All pics from Casual State of Mind
Italy was never on my radar until I moved down south. However living there I met and became friends with second and third-generation Italians – and then there was Claudette and her jazz tales of Little Italy, Soho. Visits to Bar Italia on Frith Street for espressos and Bar Remo on Hanover Street for a panino with fillings that I could have only have dreamed about back in Wigan: Salami, mortadella, prosciutto and porchetta.
Those lunchtimes spent gazing in awe at the clothes and shoes in Gucci on Old Bond Street. Then buying Italian tennis and skiwear: Ellesse and Fila. The Diadora Borg Elite trainers, the Sergio Tacchini tracksuit and the Ricardo Bini knitwear - that first appeared in Woodhouse in 1982. The gorgeous floral button-down ‘Made in Italy’ shirt that I picked up from the little boutique La Piega that sat atop Muswell Hill and of course the Italian cardigans and slacks that are so prevalent in the West Indian culture that Claudette grew up in. London and its connection with Italy was beginning to make sense.
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By late 1983 sportswear was omnipresent in the pubs, clubs and on the terraces and the early protagonists were moving on. It was organic - it is always organic – and the natural procession - from the Lacoste, Cerruti 1881 and Fila BJ tennis shirts and tracksuits - was to move a little higher up the fashion ladder and one brand was embraced like no other brand before it. That brand/that label was Giorgio Armani and my little gang from North London – the gang that met in the Villa Carlotta caff – was hooked.
1984 was all about Armani. Armani polo shirt, Armani tee shirt, Armani leather jacket, Armani jumper and Armani jeans.
“Armani, Armani, A-A-Armani”, indeed!
Sportswear’s pastel shades had been replaced by muted browns, greens and greys. Floral, paisley and striped shirts buttoned to the top were now being worn under the Giorgio Armani jumper: The iconic jumper. Beautifully designed, sombre and stylish with a white label simply stating ‘Giorgio Armani’ and there on the left hand sleeve the leather eagle with the two black letters: GA.
Everything was moving quickly. From Armani to Missoni knits. Ricardo Bini and Benetton. Ball jeans with the red label, Fiorucci jeans with the gold triangle. Gucci loafers and Bally Casuals: They were beautiful clothes; they still are beautiful clothes and from that moment on Italian clothes and Italian culture has continued to influence our lives.
By 1986 we were in John Anthony’s shop on Shaftesbury Avenue. It was now all about CP Company and Stone Island isola di pietra. Navy Arctic, compass patches and Gucci watches. Ciao jeans and Paraboot shoes.
Later it was Timberland boots, Paul & Shark, Pop 84 and Best Company sweatshirts, Trussardi shirts, El Charro belts and Armani jeans – now with the metal eagle on the back pocket and onwards to Italia 90 and Gazzetta Football Italia on Channel 4. Those days back then…
The ‘Made in Italy’ label still says quality, still holds its credence and still has a place in every well-dressed man’s wardrobe but it will never be as good or exciting as it was in 1984. Back then it was our own Little Italy. Back then when Armani ruled and us boys had the real sprezzatura.
This first appeared on the scotts Menswear blog