We’ve got our funny teeth, the French have berets and baguettes, and the Dutch have their penchant for short-sleeved shirts and pulled up white socks.
Every nation comes with its own lazy stereotypes attached, but for one country, the cliches aren’t all that bad. Pouting, virile and invariably well-dressed, Italian men are probably the most stylish bunch out there (sorry Spain). Here, fresh from Pitti Uomo in Florence and men’s fashion week in Milan, I dissect the 12 key style lessons we can learn from our natty cousins on the Appenine Peninsula.
1 | It’s possible to look good in a gilet
The mistake most British men make when sporting a padded gilet is to think of it as an outerlayer. The trick with a gilet, as the Italians understand, is to treat it as an inner sheath – an insulating layer worn over your shirt and beneath your jacket. Opt for something close-cut in a neutral shade of stone or buff, choose a matte fabric (never, ever ‘North Face-shiny’) and team with an open neck white shirt, a deconstructed Brunello Cucinelli blazer and a pair of slim cut stonewash jeans for a relaxed long weekend in Rome look.
2 | Never take off your sunglasses. Ever.
If there’s one thing the Italians know, it’s that everyone looks better in a pair of sunglasses – even when it’s raining…or when it’s dark. Follow their lead and never take yours off – just make sure you find the right pair for your face. If you’ve got a round jaw, opt for a square or rectangular frame; square jaw? Round frame. Unsure about the dimensons of your face? Choose an aviator – an aviator suits everyone, as the Italians well know.
3 | Investing in high quality clothing will always pay dividends.
No country boasts a higher proportion of well-dressed billionaires than Italy. Just look at Patrizio Bertelli of Prada, Giorgio Armani or Diego Della Valle of Tod’s – all incredibly wealthy and all extraordinarily stylish. Dress like these men and you’ll be on your way to your first million in no time. Promise.
4 | An espresso and a cigarette is the only way to breakfast.
How do you think Italian men manage to fit into their size 36 chest suits and super-slim jeans (and how do you reckon they look so good in street style shots)? It’s all about a cafe Espresso and a ciggie first thing in the morning.
5 | Texture is key.
If there’s one thing that Italian men understand, it’s that details matter. Instead of wearing a matte poplin shirt with a flat mohair suit, a stylish Italian will play with texture and wear a soft cotton jersey shirt with a deconstructed houndstooth cashmere blazer and a teasled wool overcoat. Contrast in texture, as Italian men understand, is the key to a successful outfit.
6 | Sprezzatura is the only Italian you need to know.
In addition to ‘Ciao’, and maybe ‘Pronto’ (mainly because it sounds cool), the most important Italian word you should have in your vocabulary is ‘Sprezzatura’. Translating to ‘studied carlessness’, the term perfectly encapsulates the stylish Italian man’s way of dressing. Your clothes should look as if they’ve been thrown on without a thought (even if you’ve spent four hours in front of the mirror deciding which trouser length works best with your loafers).
7 | Men can also wear colour.
Visit any major city in Italy and you’ll notice that the men wear as much colour as the women. The key is to choose washed-out, soft shades – a dusty pink jumper with a soft blue blazer and cream chinos, for instance; or a teal suit with a white shirt and indigo overcoat. Pick one slightly bolder shade and team with more traditional colours to get the look yourself.
8 | Embrace your hair while you’ve got it.
More often than not blessed with thick waves of dark, coarse hair, most Italian men know better than to clip it all off before its time. Make like an Italian and embrace your hair while you’ve still got it – the likelihood is it won’t be around forever.
9 | Structure isn’t everything.
Though the Savile Row tradition of super-structured tailoring still has its place, the Italian look – softer and more closeley cut to the body – has never felt more relevant. The masters of Italian tailoring – see Giorgio Armani, Brunello Cucinelli, Kiton, Corneliani and Ermenegildo Zegna – all embrace a softer cut, and so too should you. Opt for a suit with a deconstucted shoulder, a half-lining (or no lining at all) and a tapered trouser with a cuff.
10 | You can never wear too many layers.
Just as texture is important, so too is creating a sense of depth with clever layering. Italian men won’t think twice about wearing a classic shirt beneath a knitted overshirt, beneath a gilet, beneath a blazer, beneath an overcoat – and neither should you.
11 | Don’t think of your swimming trunks as underwear
Perhaps its because we don’t see the sun all that often, but we Brits tend not to take care of our swimwear. If you think of your trunks in the same way as you do your boxer shorts (a boring everyday essential which no one is ever likely to see) you’re going to look terrible on the beach. Instead, make like an Italian and treat your swimming trunks with as much care as you would your suit. Your fellow sunbathers will thank you.
12 | The power of a perfect pose
Look at any street style shot from Florence or Milan and you’ll notice that not only are Italian men immaculately dressed, they also have posing down pat. The imperceptable turn of a foot, the artfully placed hand on a knee – never have an entire people been so ready for their close up.