Pucci was born in 1914 to one of Florence's oldest noble families, and he would live and work in the Pucci Palace in Florence for much of his life. He was a keen sportsman who swam, skied, fenced, played tennis and raced cars.
At the age of 17, he traveled to Lake Placid, New York, as part of the Italian team at the 1932 Winter Olympics, but he did not compete. After two years at the University of Milan,he studied agriculture at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, where he became a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society.In 1935, he was given a full scholarship to Reed College in Oregon in return for developing a college ski team. He earned an MA in social science from Reed in 1937, and was awarded his doctorate (laurea) in political science from the University of Florence the same year.
The first clothes designed by Pucci were for the Reed College skiing team.His designs came to wider attention in 1947, when he was on leave in Zermatt, Switzerland. Skiwear that he had designed for a female friend was photographed by Toni Frissell, a photographer working for Harper's Bazaar. Frissell's editor asked Pucci to design skiwear for a story on European Winter Fashion, which ran in the winter 1948 issue of the Bazaar