Is there a more distinctive shirt in world football than the vivid pink tones of Palermo? Perhaps not, but it hasn’t always been that way. The club began life in red and blue halves, before adopting their current hue in 1907.
The switch is believed to have been the brainchild of club member Count Giuseppe Airoldi, who wrote to the club president with his suggestion. He argued that the combination of pink and black simultaneously captured both the sweetness of victory and the bitterness of defeat, for a club that had experienced considerable inconsistency during its nascent years.
A century on, that bright pink remains an integral part of the club’s identity; and few have done more than Palermo superfan Alessio Candiloro to preserve the history of the famous jersey. Alessio has made his private collection of over 200 match worn shirts available to view on mondorosanero.it.
With Alessio’s help, I’ve picked out ten shirts that catch the eye…
1979-80 Home – Manufactured by Pouchain
We begin with this magnificent variant of the Pouchain template that is perhaps most commonly associated with AS Roma and a baby-faced Carlo Ancelotti. The Palermo version features the striking modernist club crest designed by the late Piero Gratton, who was also responsible for Roma’s lupetto and Bari’s galletto designs. Whilst the club mustered only a mid-table Serie B finish in this shirt, it is curator Alessio Candiloro’s favourite in his collection.
1981-82 Away – Manufactured by Ennerre
Ennerre were a big player in Italian teamwear in the 1980s and were responsible for some memorable designs for clubs such as Napoli, Milan and Lazio. Aptly, the brand was founded by Nicola Raccuglia a former player who hailed from Palermo. This clean, simple design dropped the club badge, leaving plenty of room for the colour-coordinated branding of Vini Corvo; the very first time that the rosanero shirt was adorned with a sponsor.
1984-85 Home – Manufactured by Ennerre
As Palermo dropped into Serie C in the mid-1980s, their dark predicament was in stark contrast to the glowing hue of the club’s shirt. Out went the modest pastel shades in favour of a hot pink design, book-ended by smart black collar and cuffs. The simple, but brilliant design combined a traditional collar with a v-neck to create a striking overall look.
1989-90 Home – Manufactured by Hummel
By the late 1980s, polyester had emerged as the standard material for football shirts – though Palermo were fairly late to that party. Ditching acrylic for the light-weight material in 1989, Palermo entered a brave new world with this bold design. This was the same collared template, complete with subliminated manufacturer’s name and trademark chevrons down the arms, that was worn by Real Madrid. The somewhat Teutonic version of the club crest was a fairly short-lived affair, appearing on the shirts for only four years.
1990-91 Away – Manufactured by ABM
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. ABM produced a suite of kits for Palermo in the early 1990s, many of which were inspired by the deigns of other clubs and brands. This shimmering away shirt appears to take design cues from the iconic West Germany Adidas kit worn at Italia ’90, whilst the newly designed club crest has more than a suggestion of the Sampdoria insignia.
1991-92 Home – Manufactured by ABM
Palermo have opted for stripes at a number of points during their history, and this is perhaps one of the best examples of vertical pink and black working in harmony. Typical of the era, the shirt uses a panel to aid visibility of the player’s number on the rear, but this is also repeated on the front to accommodate the sponsor. The shirt is embellished with yet another new crest, this time a Benfica-esque rising eagle.
1996-97 Home – Manufactured by Kappa
In the years before Kappa went skin-tight by default, they produced some spectacular designs with a more generous cut. This shirt, featuring subtle black and white pinstripes, holds a special place in my heart. My university football team owned a communal version; whoever played poorly on Wednesday afternoon had to wear the “howler” to the student union that night. The catch was that it was *never* washed. I recoil at the abuse we put that shirt through when I see replicas retailing for £150 now…
2006-07 Home – Manufactured by Lotto
The ‘jagged shards’ was a widely used Lotto noughties template donned by the likes of Chievo, Panama and Ukraine – but Palermo’s pink and black version is the most pleasing by far. The large club crest, positioned centrally lent satisfying symmetry to the overall design, whilst the large red manufacturer logos on each sleeve, weirdly, seemed to work too. For Palermo fans the shirt conjures fond memories of their forays in the UEFA Cup.
2012-14 Home – Manufactured by Puma
This design was used for two seasons, encompassing first a Serie A relegation and then a Serie B championship – and in doing so evoking the bittersweet spirit of Count Giuseppe Airoldi. This shirt, with its subliminated chequerboard design, is synonymous with Josip Ilicic enjoying his best form for the club just prior to his departure. The clumsy Eurobet sponsor used in 2012/13 was replaced with a more sympathetic self-sponsored branding for the second season. The same Puma template, with half-collar, was also used by the Italian national team during the same period.
2015-16 Third – Manufactured by Joma
The Piero Gratton crest most recently re-appeared on the shirt in the 2015/16 season as Andrea Belotti and Alberto Gilardino led the line for the rosanero. Luminous yellow was used sparingly and to superb effect as a secondary colour; creating a common thread through the badge, manufacturer’s logo and trim. The replica versions of this green number could perhaps be mistaken for a training shirt, but it really comes to life with the addition of a nameset and Serie A patch.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, take a look at my sister article looking at Livorno‘s greatest shirts, or the story of Palermo‘s forgotten stadium disaster.
My gratitude to Alessio Candiloro for permission to use images from his collection. Do take a look at his remarkable collection, which is fully photographed and catalogued on his website.