A not-uncommon trope among kit enthusiasts is the idea that international teams should wear strips manufactured by an idigenous company.
It’s a nice idea but it runs out of steam if you take it too far – it’s fine with Germany/adidas, England/Umbro, France/Le Coq Sportif, USA/Nike, and you’ll get away with Meyba or Kelme for Spain, Topper for Brazil, O’Neills for the Republic of Ireland and maybe Matchwinner for Scotland but what do Wales wear? Or Austria? Or Argentina?
However, Italy would be well-served, with an option of Diadora, Kappa, Lotto, Macron or maybe even Ennerre. Ennerre, Diadora and Kappa have have all manufactured the national kit, with Kappa the most recent, succeeding Nike. The 1998 Nike strips were of course the last Italy outfits not to feature a maker’s logo in games and, while Kappa breached that frontier in 1999, their first Italy kits did much to hark back to the past.
First worn in the friendly against Norway in February 1999, the new shirts saw the return of the classic shield crest. The three stripes in honour of their World Cup wins were placed on the right shoulder. This was a period between Kappa overdoing it with the sleeve logos and the skin-tight ‘Kombat’ era and there was no superfluous trim. The only quibble we might have would be the white sock-tops, which seem un-Italian.
Goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi wore the blue socks too, making for a classic Dino Zoff-like Italy goalkeeper kit. The approach over the next year and a quarter was for the custodian to wear the same socks as his team-mates.
When the change shirt got what was to prove its only outing, against Denmark on March 27, Gianluigi Buffon wore the white socks. The second kit was another throwback, including the broad blue chestband of decades previously.
Four days after that game, Italy were at home to Belarus and wore all-blue and, then, a month later, in a friendly against Croatia, the stars had migrated from the sleeve to a new position above the crest.
It would be June 5 before the short-sleeved shirts were seen, in the home game against Wales. In another nod to the past, the practice of a different neck style for each sleeve format was revived, with a v-neck on this kit, which had the stars above the crest for all of its outings.
The short-sleeved version of the away kit would never be used in a senior international.
In November 1999, an alternative goalkeeper shirt would be used as Buffon wore a green top against Belgium, while there was another mashup in March 2000, with white socks worn away to Spain.
The Spain game was the penultimate usage of this kit style, which was retired after a friendly against Portugal in April. For that summer’s European Championships, Italy were in the brand-new skin-tight Kombat 2000 range, with the Kappa logos on the sleeves.