Hear ‘made in Italy’ and you’ll likely think of quality, craftsmanship and style. And you’d be right. Think of Italian style, however, and it all becomes harder to pin down. There’s a distinct look to the way Italian men dress, but it’s less about concrete style rules and more about how they approach putting it all together.
English speakers don’t have a word that quite captures it, but the Italians do: sprezzatura. It’s all about being artfully undone. About being perfectly imperfect. About looking immaculate, but also looking like it was no effort at all.
Sounds tricky to pull off, but there are a few ways we non-natives can add a little Italian flair to our wardrobes.
Italians are known for their love of the finer things in life. Opera. Coffee. Shoes. All revered and given due time to perfect and savour. The same can be said of their cloth. Fabric mill Vitale Barberis Canonico has spent over 350 years of honing its craft and, as a result, is held in highest regard by the world’s leading tailors.
As with anything else that’s stuck around for centuries, it’s less about trends and more about timeless style. Take the Barberis suit shown above. Yes, this is a checked cloth, and yes, that is very much a thing at the moment. But the grid pattern is modest in scale – not too big, not too small – and the colours are muted. It’s really all about the fabric – this one’s made from super 120s wool in a brushed flannel finish.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Italian style without a little flourish. Something that’s just a little ‘off’. Perhaps a denim-look shirt against an elegant wool suit. Or an unexpected flash of bright red braces underneath? Bravissimo.
Where traditional British tailoring is perhaps more buttoned-up, Italian style is all about artful undone-ness. One way to do this is to take something typically very formal and loosen it up a little.
Pinstripe is a very traditional pattern – straight out of Saville Row, in fact – but in the Italian’s hands, it’s brought down a peg or two with natural shoulders, a slightly more relaxed construction and a simple notch lapel.
Of course, it still needs to be made from exceptional cloth. From one of Italy’s most prestigious mills, Ermenegildo Zegna cloth is up there with the best cloth in the world. This suit’s cloth has been tightly spun from finest Australian wool for a smooth handle, expensive-looking lustre and enhanced elasticity that helps it resist creasing.
Because even if Italian style is about looking like no effort, it also never looks anything less than faultless.
Any Italian man worth his styling salt knows a great wardrobe is built around good foundations. In other words? Put as much thought into your layering pieces as you do the big guns like suits and coats.
A smart knitted jumper is a very useful piece in the well-dressed Italian’s wardrobe – after all, cold weather isn’t going to get in the way of great style. But it can’t just be any old knit. Firstly, it needs to fit like a glove – not too tight, but absolutely not loose either. A fine-gauge knit will achieve a relaxed drape, rather than a try-hard cling. Secondly, it needs to be made from the finest wool. For our knitwear this season, we’ve gone to Italy and sourced Merino wool for its natural ability to regulate temperature and its luxuriously smooth handle.
It doesn’t matter if you wear it alone, under a suit or over a shirt; the beauty of an Italian wool knit is it’ll look good, feel soft and take a relaxed look up a notch with very little effort at all.