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Armani, Armani, ah-ah-Armani
Pet shop boys “Paninaro” (1986)
I remember the first time I spotted a pair of Timberland wheat 6 inch boots. It was in the Forum des Halles in Paris, around 1987-1988. Not used to that type of colour and volume, I thought they were desperately ugly. They soon became huge…and I even ended up owning a pair, albeit in black.
What nobody knew back then (pre-internet days you have to keep in mind) was that they had been “discovered”on this side of the Atlantic by a group of young Milanese boys and girls who became known as the Paninari (singular Paninaro).
After the nihilism of the Punk revolution, where “no future” had become a goal more than a critique of the system, many broke with this un-appealing prospect, while also breaking off with their parents old-fashioned values: aspiration to the high-life, desire for the finer things offered by the new consumerist society was becoming the new ideal.
There might also have been a social class element, most Metallari (sort of “metal-heads”, a popular urban sub-culture in the Italy of the 70’s-80’s) coming from disadvantaged suburbs, while the Paninari came from historic centres and affluent areas.
It started in Milan, piazza Liberty at the “Al Panino” café (Panino means Sandwich in Italian) in the Via Agnello district. Soon after they would move to “Burghy” of the piazza San Babilo, a metro station forever since associated with this particular youth culture. You have to realise that fast-food was then totally new to Europeans. Italians have an extremely rich and elaborate culinary culture; food is an art and eating is a ritual. This is why hanging out where you could eat burgers and drink Coke was in its own way quite revolutionary.
This attitude was riding the wave of consumerist culture proper to the 1980’s. This is the era of MTV, Berlusconi-owned media, TV advertising, fast-food, celebrity aerobics videotapes…
The trend gathered momentum, first within Italy (different names were used for the equivalent in Rome, Naples and other big cities), and later even made incursions abroad, partly thanks to the Pet shop boys who would release a song titled Paninaro in 1986. In retrospect I remember some guys in my school who wore what I now know to be part of the Paninaro attire (I had myself little interest in anything that was not Doc Martens, braces or bomber jackets back then).
The movement was an all encompassing lifestyle: speaking of music, the unofficial anthem of the movement was Duran-Duran The Wild boys. Not hard to see why. Partying and fast living was an essential aspect of the Paninaro lifestyle. Top gun and Return to the future were been the films of choice (as a cinephile I am not sure I could have made a great Paninaro!). The Zündapp 125 was the ultimate bike. Paninari even developped their own vocabulary and expressions.
Beside the aforementionned Timberland boots, the tanned-all-year-round, well-off youths wore the following brands (while not all from across the Atlantic, many have an American feel to them):
- Footwear: Sebago deck shoes, Vans sneakers, Frye or Durango western boots…
- Trousers: Levi’s 501, Americanino, Rifle corduroys, later Armani jeans, Stone Island (C.P. Company), Closed (who had a little grey logo tab…on the fly. Rings a bell?)…All worn ankle high.
- Jackets: Moncler or Ciesse Piumini down jackets, Henry Lloyd consort jacket, MA1 bomber jackets, Avirex or Schott flight jackets…
- Tops: Marina Yatching, By American, Lacoste, Best Company…often sported American preppy-style, with just the sleeves rolled around the neck.
- Accessories: El Charro belts with “Western style” buckles, Burlington socks, suede Ocean Star gloves, Naj-oleari handbags for the girls, Invicta rucksacks, Vuarnet “Wayfarer” or Ray-ban aviator sunglasses…
The present time
Former Paninari have maintained the flame alive through social media, and even gatherings of what they call Paninari 2.0 piazza San Babilla. Their Facebook page can be found here Paninari Facebook
Below is Bircide, a prominent revivalist, who sent us this photo.
If the style as a distinct youth sub-culture in Italy and further afield was to fade away towards the end of the 80’s, many of the aforementionned clothes have become a staple of modern fashionable individuals’ wardrobes.
To this day, many high-end brands, and then by imitation, high-street brands, produce their own version of items that were typical of well-off Milanese youths over three decades ago.
Dsquared2 is no exception, and I would add, may be even to a higher degree than some other brands. First of all because Dean and Dan really met the fashion world at that very time. Secondly because they moved to Milan in 1991, when the Paninaro shockwaves could still be felt. Thirdly because they worked at Versace, named in the Pet shop boys song for good reason. Fourthly, the Italians had in fact adopted many American brands, or at least inspired by America, and even Canada in the case of Timberland, and finally because the Paninari were all about flashy, Logos, and colours…and so are our twins.
By wearing together one item in each clothing category from the below slideshow, all Dsquared2, you will be in full regalia for enjoying your cheeseburger. Don’t forget to turn on Duran-Duran or Bronski Beat, full blast.