Learn Italian Through Football Shirts: Lesson Two – Colours

Welcome to the second instalment of our love letter to classic Calcio styling, cunningly disguised as an Italian language school.

Despite the wild claims made in Lesson One, this series will probably not allow you to impress potential romantic conquests, but may help ingratiate you with the locals on either the Curva Nord or Curva Sud of the San Siro.

Italian football clubs are often nicknamed based on their famous colours, giving us the perfect opportunity to share more of our favourite examples of Serie A Sartorial Soccer elegance, whilst learning a bit of the lingo along the way.

Once again, repeat after me . . .

“Azzurri”

The Italian for blue has become a byword for the national team.

Along with Holland, Australia, and loads more countries than you may think; Italy’s football shirts do not feature the colours of their national flag.

Italy, Italia, Nike, Maglia, Euro '96, Maldini, 1996-97
The Azzurri blue of Italy

The famous blue comes from the royal House of Savoy and has been the traditional colour of Italian footballing royalty for generations (yes, of course we know about the exceptions of the 1930s).

The Azzurri (or blues) is a nickname also bestowed upon Empoli and Napoli.

Napoli, Ennerre, Mars, Maradona, Malia, kit, shirt
Life on Mars

“Rossoneri”

The red and black stripes of Milan are among the most influential in football, with many clubs adopting the colours of the San Siro giants in the vain hope of looking as good as the club from Italy’s undisputed capital of fashion.

The words Rosso (red) and Nero (black) are combined and pluralised to give the 7 time European champions their internationally recognised nickname.

Milan, classic, Mediolanum, Adidas, 1991-92, shirt
A classic early 1990s Milan shirt by adidas featuring the European Cup trophy

“Nerazzurri”

Similarly, the Nerazzurri of Inter Milan and Atalanta comes from the black and blue stripes of their shirts.

Nowadays we see similar designs being worn by clubs as diverse as  Middlesbrough, Club Bruges and CF Montreal (formerly known as Impact), but we can’t help but compare them to Internazionale and the colours that were drawn to represent a dark night sky over Milan.

Internazionale, 2010, Champions League, shirt, maglia, Nike
Back in 2010, Inter won the Champions League in this round-neck Nike shirt

“Bianconeri”

By now you will have already recognised the plural of black from Juventus and Udinese’s identity and with the addition of Bianco for white, we have another handy piece of Italian vocabulary.

In our humble opinion, nobody on Planet Earth makes stripes look quite as good as Serie A clubs, with Juve’s slender strips of the 80s and 90s about as good as they get.

Now, what’s the Italian for Bellissimo?

Juventus, Danone, Kappa, shirt, Bianconeri
Mmmmm . . . Danone

“Biancocelesti”

So with Bianco meaning white, anyone who knows the colours of Lazio will be able to hazard a guess that the Celesti in question describes the sky-blues of the Eagles’ shirts.

Our memories of the Biancocelesti centre around Geordie boy Paul Gascoigne and the blessed little coincidence that his nickname, Gazza, is also the Italian for magpie.

Added value for you there.

You’re welcome.

Lazio, Gazza, 1992-93, Umbro, home
Umbro’s 1992-93 Lazio home shirt as worn by Paul Gascoigne

“Gialloblu”

Parma, Chievo and Hellas Verona each share the same nickname which brings us another Italian word for blue (erm . . . yes, that’s right . . . blu!), and introduces the third primary colour to our pallette in Giallo (yellow).

Although they may share the same colours, there is some variety between the clubs’ styles of kits with hoops, pinstripes and alternating body and sleeve designs.

They don’t get much more special than this turn of the century Parma shirt do they?

Parma, 1999-2000, Champion, kit, maglia, serie A, shirt
Eeeh that’s Champion

“Blucerchiati”

Sampdoria’s shirts just might be the world’s most beautiful and came about through compromise after the merger of two clubs from the city of Genoa.

You’ll recognise the “blu,” but the rest of this nickname describes the style of the shirt’s central bands of colour rather than the colours themselves.

Often imitated, never bettered, the Blucerchiati looked particularly beautiful when Asics sprinkled their magic upon them in the 1990s.

Sampdoria, 1990s, Asics, ERG, shirt
The best club kit the world has ever seen?

Giallorossi”

By now you’re hitting your stride and we don’t need to tell you about the yellow and red colours of Roma do we?

OK, so perhaps we’ll ruminate on the words Lupetto (wolf cub) and ghiacciolo (ice lolly) and this Pouchain top from a whole 4 decades ago, resurrected by Nike for the Giallorossi’s 2020-21 home shirts.

READ MORE HERE: A Tribute to Piero Gratton

AS Roma, Pouchain, lollipop, Serie A, maglia
Roma’s famous “lollipop” shirt by Pouchain

We’ll be back with Lesson Three shortly, but in the meantime, if you’ve enjoyed this and feel culturally enriched by this class in the classic colours of Italian football, then please share with a friend and follow us through the links below!

Grazie!

Serie A, Fiorentina, Milan, Sampdoria, International, Juventus, shirts
Classic Serie A shirts and colours
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