017 - stone island express
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
From soccer hooligans to Soho storefronts.
Things were simpler in 2005 - Entourage Season 2 was on HBO, Kanye had just dropped Late Registration (and stayed out of politics), and my primary concern in life was managing my Myspace Top 8.
I started getting my haircut at a new spot in Brooklyn Heights by this guy named Fabio; a super-stylish Italian soccer player with a Swedish wife, two beautiful kids, and a trimmed-out Audi - basically, who 13-year-old me wanted to be when I grew up.
Fabio would always rock these jackets with a distinctive compass patch on the left sleeve from this obscure Italian yachting label I'd never heard of called Stone Island. He gave me the inside scoop - it was all the rage in Europe but hadn't caught on yet in the States, so it would go straight to the clearance rack at Filene's Basement (where he'd gleefully scoop it up at rock-bottom prices). Truly, what a time to be alive.
Fast-forward 15 years and Stone Island has become one of the most recognizable men's brands in the world, repped continuously by style goliaths like Drake, David Beckham, Zayn Malik... the list goes on and on. With a rabid fanbase rivaling that of Supreme or Rolex, the compass patch has become a bonafide status symbol - just take a look at their Instagram (1.7 million followers with zero following) and you'll get a sense of just how unattainably cool Stone Island has become. Their accountants clearly agree, as Moncler reportedly paid €1.4 billion to acquire a majority stake last year.
Stone Island was founded in the early 80s by Italian menswear guru Massimo Otti as an experimental offset of his brand CP Company. Otti sought to push the definition of what clothing could actually be, engineering some 40,000 fabrics for his utilitarian line like a "Liquid Reflective" material containing thousands of light-reflecting glass microspheres - hand-painted and then baked in an oven - or thermo-sensitive fabrics that change color with heat exposure.
Then, in a weird twist of fate, the brand was adopted as the de-facto uniform of English soccer "hooligans", who donned (largely stolen) high-end Italian sportswear in an attempt to avoid detection by the authorities in the midst of the violence they would subsequently instigate at rival football matches. As these flashy brands were very hard to find outside of Europe, hooligans naturally tried to out-do one another with rarer and more expensive kits - and what could be rarer and more expensive than a color-changing jacket? As an added bonus, Stone Island's emphasis on heavy knits and waterproof fabrics lent itself perfectly to the cold, soggy British climate. The label's influence then proliferated across the UK through "casual" or "terracewear" subculture until it eventually made its way across the pond two decades later to a hero's welcome in the hip-hop community.
All this popularity hasn't come without its fair share of flak. As High Snobiety put it, "dudes who’ve never been in a fight in their lives buy Stone Island because it lets them simulate a hard man fantasy in their heads every time they catch a reflection of their left sleeve on a shiny surface" - but, man does that reflection look cool.
Thermo-sensitive hoopla aside, Stone Island's fabrics have an unrivaled range and richness of texture and color that makes them distinctive far beyond the patch - and while the materials might be futuristic, the classic designs stay true to the brand's nautical heritage. Stone Island's garments have a distinctly modern yet timeless quality - a simultaneous subtlety and swagger - that looks as good on on the football pitch as it does on the mainstage. Even its loungewear has a crispness and polish that looks more high-end and pulled-together than most guys' suits. Causal, comfortable luxury is the name of the game these days, and Stone Island is right on target - just check your left sleeve.
Cotton Jersey T-Shirt Ribbed Sweater T.CO Fleece
Chambers Down Nylon-TC Jacket Shearling TC Down Gilet Cable-Knit Sweater
Fleece Cotton Pants Scarabeo Down Parka Logo-Patch Knitted Jumper