Everything You Need To Know About The Milan Paninaro
The Paninaro 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 recognised teams of Inter and AC Milan. Both clubs have a celebrated history and identity. The striped red/black and blue/black shirts are instantly recognisable, 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 throughout the 1980s.
It all starts in the 1980s with a group of young Milanese called the Paninaro. The Paninaro 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 Paninar0 emerged from an age when consumerism was exploding and the adopted name, taken from a fast food sandwich, exemplified this.
The Paninaro adopted brands like Best Company, Stone Island, C.P. Company and Moncler. 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 Paninaro 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 C.P. Company alongside brands like Moncler and Versace. I guess they were kind of similar to today’s ‘hypebeasts’.”
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 travelling 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.
“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.