Football’s history is illustrated with many iconic images of Italian teams and star players lifting trophies in jerseys which have gone into folklore. A lot of this is down to the stylish colours and imaginative combinations that you wouldn’t expect to see on soccer kits anywhere else but Italy.
The three biggest clubs in the country — AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus — are all famous for their stripes, and a move away from those much-loved traditional templates is treated with real hostility from fans, while others making the opposite move are met with similar disdain.
However, fashion is all about pushing the envelope and taking chances. Consequently, as well as some of most stunning kits, Italian sides have also produced some real stinkers down the years.
Here is a look at 10 of the best and worst kits from Serie A clubs over the years.
10. AS Roma: home, 2000-01 (Kappa)
He couldn’t win the title with Fiorentina, but after just one season with Roma, Gabriel Batistuta led the Giallorossi to their first Scudetto since 1983. He did so bedecked in the same rich red and deep yellow as the Eternal City’s flag (“Giallo Roma, 130C” and “Rosso Roma, 202C,” if the Pantone colour matching system is your thing). Manufacturer Kappa’s first jersey for the club has a simple yet effective design made distinct by the thick, round neckline. It was the season’s Roma’s greatest son, Francesco Totti, won the only league title of his 25-year career.
9. Brescia: home, 2001-02 (Lotto)
The white chevron on a blue surface was always a winner for Brescia in the early 2000s — so much so, that their away kit at the time was simply the same colourway in reverse. It’s actually a giant “V,” the origins of which date back to the 1920s when the club was using the stadium built for another team called Virtus. The 2001-02 kit remains particularly iconic, however, as it was the season both Pep Guardiola and Roberto Baggio were at the club together as players. Luca Toni and Andrea Pirlo are other household names to wear the jersey in this period.
8. Napoli: home, 1986-87 (Ennerre)
Naples is home to some of the most passionate fans in all of Italy, yet it’s the 1987 title-winning shirt with “Maradona 10” on the back still most likely to be seen across the city. The Argentina superstar joined Napoli in 1984 in a world-record transfer from Barcelona and won two Serie A titles and the UEFA Cup in their famous sky blue. In 2018, a rare red Napoli jersey that had been worn by Maradona in 1989 sold for just shy of $14,000 at an auction in Turin.
7. Juventus: home, 1997-98 (Kappa)
This was the third season in a row in which Marcello Lippi led Juve to the Champions League final, and this was possibly their best team. In attack, Alessandro Del Piero produced arguably his best season for the club, while Zinedine Zidane would go on to claim the Ballon d’Or. The black-and-white stripes — inherited from English club Notts County at the start of the 20th Century — are distinctive here as they are particularly wide and run up into the oversized collar, while having Sony MiniDisc as the shirt sponsor helps signify this particular moment in time.
6. AC Milan: home, 1990-92 (Adidas)
Milan’s iconic red-and-black stripes were chosen by one of the club’s founders, Englishman Herbert Kilpin, who said: “We’re going to be a team of devils. We’ll be red like the flames that will animate our souls and black like the fear our opponents will feel.” Teams playing against the Rossoneri between 1991-93 certainly felt the flames and the fear — Fabio Capello led a team featuring Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten to a staggering 58 matches without defeat over that period. They won Serie A at a canter in 1991-92 and successfully defended the title twice. The team first wore this stunning Adidas jersey in Arrigo Sacchi’s final season as coach, but trophy success arrived the following term under Capello.
5. Parma: home, 1998-99 (Lotto)
Parma were sporting their yellow-and-blue hoops when they lifted the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup trophies. This was the high point for a club which had spent its entire existence in Italy’s lower leagues until 1990. A star-studded team featuring Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo won plenty of new admirers, who will not have known that the club had worn white shirts with a black cross as their home shirt in the past. The Gialloblu kit was reinstated as the home kit due to its association the club’s owners, Parmalat, but after the dairy giant’s financial collapse led to the club folding and reforming, Parma have reverted to their monochrome design.
4. Lazio: home, 1998-99 (Puma)
This kit was worn right in the middle of Lazio’s three years at the top, and the season they clinched European Cup Winners’ Cup success in Birmingham. A year earlier, they had won the Coppa Italia and Rome’s other major club would get their hands on the Scudetto 12 months on. Christian Vieri wore this kit in his sole season at Lazio, playing alongside Marcelo Salas in the Biancocelesti attack. It has such a special place in the hearts of fans that the club’s current kit manufacturer, Macron, released an almost identical jersey last season to mark Lazio’s 120th anniversary.
3. Inter Milan: third, 1997-98 (Umbro)
Having just broken the world transfer record to sign Ronaldo from Barcelona, Inter needed success. They had gone four years without a trophy and ended that drought in sensational fashion with a 3-0 victory over Serie A rivals Lazio in the UEFA Cup final. Inter’s third alternate jersey only added to the glory of the occasion with their traditional stripes turned sideways to become hoops, the blue sections washed in a metallic grey and a giant club crest across the torso. They clinched the trophy with Ronaldo providing arguably his best performance for the Nerazzurri.
2. Sampdoria: home, 1990-92 (Asics)
Playing well is always much more effective if you look the part, and that was certainly true of this Sampdoria side. In what was undoubtedly the best period in their history, led by the magnificent duo of Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli in attack, Samp reached back-to-back European Cup Winners’ Cup finals in 1989 and 1990 before winning Serie A in 1991 and reaching the European Cup final the following season. They hit those heights wearing this stunning iteration of their blue jersey with the iconic red, black and white lines in the middle — a nod to the club’s origin following a merger between two teams; Sampierdarenese (whose kit was red and black) and Andrea Doria (who wore white and blue with a shield bearing a St. George cross).
