In a new series on the blog, and something a bit different from my “Label Discovery” posts, I will looking at individual brands that you are likely to be familiar with and are perhaps synonymous with “casual culture” and delving a bit deeper into their origins and then taking a look at where they fit in today.
ellesse is a brand that I naturally associate with my school days. Growing up in the 90s it feels like one of the prominent sportswear brands of the time, along with Adidas and Kappa. I was unlucky enough to go to a school which had a very unusual uniform, all brown, and as such our school shoes had to be brown. Getting hold of a “cool” pair of brown shoes was pretty tricky and my parents did their best to make it even more difficult for dismissing my need for a pair of “Kickers” or POD which were one of the few respectable brands that produced smart, brown shoes that got the ok. But eventually, I managed to persuade them to let me have a pair of ellesse. I loved them, they were brown and almost like a boat shoe which looped laces around the side and the all-important red and green tag on the side in line with the Kickers style.
Anyway, that was when I first associated with ellesse the brand and I went on to wear it pretty heavily through my teens, there was something about the bright, bold branding that spoke to the early casual in me and of course, Italian sportswear had a certain allure. But what is the story of the brand that was so synonymous with my school days?
Well it was started by Leonardo Servadio in Perugia, Italy all the way back in 1959. The name Ellesse derives from the initials of Servadio’s name, “L.S.” It initially became popular, like many casual brands of today, in the 70s as an outwear and Ski brand, specialising in quilted jackets and ski pants. Strangely, and like other famous Italian casual sportswear brands such as Sergio Tacchini and Fila another sport that ellesse became heavily associated with was tennis, something which is still evident today with its iconic polo shirts and tracksuit tops.
Perhaps it was that my taste changed slightly, but it felt like ellesse took a bit of a backseat in the brand stakes once I was at university and through the 00s. But there is no doubt that it is back and playing a part again in the terrace and casual culture of today, particularly with the launch of ellesse heritage.
Something that I love about ellesse for a casual brand, it is relatively reasonably priced. Now some may see this as a negative, and if they do, in my mind it is completely missing the point. In the same way that I love brands with a real heritage like Peter Storm, which I’ll talk about in this series too, the casual movement shouldn’t be about expense and spending the most money you can on a Stone Island coat. It has always been about discovery and differentiation and brands like ellesse have played just as an important role in casual culture as CP Company or Stone Island. Just like Lacoste, Fila and Sergio it was one of the first “exoctic” brands to be seen on the terraces in the 80s brought back by the lads following Liverpool, Man Utd and any London clubs that managed to get into Europe.
There is no doubt that in my mind that ellesse still has its place in casual culture, and long may that continue. You only need to take a look at one of my favourite casual accounts on Instagram, magnusfrasu to see how to wear ellesse well…