Unless you’ve never left the house, you’ll recognise the Stone Island badge. A wind rose compass, embroidered on a black boiled wool rectangle (measuring precisely 9 x 4.5cm). You’ll find it affixed onto the left hand sleeve or leg of a Stone Island piece, with two branded buttons on each edge.
Again, assuming you’re not completely feral, you’ll have seen Stone Island rocked by dozens of celebs. Drake’s a fan. Liam Gallagher often opts for a head-to-toe stage get-up, and Dua Lipa paired a cargo vest with a Valentino-pink bikini just the other week.
And it’s not just big personalities that have been showing the brand some love. Last year, Moncler forked out to complete its $1.4bn acquisition of the brand, helping to direct its growth skywards. That followed Stone Island’s sales surging by 30 per cent in 2018, thanks to online business booming across Europe and a new flagship store in Milan.
While pop stars and rappers might have cottoned on, Stone Island’s main crowd remains die-hard. Since the brand was launched in Modena by Massimo Osti in 1982, it’s been the staple uniform of football fans, part of the casual culture of the 1980s, alongside brands such as CP Company, Aquascatum and Fred Perry.
Originally, the brand was supposedly sported to evade police attention, deftly disguising hooliganism by wearing expensive continental labels. But that ruse is long over and, like any status symbol, today it’s important to make sure that as many people clock it – and you – as possible.
Enter “getting the badge in”. This practice involves twisting, angling and contorting your left arm so as to show off your Stoney badge in a pic. Almost balletic in its precision, it’s been popularised by Twitter sensation Get The Badge In, an account dedicated to sharing the most outrageous, boisterous attempts at making sure the logo gets snapped. Starting just last month, it has amassed a mob of 139.5k followers (a full Stamford Bridge three times over) who share their thoughts on football fans, festival punters and the odd celebrity’s best badge efforts.
“I started the page about a month ago just as a joke, never expecting it to get more than 100 followers,” its anonymous founder told THE FACE. “I’d always appreciated the lengths people go to get the badge in. It’s more of an appreciation of people’s efforts than taking the piss. I’m genuinely proud of how people can perfectly position their body, tilt their arm, and make sure nothing is blocking their left arm when in photos. It’s incredible.”
The lengths people go to are genuinely impressive. One of the page’s most recent posts sees a boy turn his arm to show it off while standing next to a priest (“Side on stance, strong left arm, class”), while another raises a glass to a group of school kids on work experience (“Knowing the camera is behind them, they adopt left arm in the pocket technique to ensure the badge is in”).
Some of this Stoney obsession is purely down to aesthetics. Put simply, fans like the way the badge looks. “People, including myself, seem to just love wearing it and how it looks. It’s just something different than a normal jumper,” Get The Badge In says.
But for every Stone Island fan wearing the badge because it looks good, there are a score more wearing it for what it symbolises. The brand, in its company history, states inspirations such as military ranks, insignia and, specifically, a love for the sea – with those connections to conventional masculinity and toughness refusing to fade in the wash.
“If we wear a specific brand or clothing item, we are sending out a message about ourselves,” Carl Jones, Senior Lecturer in Advertising & PR at University of Westminster, tells THE FACE. “We are branding ourselves through the ‘branded’ clothing we wear. Also, advertising works by repetition. If the consumer sees ads, then reads news articles, then sees memes regarding Stone Island and an influencer wearing the brand, then the brand is constructing a myth or story around their brand. This repetition helps the brand’s message become truth.”
For Stone Island, much of this messaging is done via the badge: “The logo becomes an emblem or a ‘visual symbol’ that the consumer associates with the brand’s myth,” Jones says.
For years, this symbolism went unspoken among the brand’s disciples. Recently, though, more self-awareness and the re-emergence of the football fan as a cultural entity has seen Stone Island become memed in the way that Get The Badge In has tapped into.
“It’s definitely the biggest football meme,” TikTok star and regular contributor to the Get The Badge In, Chef Dave, says. “I’ve been doing it for years now. Possibly all my life. I think it’s piss funny and it’s also turned into my brand with what I do, as I get the badge into most videos and pictures on my socials and my followers love it.”
He’s not the only one having a giggle. Instagram account Patch of the Day superimposes the logo on anyone from Chewbacca to Keir Starmer. TikTok, too, is awash with memes, with everything from impressions of Stoney tough guys to dogs wearing the badge, kids donning it to their first football games to influencer gals proving that they can wear them better.
But does all this take the prestige of the patch down a notch? Has it lost its clout now that it’s been made into a joke?
“I don’t think so,” Get The Badge In says. “I’ve heard stories of people in the early days of wearing it actually removing the badge, which is unheard of now. The badge can never lose its meaning. Does a Mercedes badge ever lose its meaning on the front of a nice car? The same concept applies.”
It’s hard to disagree. Like a Merc hood ornament, the Stone Island badge has been faked, sold as separate parts, stamped onto eccies and indelibly etched into luxury culture. While tongue-in-cheek content might prove that anyone with a bit of cash can literally own a Stone Island piece, not everyone can own it. Getting the badge in isn’t daft, it’s art.
As Get The Badge In puts it: “It’s a skill. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. There’s people who can try and master the technique but will never achieve the heights of a true badge in professional sports. People can score good goals in Sunday League, but could they do it on the big stage?
“You’ve got to have that winning mentality that when the pressure is on and you’ve only got a split second to pose, the badge has to be in.”