It is said (by some) that the casual subculture began in the late seventies when a group of Liverpool fans were stampeding their way across the continent in the European Cup with European glory in their blood, and the desire for high end designer clothing.
Towards the late 70s Liverpool FC were dominating Europe. Liverpool fans followed their team for continental matches and came across a host of foreign brands worn by fans on the continent. And where the team went – Rome, Paris, Madrid – significant numbers of fans followed, picking up items of sportswear unavailable in the UK. It became a badge of honor for them to bring these then-unheard of brands back to the UK and they spent the days before matches wandering the streets of Milan, Paris and whichever other European cities they found themselves in, to unearth brands like C.P. Company, Sergio Tacchini, Stone Island, Fila, Diadora, Ellesse, Lacoste and L’Alpina.
By the late 1970s, away fans visiting Liverpool’s Anfield ground would have noticed clusters of outlandishly dressed young men in exotic-looking tracksuit tops, straight leg jeans and shiny new trainers. Inspiration was also found in other sports; the Grand Prix, Golf, Skiing, Cricket and Tennis were watched closely, with a variety of looks and brands associated with these sports being worn on the terraces.
It was this obsession with labels that helped the casuals movement take root in its first Scottish city, Aberdeen. Inspired, some Aberdeen fans took up the mantle and were soon scouring the country for hard-to-find, or just plain expensive, items of clothing. Like the Liverpool casuals they also had their own European shopping excursions to look forward to – in the 1983 European Cup-Winners’ Cup competition, Aberdeen disposed of the mighty Bayern Munich and then beat the even mightier Real Madrid in the final in Gothenburg.
Gradually the casual trend spread throughout Scotland, with Hibernian and Motherwell the two other clubs at which the new look found the most favour. Fans (especially the northern clubs’) whose teams were not successful in European tournaments to Europe just to get the clothes, even though their teams were not even playing in Europe at the time.
And so, the football casual had their own identity and it was all about the brands. Each club started to wear their own brands, it became a way of showing their loyalty. Of course, this was a time when football violence was rife, but the violence was only part of the culture.
The terrace’s favourite brands came to symbolize masculinity, but soon, those brands became mainstays throughout the country’s inner-city neighborhoods and social estates. Gradually the brands became stocked in more stores across the UK and Europe, catering to the demands of the population, a stark reversal from 20 years prior, when only travelling fans could access the threads. A Stone Island badge is no longer a badge of honour indicating you’ve followed your team on its European escapades and are willing to throw down with rival fans, just like an Ellesse track suit can easily be picked up at any Airport or supermarket store, rather than on an Away Day in Rome and Lacoste stores are found in cities around the world—not just Paris. But, the casuals can take solace in this: They were unexpected, coincidental pioneers in the uniquely contemporary globalization of fashion, unafraid to sport a brand that had yet to pop off in their home country.