Island became so synonymous with football hooliganism in the 1990s that some grounds and pubs started to ban ‘Stoney’ clothing due to its negative connotations at a time when hooliganism was a significant problem in English football.

Stone Island - Green Street
The characters in the film Green Street are regularly seen wearing Stone Island clothing – Credit @claytonchambrs on X/Twitter

Stone Island is featured in films such as Green Street and Football Factory, where stereotypical London football hooligans are depicted wearing the compass rose. The characters in these films focus their attention on designer fashion and fighting with other firms before and after matches.

Stone Island Reaches Wider Culture

In recent times, Stone Island has evolved into a popular, mainstream brand worn by celebrities. This was boosted by the collaboration with Supreme in 2014, which saw Stone Island gain popularity in the United States, especially.

Popular Canadian rapper Drake has also helped catapult the brand’s reputation from a symbol of football hooliganism to mainstream celebrity gear. Drake has been wearing Stone Island since 2015 and has even sported the  compass rose badge on jewellery items such as necklaces. American celebrities such as Spike Lee, Vince Staples, and Travis Scott are also fans.

Pep Guardiola - Stone Island
Pep Guardiola wearing Stone Island during a pre-season friendly in 2016 – Credit @UtdDows on X/Twitter

UK hip-hop artists such as Skepta, Stormzy, Kano, and Davo have been pictured wearing Stone Island, further increasing its wider cultural appeal as a fashionable high-end designer brand. And in football, it has been worn by well-known football personalities, with Pep Guardiola seen wearing Stone Island on the touchline during his managerial spell at Manchester City.

Stone Island's popularity continues to grow. It's sole reputation as the uniform for English football hooligans is waning, owing to the brand's versatility in the constantly evolving and fickle world of fashion.