If there’s a defining moment in the history of the Football Casual, it’s the second that Liverpool captain Emlyn Hughes first held the European Cup aloft in Rome in 1977.
The flared Flemings jeans, tartan Levi’s shirts and Gola Cobra trainers, whilst functional for the average football fan, did little in terms of style for followers of an all-conquering Red Machine.
Impressed by the more dashing cut of the local Ultras and the sportingly attired Monchengladbach followers, many Liverpool fans took to The Kop in the 1977-78 season in trousers that were tighter and footwear that carried a little more continental panache. Sambas soon became en vogue as adidas cemented its position as the go to brand for the sharpest dressers amongst Merseyside’s Scallies.
As trips to Europe became more frequent for the rampant Reds, organised sorties became an opportunity for fans to ‘acquire’ the latest trainer designs as stores across the Continent maintained their policy of displaying stock in pairs. By the turn of the decade, despite inner city deprivation and mass unemployment, the only concern of much of Liverpool’s youth was the unique nature of what was on their feet.
For those unable to afford trips abroad the arrival of 500 pairs of adidas Forest Hills at the Liverpool branch of Top Man in 1980 must have felt like a gift from the gods. Originally shipped to adidas’ London store, where not one pair had been sold, smart buyer Robert Wade-Smith redirected the stock North West. Greeted by an eager and growing army of purchasers with an interest that was bordering on obsession, the trainers were sold out within weeks.
Buoyed by the interest, Wade-Smith opened his own store in Liverpool and began importing adidas footwear in various styles and colours from across the Continent. Trainers originally designed for tennis (the Wimbledon), running (the Marathon, Oregon) and numerous other sports became the must own items primed to be shown off on the terraces of Anfield and Goodison.
The cult of trainer spread to Manchester and then across the North and beyond. Reconnaissance missions to purchase, or even just to view, the new and unique became a reason to be for many. With retailers up and down the land slow to turn on to what was becoming a national obsession, Wade Smith’s shop in Liverpool became a Mecca for those in the know.
By the early 1980′s adidas were ably supported by Puma, Nike, Diadora and New Balance as the trainer craze took a grip, but it didn’t stop at footwear. Jumpers, jackets and tracksuit tops by Lyle & Scott, Ellesse, Fila, Benetton, Lacoste and Fred Perry extended the visual impact and when worn with immaculately presented footwear the look of the Casual was complete.
With English clubs dominant in Europe, the desire for Casuals to mirror their teams and look the best transcended interest in football or fighting for many. Inspired by the equally well-heeled Italian fans, uber sophisticated outerwear by Stone Island and CP Company supplemented the crisp look of the well informed from Nottingham, London, Manchester and Liverpool.
Born on the terraces, Casual remains a look that connects generations and is as alive today as it was thirty years ago.