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Essential Journal

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In Defence of the Nineties: Terrace Culture

Setting the record straight on the ever-divisive subject of 90s style

words by Will Halbert

Football Terrace Culture

Let it be known that I find football – a game in which there’s purportedly everything to play for and forever to play it in – to be an absolutely terrifying concept. There’s a horrifying, existential dread that accompanies a sport that never seemingly ends. As a result, I know very little about football besides the fact that it has, in some way or another, returned. And that, I presume, is a good thing for almost all people everywhere. 

I do know a thing or two about coats and shoes, though. Which leads me rather nicely on to a brief ponder on terrace culture. Come ponder with me, won’t you?

Terrace culture’s past is a turbulent one, no doubt. The laddish charm of garm-based one-upmanship is often offset by the history of hooligan violence that the subculture came to engender throughout the 70s and 80s. Stylistically though, terrace fashion needs little defence. It’s a solid look that features a veritable roll call of continental fashion brands. Italian powerhouses like Stone Island, CP Company, L’alpina, Lacoste, Sergio Tacchini, Fila and Ellesse all feature amongst the roster of high-end labels that, in the early years of the 90s, saw the casual style move away from the football terraces and into the highstreets and nightclubs of most Northern cities.

There are deep, subcultural roots at play here. The casual style marks a moving away from any strict, sartorial posturing in favour of a more sporting, and altogether more working class (though no less expensive) fashion statement. It’s precisely on account of those roots that terrace style has survived for as long as it has. 

You only need to take a stroll down the highstreet to see how the casual style has endured. The racks of boutique menswear stores bend under the weight of Adidas Stan Smiths and Puma G Vilas; their windows adorned by the now-ubiquitous Stone Island and CP Company logos. It’s a look born in and around the football pitch that has, over the years, transcended its sporting origins to become a subculture in and of itself. Which is just as well really, or I’d have sod all to write about.