1. Fiorentina: home, 1999-2000 (Fila)
In 1998-99, Fiorentina came so close to winning Serie A but finished third — enough to reach the Champions League for the first time. La Viola achieved that feat in a memorable kit sponsored by Nintendo, which deserves an honorable mention. But the following season’s uniform just tips it, with its white trimming and the addition of manufacturer Fila’s “F” logo on the sleeves and shorts. Batistuta, Rui Costa & Co. won matches against Manchester United and Arsenal and played out a 3-3 draw with Barcelona to ensure this kit lives long in the memory.
10. Perugia: home, 2001-02 (Galex)
This jersey was manufactured by Galex, a company set up by club owner Luciano Gaucci’s son. That might explain its questionable quality. The circular white collar gives the impression the players are wearing a bib, and the long baggy sleeves are another baffling choice. The design has a griffin (the symbol of the club and the city) but even manages to get that wrong, sandwiching the mythical lion/eagle hybrid between the two sponsor logos. This season, Perugia also had Ahn Jung-Hwan, the South Korea international whose Golden Goal would knock Italy out of that summer’s World Cup.
9. Siena: home, 2004-5 (Lotto)
This kit is based on the city’s coat of arms, a simple shield which is half-white and half-black, but it brings to mind a chessboard more than a football team. The pattern extends to the shorts (though, disappointingly, not the socks) and the monochrome panels appear in reverse on the back.
8. Empoli: away, 2005-06 (Asics)
This design probably looked great on paper, but in reality it was impractical. Unless the shirt and shorts are kept completely in line, so the blue sash is continuous, the whole point of the concept is lost. Despite the players having to be preoccupied with alignment issues whenever they wore this kit (which, with their home kit being blue, was quite often), Empoli still managed to finish eighth in this campaign.
7. Cagliari: third, 2016-17 (Macron)
It’s certainly brave, but it’s just too bright. Cagliari traditionally play in red and blue, which means they need to wear one of their alternate kits fairly regularly. This third-choice kit, one block of garish green from head-to-toe, except for the tiny hints of their regular colours, was not the best way to signal their return to Serie A after a year in the second tier. They learned their lesson, reverting to more restrained colours in the years since, before new manufacturers Adidas made a more successful attempt at the theme this season with an all-yellow third kit.
6. Fiorentina: away, 1991-92 (Lotto)
This was Batistuta’s first season at the club — and it can only be assumed this strange mix of pinstripes and triangles had been kept hidden before he signed his contract. Fiorentina are generally known for having some of the most aesthetically pleasing kits with their iconic violet, but this was not one of them. The 1991-92 season also saw Fiorentina sign Mazinho, who would win the World Cup in 1994 and father Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Rafinha. They finished the campaign in 12th place. A year later — despite the arrivals of Brian Laudrup and Steffen Effenberg — Fiorentina were relegated.
5. Atalanta: away, 2013-14 (Errea)
It might not be quite on a par with Newcastle United‘s “bananas in pajamas” kit from 2009-10, but Atalanta’s own attempt at a yellow uniform a few years later was still a low point for Serie A, even if it retained the black stripes of their home colours. If the bright yellow makes you think this kit would be more suitable for a goalkeeper than those playing outfield then you’re not alone: Andrea Consigli wore this jersey while standing between the sticks on several occasions in 2013-14.
4. AC Milan: away, 2014-15 (Adidas)
This jersey, according to the club, was meant to pay homage to the nation of Brazil as it hosted that summer’s World Cup and to all of the Brazilian stars past and present who had represented the Rossoneri. The season before — Milan’s last in the Champions League — they had a gold strip, but this one was more of a washed-out shade of lemon yellow. With the forest green stripes running down the shoulders, it made for an odd mix. Perhaps it’s no surprise that two of the club’s Brazilian stars of the time, Kaka and Robinho, both left before the 2014-15 season even began.
3. Napoli: third, 2013-14 (Kappa)
There’s no chance Napoli were missing out on a place on this list. This pattern is such a mix of camouflage and conspicuous that it is hard to imagine it has much practical military use on any terrain. Napoli rarely wore this kit, but it was one of two camo jerseys they wore during this season. They even returned to the theme in 2018-19, this time with a set of kits made by Kappa.
2. Juventus: away, 2000-01 (Lotto)
It would be easy to go for this season’s “bold orange” third kit, but at least it is memorable. Lotto merged the black-and-white stripes of Juve’s home kit to make a grey away uniform with shirt, shorts and socks all one drab colour. Even stars of the time like Zidane, Del Piero and Edgar Davids will have struggled to pick out a teammate using their peripheral vision, as their record in this season attests. Juve finished bottom of their Champions League group and had two players sent off in each of their last two matches, while in Serie A they missed out on the title to Roma on the final day of the season.
1. Inter Milan: third, 2016-17 (Nike)
You have to wonder how the conversation went before those involved signed off on this combination of “luminous blue” and “electric green.” It’s not just the colours, it’s also the thin hoops used to achieve an early version of the gradient effect which Nike continues to persist with in its kit designs. Clearly a lot of effort went into a design for a shirt which, quite frankly, looks awful.