Calcetto Eleganza turns 10, and a unique collection of cards celebrates the history of the Milan community and its new jerseys

It’s the early 1960s, Modena. Giuseppe Panini looked over at his brother Franco. “I want to make collectable cards,” he said. It was the beginning of a simple yet enlightened sport, social, even artistic rebellion. 2014, Milan. “Non per sport ma per moda” – “Not for sport but for fashion”. This sarcastic claim kicked off a different kind of revolution with a common denominator, Calcetto Eleganza.

Football as the muse, creativity the matrix, and community as the outcome. At its prestigious 10th anniversary, the Eleganza project continues to evolve and expand, say co-founders Davide Di Martino, Nicolò Riggio, Marco Gardenale and Aldo Giordano, without compromising its essence. An essence made of everything Milanese and cosmopolitan, where football fetishes like Pato, Francescoli and Busquets go hand in hand with the eclecticism of Satisfy, Daft Punk and Achille Castiglioni. Where the Beautiful Game sits center stage without really being the main character, instead becoming the summit of a constantly renewing pyramid of sports.

Decked out in its new jerseys, entirely self-produced for the first time in the project’s history, Eleganza reveals itself as a universe of different nationalities, careers, visions, trends and personalities. Like an album of collectable cards to leaf through. Like the number 10, the most timeless and elegant number there is.

Luca Di Marco

Favorite team and player.

Catania and Inter, my city’s team and my family’s team. Inter took me in when I moved to Milan. Mariano Izco and Ivan Zamorano. Despite the criticism, the former was the soul of Catania. The latter because I love killer wingmen – the ones who can do it all but stay out of the spotlight– and the mystique of 1+8.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Nike, because of all it’s represented over the years, and Umbro, because it raised the bar for football aesthetics. Domenico Romeo, because he was the first designer of the Calcetto Eleganza logo. I still have our first emails….

Eleganza.

Eleganza is as much about how you perform on the field as in the locker room. It is a way of being together, a passion that combines football, community, style and fashion. In the beginning, Elegance stood for irony and brotherhood, then it progressed and took on other meanings.

Why Calcetto Eleganza.

It was necessary. We were all following streetwear trends, as well as those related to sports and urban culture. There was a lot going on around us. We took advantage of the historical moment and the city of Milan, and we were able to create a platform that could bring together a group of creative people in love with football. 

The number 10.

It makes me think of times past. I’m talking about footballers with flair and creativity, who put their characteristics before everything else. So, I’m not talking about me. It’s those players who could no longer exist today. And then I think about our milestone. The longevity of Calcetto Eleganza surprises me: years have passed, and generations have changed, but Eleganza continues to generate interest.

In your life, on the pitch.

I’m creative. I founded and work in a media agency. Instinct is something I look for and follow both in my profession and on the field. Let’s just say I stick to projects and opponents.   

The locker room.

I am the old ‘Patrón’ rooting on the young people. I’ve been doing that from the beginning of the project. 

The Eleganza jerseys.

The vertical gold stripes are the new, and definitely Elegante, element that distinguishes both colorways.

Alice Marta Azzolini

Favorite team and player.

I don’t really follow football; I’m part of Eleganza Cycling, the cycling branch of Eleganza. So, I would say Alfonsina Strada.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Italian ‘market’ brands and Antonio Gramsci, or maybe Silvia Federici.

Eleganza.

It is a welcoming group of people who can transform macho sports like football or cycling and make them inclusive. Before Eleganza, I had a lot of fear connected with cycling, descents, etc. Without them, I wouldn’t be a cyclist.

Why Eleganza Cycling.

When they opened this new branch, I joined right away. I had just recently started cycling and always disliked sports settings that were really only interested in performance; Eleganza was the only platform that gave me the opportunity to have collective experiences and not just workouts.

The number 10.

In Milan, 10 years is an eternity. Now there are crews and communities in any sport, but the environment was very different in 2014. I think the important thing is to really do things. In these 10 years, Eleganza has done so much, and the project has evolved a great deal. It’s beautiful, then, that there are increasingly more sports outside of football. 

In your life, on the road.

I’m a content designer. In this group, I’m the one who shows up on time, always stays up-to-date.

The locker room.

I play the role of feminist, though everyone is sensitive to the issue. I’m the one focused most on the small battles for inclusivity in sports.

The Eleganza jerseys.

Black is always elegant. Then, it makes them Elegante that we’re the ones wearing them.

Alberto Panocchi

Favorite team and player.

Milan and ‘Sheva’, the second Milan shirt of my life: it was counterfeit and had the number 32. It was given to me before they confirmed number 7.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Levi’s. I like iconic brands with real stories behind them. Virgil Abloh, who influenced me a lot and, for a while, I followed him like a groupie. I could also add Luca Benini, the founder of Slam Jam, who really inspired me. 

