Passion and fear: two emotions that are perhaps more powerful than any other. The former has the ability to inspire superhuman feats, to take people outside of their normal selves and breed a unique connectivity. The latter can be debilitating and incredibly difficulty to overcome.
In a sporting context, any coach worth his or her salt looks to stoke the fire of passion within their players. And a fearsome team or individual can strike a fatal psychological blow against an opponent before an official contest has even begun.
It stands to reason then, that when AC Milan was formed in 1899, the club’s founders sought to conjure a visible representation of passion and fear to be placed front and center of everything the team would go on to achieve.
In recent decades, football shirts have become billboards for advertisers and a way for clubs to squeeze every last drop of revenue out of the game’s worldwide popularity. It is not uncommon to see three separate brand logos on one jersey, with the kit manufacturer denoted on the chest, the principle sponsor emblazoned in large print on the midriff, and increasingly even an additional small corporate logo on the sleeve.
However, long before any of this was common practice, things were much simpler: it was the club crest and colors that stood alone.
Milan decided that they wanted their team to give everything on the pitch, to be willing to die for the cause, to believe in the principles of the club; to play with passion. As such, it was determined that one of their primary kit colors would be red, to represent that powerful emotion.
They also wanted to be seen as an intimidating force within the calico landscape, a well-oiled winning machine whose foes knew that any trip to Milan would almost certainly end in defeat; thus, black, to represent the fear they intended to strike in prospective opponents, was also chosen to comprise the shirt.
Englishman Henry Kilpin, one of the founders of Milan Football and Cricket Club, as it was originally known, is believed to be the person responsible for coming up with the team’s very first kit design.
Stripes were chosen in homage to the style of shirt that was so prevalent in his homeland at the time, with the original badge being simply the St. George’s Cross – a red cross on a white background which still forms part of the club’s logo to this day.
Unlike many teams, Milan has only every known one combination of shirt colors for their home jersey, with the red and black stripes having remained in place for more than a century – although the original jersey sported narrower stripes, a style which was reprised to mark the club’s centenary year in 1999. So intrinsic to the Italian side’s identity are their famous colours that their nickname, the Rossoneri, translates to the red and blacks, while they are also known as the Devils thanks to their dark and fiery coloring.
Tradition and a respectful nod to the past remains at the heart of Milan’s game day attire. So much so that they have even, for the most part, stayed true to the all-black goalkeepers’ jersey and all-white away strip that have been the established designs for decades.
Indeed, the immaculate white change kit holds a particularly fond place in Milan fans’ hearts. The club’s followers believe their away jersey to be a lucky charm in European Cup finals, having worn the colors for six of their seven triumphs in the continent’s most prestigious competition.
Although the Milan kit design is rooted firmly in the past, it has also been the source of innovation, as, in 1981, the San Siro club was the first to print the names, as well as the numbers, of their players on the back of their shirts. Since that time, such illustrious names as [Marco] Van Basten, [Ruud] Gullit, [Franco] Baresi, [Paolo] Maldini and Kaka have been emblazoned on the Rossoneri’s jersey.
As one of the most famous, popular and successful club’s in all of soccer, there is a certain comfort in knowing that tradition and respect for the foundations upon which the club was built is still an essential tenet of the modern-day AC Milan.
AC Milan are one of the most popular teams in Italy and around the world. The jersey of the Rossoneri (Red and Blacks) is instantly recognizable anywhere in the world and World Soccer Shop looks at 5 reasons why you may want to pull on a jersey and cheer for the club.
5. Political Power
4. Derby della Madonnina
3. Cool Jerseys and a Cooler Nickname
2. Legendary Players
1. One of the most successful teams in Europe
AC Milan was founded in 1899 and in its more than 115 year history countless incredible players have worn the revered red-and-black jersey. With seven Champions Leagues and 18 league titles there’s no shortage of talent to be found in the history of the San Siro.
It’s no small task, but World Soccer Shop has looked through more than a century of Milan soccer and tried to narrow it down to 10 of the club’s most legendary players. There’s no particular order to the list but all of them are storied soccer stars in their own right.
Paolo Maldini (1985-2009) – AC Milan Jersey #3
Clarence Seedorf (2002-2012) - AC Milan Jersey #10
Kaka (2003-2009, 2013-2014) - AC Milan Jersey #22
Franco Baresi (1977-1997) - AC Milan Jersey #6
Marco van Basten (1987- 1995) - AC Milan Jersey #9
Andrea Pirlo (2001-2011) - AC Milan Jersey #21
Andriy Shevchenko (1999-2006) - AC Milan Jersey #7
Gunnar Nordhal (1949-1956) - AC Milan Jersey #9
Gianni Rivera (1960-1979) - AC Milan Jersey #10
Ruud Gullit (1987-1993, 1994) - AC Milan Jersey #10
Thanks to its impressive seven Champions League titles and another 18 league titles AC Milan’s iconic red and black striped jersey is one of the most famous in soccer. In the 1981/82 season the club began allowing corporate sponsors on its kits, and Milan has sported 9 different sponsors on the front of their jersey. World Soccer Shop wants to explore the history behind the names worn by this amazing team.
The first may also be the most interesting of the bunch. It’s easy to laugh now, but in 1981 Milan probably didn’t consider what the English speaking world would think of its sponsor, Pooh Jeans. The kit has gone down as one of the more interesting in football history and didn’t last beyond 1982.
After the infamous Pooh Jeans kit Milan flirted with Hitachi and Cuore (Italian for “heart”) for the 82/83 and 83/84 seasons.
From 1985 to 1987 the team was sponsored by Fotorex U-Bix, an office equipment supplier, before it would move on to more successful deals under new ownership.
AC Milan’s longest sponsorship was with Opel. The German car manufacturer sponsored AC Milan for 22 years from 1994 to 2006. In the Opel era the red-and-black won the Serie A on four occasions and took home its sixth Champions League trophy in 2002/03. This season was also the last time Milan won the Coppa Italia.
While the Opel years were good, arguably the most successful years of the team’s history came in the late 1980s and early ’90s. During this time there were two notable sponsors. Mediolanum, an Italian financial services company, had the jerseys from 1987 to 1992 and Motto, a Milanese ice cream and confectionary company, were the sponsor from 1992 to 1994.
The Mediolanum years were some of Milan’s best in European soccer as the team won back-to-back Champions Leagues in 1988/89 and 1989/90 campaigns. The club also won the Serie A twice. The success continued with Motta and Milan won the league both seasons it was the sponsor. In its final year with Motta the team won its fifth Champions League title.
After Milan’s long run with Opel ended Bwin took over as the sponsor in 2006. In its first year with the Bwin shirts Milan won its seventh Champions League. Despite its European success Milan failed to when the league under the Bwin sponsorship.
The team moved to the Fly Emirates jerseys in the 2010/11 season and won the Serie A for the 18th time that same season. Emirates continues to adorn the legendary jersey today as AC Milan looks to recapture its former glory.