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.
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