Nicola Raccuglia: the history of football shirts

Two letters. That’s all. N and R. A dark green sporting first a white border and then a blue border. Yet the history of these two famous letters, as recognizable as the Pope in Italy, is as rich and extensive as they come. Of course, these are the initials of the creator of Italian football; Nicholas Raccuglia.

It’s no surprise that Nicola was involved in football before the brand was established. In fact, he played for many years at various clubs across the country, including some of his best moments at Pescara and Vicenza.

However, 1972 saw him swap the pitch for a slightly slower role as designer of football kits. Despite this change, the passion for the sport remained so deep; Raccuglia was determined to achieve more than he had in his average football career.

You have to stand out from the opponents, you have to dress to give color, life and a personalized expression to the jersey. The jersey would become, for thousands of people, even millions of fans, an object of worship, almost sacred.

Raccuglia foreshadowed the importance of the jersey as the main symbol of a club. He understood how important it was to symbolize the pride of the different groups of Italian supporters and to include it in the “maglia” (shirt).

Francesco Dell'Anno / SS Lazio

It wasn’t long before the brand achieved its first success when it was commissioned to create the strips of Pescara, Nicola’s former club and then Roman giants Lazio.

From 1971/72 to 1980/81 and from 1982/83 to 1985/86, NR created kits for the Biancocelesti, with their logo appearing in the upper right corner. For the first and last time in their history, the 1982/83 season saw Lazio wear all their Coppa Italia and Serie A matches with the so-called “maglia bandiera” (flag kit) courtesy of Raccuglia .

Despite this huge business sailing towards the company, the small brand had only just set sail and the manufacture of the shirts actually began in a small convent where four sisters began designing the layout of the iconic stripes.

It wasn’t long before the other half of Rome was donning the v-neck, collars and unique bright colors. Between the two halves of Roma, the NR logo was lucky enough to be worn by Roma ‘Prince’ Giuseppe Giannini as well as Lazio’s Bruno Giordano and Lionello Manfredonia to name a few.

It wasn’t just the capital that jumped on the brand hype flooding Italy; Naples welcomed him with open arms. In fact, the most recognizable of all the players who have worn it is of course the “God of Naples”; Diego Maradona.

Diego Maradona / Napoli
Diego Maradona / Napoli

NR created shirts for Napoli from 1978 and the friendship seemed to last over the years thanks to personal relationships with Maradona and Napoli president Corrado Ferlaino.

Maradona’s friendship and love for the company and product quality became very evident at the time. Although Maradona and Napoli use the sponsored German brand Puma for their footballs, after trying the balls marked NR he liked them so much that he immediately ordered a supply of 50 balls which were used for some matches by Napoli as well as for its own use.

At the height of its glory, in 1983, the brand represented the national team despite the prohibition of any logo on the jersey. Instead, the belt loop on the suits players wore to and from the floor was used to show off the NR logo.

After problems and disputes started to arise within the company due to increased demand and choices to change hardware to a cheaper and more efficient type; Raccuglia has decided to leave the brand he was so successful with before. Shortly after he left, his old brand had failed and the logo began to disappear from the shirts of top Serie A teams.

Nicola created a similar new brand named ‘Ennerre’ which went on to see a variety of successful teams across Italy wear these shirts, including Atalanta and Fiorentina, but never matched his previous heights.

It wasn’t until 2017 that Raccuglia secured the rights to his former company and now, together with his son, is again producing clothing with the famous logo on every item. Vintage remakes of famous shirts, including Napoli, are selling around the world with fans eager to remember the nostalgic times of their teams’ success; created by a man with a big dream.

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