Eleganza.

Harmony. Things that don’t clash, with consistency. Calcetto Eleganza fits this definition: it’s made up of harmonious, balanced people. Maybe I’m the only one who’s not.

Why Calcetto Eleganza.

Because I wanted to play football with people where we can talk about everything but football. When the project started, we were almost all creative people who had recently got to Milan. We had different stories and backgrounds and so much to share. Today, I’m proud to see the personal paths we’ve taken during these years. And I’m equally proud to see how much the community has grown.

The number 10.

There are different interpretations of this number. I feel like a 10 off the field: the 10 that turns the night around, that gets things going. 10 also makes me think of aging, or better, maturing. Over the years, we’ve accomplished a lot but I’ve also got some obvious regrets. We could have seized on more opportunities, but I’m aware that, for better or worse, all of us get caught up in the work and dynamics of Milan. That said, I’m proud that we’re there, and we’re recognized. My wish, for the future, is that Calcetto Eleganza does get taken for granted.

In your life, on the pitch.

My job description says Experience Manager, but I don’t really know how well that explains my role. Let’s just say I put things together. On the field, however, I enjoy making a save more than scoring a goal. I feel like I’m responsible for my actions between the posts.

The locker room.

First there’s the locker room, then the field and the results. Victory is a consequence of collaboration, the camaraderie you build with your teammates. Let me give an example that means a lot to me: the regional junior championship I won with Montecosaro, a small team from the Marche region. We weren’t the strongest, but we went out every day together, there was this magical chemistry. I saw the same thing in Pioli’s Milan, in a different proportion, obviously.

The Eleganza jerseys.

I imagine them all together in a team photo. The work in gold and black definitely creates that Eleganza effect. And then there’s the satisfaction of making it by ourselves. Of making our second skin.

Chuck George

Favorite team and player.

New York Red Bulls. No favorite player.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Studio Nicholson or Supreme, but I prefer vintage. Songwriter Sturgill Simpson.

Eleganza.

I can only say one word, Eleganza. Molta Eleganza. Bellissima Eleganza (with American pronunciation ed).

Why Calcetto Eleganza.

We met through a collaboration. We showed World Cup matches in my restaurant and created a special T-shirt. The concept behind that design was the power of the Beautiful Game and the fact that it is an eternal ‘childhood’ love. I have always played baseball, and on a sociocultural level, football plays the same role here. That’s why I’m fascinated by it.

The number 10.

It’s still youth. Only the beginning.

In your life, on the pitch.

I own Chuck’s restaurant; we’re in Milan, Rome, Paris, and soon in London. My role in Calcetto Eleganza is community builder and foreign friend.

The locker room.

I play the fool; I love to prank everyone and rile them up. 

The Eleganza jerseys.

One more word, Eleganza (again with US pronunciation ed). The white, the black, the gold, the pinstripes. They remind me of Yankees jerseys.

Elisa Carassai

Favorite team and player.

When I was growing up, my mother would do the blood tests for Juve, so I’m a fan of the Del Piero golden era.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Simon Rocha. Donna Tartt or Ann Carson.

Eleganza.

Creating a community through friendship and shared passions.

Why Calcetto Eleganza.

They ended up in my life by accident during the lockdown. Then we started hanging out together. So, it started as a friendship,  and only later we came up with different ways to collaborate, both editorially and musically.

The number 10.

It makes me think of a milestone, of building an important community that can reach across different areas. It’s 10 years of international connections, of building a network of creative people around the world. From Milan, Athens, London, Paris and Stockholm…. It’s really great that, through sports, we can also celebrate so much more.

In your life, on the pitch.

I run an independent magazine called Sali e Tabacchi Journal. I founded it a few years ago in London while studying. This project brought me back home, to Milan, where I’m also doing editorial and strategy consulting for fashion brands. Eleganza allows me to develop creative endeavors, like music projects for Radio Raheem and Radio Bandalarga, and create cultural and community activities. The idea is to maneuver around sports and creativity in a common field.

The locker room.

I feel like I’m the connector. I really enjoy connecting people and making real connections.

The Eleganza jerseys.

Eleganza is in the colors and, of course, the way you wear them, as well as personal styling.

Davide Coppo

Favorite team and player.

Milan and Andriy Shevchenko.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Everything Massimo Osti has done. Winfried Sebald.

Eleganza.

Attention to detail.

Why Football Eleganza.

When I first met the guys, I liked the idea of using football as a vehicle to create community, to bring people together around a field, a table, or a screen,. Over the years, I’ve really met so many people.

