Why are Italians still considered the best dressed men in the world?
It’s not like in a modernised world, men in North America, Australia and Asia don’t have access to the same quality goods as your average, classy Italiano. Many New York, Melbourne and Tokyo tailors use ‘Made in Italy’ wools for suiting and non-Italian cobblers even handcraft specialist leather lace-ups from Italian-derived hides.
The answer, is in the Italian approach to style and the art of putting all of it together. Here we’ll show you how to do it flawlessly.
Breaking It Down
First off, Italians aren’t suckers for transient, tacky trends. Nor, are they stuck in the ways of the old. Instead, they fuse the best of the two; blending contemporary colours, prints and textures with timeless silhouettes and details. Capesce?
Not being one of the cognoscenti, many have tried and failed. So, without being too pedantic (that wouldn’t be Italian as you’ll soon find out), let’s take a look at what it means to feel, and dress, like an Italian.
#1 Focus On Separates
You’re not Italian without something tailored. Separates, the jacket and/or trouser contingent of a traditional suit – are foundational items; oozing the Italian adage of balancing work, rest and play. For summer, a linen or cotton blazer in pastel hues or navy are pivotal. Winter can be a touch more sturdy with lustrous mohair or cashmere jacket, or one in a textural tweed.
White trousers are a staple for the Italian male. They work as a neutral colour that balances a bold, colourful jacket, and give back a summer vibe, just by association.
#2 Inhabit The Clothes
The Italian man wears the clothes, the clothes don’t wear the Italian. A tailored jacket or blazer is a must, so it fits you like a glove, a casa, even. Then, there is the actual execution – avoiding a clumsy mimicking an of Italian look. The issue lies in appearing ‘owned’ by the clothes; usually indicated by an awkward styling.
For instance, an overly matchy bow tie, boutonnière and pocket square combination or having multiple necklaces, rings and silver chains dripping from your frame. Italians don’t wear ‘things’ for the sake of it, so if you’re putting all the ‘right’ things on but it looks ‘wrong’, strip the accessories back and start again. Show those clothes who’s boss.
#3 Dress Down Formalities
Jackets and pants are essentially formal attire. But Italians wear these suit-ish items, regardless of the occasion. Dressing down traditional formalities is the secret.
Pinstripes, micro-checks or all-black suits are typically super formal. But not when the jacket becomes unstructured – that is, softer on the shoulder and not cut quite so close to the body, like its structured brother. The padding and inner linings normally found in structured jackets are removed to give them a relaxed fit.
Dressing the unstructured jacket is simple. Take a button shirt and leave the collar unbottoned. Or go for a tee instead of an Oxford one all together. A woven silk tie is a great replacement for the more business, windsor style – and it gives back some much-loved texture to the flatness of a shirt.
Double monk shoes are a peak lace-up this season, sans socks – or lavish polka dot ones if you do decide to go there.
#4 Perfectly Imperfect
It wouldn’t be an Italian style piece without mentioning sprezzatura. Thrown about a lot by fashion types, the word describes a “certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or say appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” Sound easy?
Essentially, sprezzatura is all in the styling. And looking like you haven’t tried. For instance, when wearing a belt try moving the buckle off-centre and then wrap the leftover leather around the belt itself. Or why not wear leather monk shoes with no socks and the buckles unfastened. Imperfect, yes. But perfectly, so. Both these add individuality to your look without destroying all your hard work.
#5 Know The Rules & Bend Them
A blazer or jacket needs a collared shirt? Trousers should be worn with a belt? Shades are to be worn only when it’s sunny? Assolutamente, no. In the name of style, true Italians bend or even break, traditional fashion rules for the greater good of the outfit.
But you have to know the rules in order to eloquently manipulate them; beating fashion at its own game. Breaking the rules in the name of style is the craft of the well dressed man. The Italian can tell simply by looking in the mirror that what he’s done say, with a looser tie knot or a half-tucking of a shirt, is a pure fashion crime – but it’s for good reason.