The number 10.

It’s creativity, of course. And it’s a long time, 10 years. Years where we’ve remained friends. Years where everything has moved faster and faster, but the Eleganza project continues on its path. It makes me think of slowness in a good way. 

In your life, on the pitch.

I’m a writer, and I reflect on the pitch; I’m always thinking. And the goalkeeper also has too much time to think…. 

The locker room.

I like it a lot. It has always allowed me to see the positive sides of people, and even the positive sides of negative aspects.

The Eleganza jerseys.

They follow a typical Eleganza feature: the desire to bring non-football patterns and designs into football. In this case, there is also the courage of making them black and white, and the responsibility of having self-produced them.

Xheni Ballin

Favorite team and player.

I play, but I don’t watch football. You guys can choose the coolest female soccer player and team for me.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Maison Margela and Emilia Nardi, a friend of mine. Egon Schiele.

Eleganza.

In football, it’s verbal and non-verbal communication. Here, it lies simply in the phrase ‘cool as fuck.’

Why Calcetto Eleganza.

I discovered it through a friend. I’m not from Milan and I used to play soccer in America, so it was nice to meet such a community. Even though I only knew one person, I immediately felt part of the team. 

The number 10.

When something is around for 10 years, it is here to stay. If you survive that long, nothing can stop you.

In your life, on the pitch.

I’m a photographer and writer and about to publish my Intense Magazine project. I also work in digital marketing. I think all our professions and passions are reflected on the field; it’s like everyone here has an artistic streak.

The locker room.

I’m the DJ, I put on the music.

The Eleganza jerseys.

Eleganza is in the gold details and lettering; they are perfect for a 10th anniversary. 

Maximiliano Nicolas Ruiz

Favorite team and player.

Fc Internazionale. Since I was born in Buenos Aires, it would be obvious to say Diego Armando Maradona, so I’ll say Enzo Francescoli.

Favorite brand and creative person.

Acne Studios. Donald Judd.

Eleganza.

It lies in the phrase ‘power is nothing without control’ (laughs ed.).

Why Calcetto Eleganza.

As friends we played together. We just happened to all be a part of the creative universe. Creative people often say football is uninteresting; for us it was different. On Sundays we watched the games. It’s been a shared passion that brought about everything else.

The number 10.

I played professional football until I was 23. So, the 10 has been part of my imagination since childhood. I would go to bed at night hoping to wear that number, and score. It is symbolic; it expresses so much. The other feeling is that we’re getting older, but I’m glad that so many friends are carrying on and passing on that vision of football: of playing on Saturday mornings, of being 60 years old and still kicking around a football… sheer beauty.

In your life, on the court.

I am founder of A Wolves Agency, a production and communications agency that also works in football. On the field, I’m commanding, always looking for the ball and to be right, but in an honest way. 

The locker room.

When I was young, I was always on the sidelines, I needed my own space. Growing up, it became the same when I’m with a group.

The Eleganza jerseys.

The black and gold are classic, timeless Eleganza. The collar makes me think of football that’s a bit more intellectual.

Tommaso Naccari

Favorite team and player.

Inter, though my dad’s a Milanista and my mother’s a Genoan, or better, anti-Sampdorian. Ronaldo ‘the Phenomeno’, my first sticker. A name from today, Denzel Dumfries. 

Favorite brand and creative person.

Stüssy. Eric André.

Eleganza.

It is what gravitates around football, from the idea of community to style to all the talismans that populate this sporting universe. Eleganza means erasing football objectivity.

Why Calcetto Eleganza.

I’m a pretty bad footballer, so I’m the one who should be asking the others…. Jokes aside, Eleganza is developed on the pitch, but there’s a lot more going on besides that. All kinds of approaches to football are interesting to me.

The number 10.

Although I hate to be nostalgic, I think of Baggio. Then, I get envious because 10 is the apotheosis of being able to play football: something I can’t do very well. Finally, it’s the goal of a project I have been part of for more than half its life. I’ve seen it change, open to other sports and evolve. It is nice that there are things like this that have ‘excuses’ to bring people together.

In your life, on the pitch.

I tend to write, even if it sounds pompous. I hope I’m better at writing than playing on the field. My contact point is in the confusion; it’s working and playing in controlled chaos.

The locker room.

I’m the joker, no doubt. I love to laugh at and with myself.

The Eleganza jerseys.

The idea that a football jersey can be primarily a garment is what defines Calcetto Eleganza. The 10th anniversary jerseys are the perfect example of this concept. I also like that the word Eleganza takes the main sponsor’s position.

Photo credits:

Nicolò Rinaldi

Text by

Gianmarco Pacione