Despite some attempts to weave an origin story out of mythological or romantic anecdotes, the story of Aran jumpers began out of necessity. In the late 19th century, Northern Ireland faced a shortage of potatoes as well as rising unemployment and an emigration crisis. In a remarkable entrepreneurial fit, the Congested Districts Board for Ireland, among other things, suggested people weave and knit garments, and make a living out of this activity.Continue reading
Finding a gift for a woman is a complicated task – and things get even trickier if she happens to have sophisticated tastes. Here’s a selection of great gift ideas –or shall I call it a wishlist?– to inspire you to pick a great present for the women in your life. The best part? They are all quite affordable.
CASHMERE SWEATPANTS $140
“Cashmere” and “sweatpants” are two words that only recently have been seen together – with the rise of the athleisure movement and the attempt from retailers to ennoble (or at the very least dignify) garments of modest and humble tradition. You may think that paying over $100 for something with a drawstring is lunacy, but believe me when I say that whoever will receive this gift will hardly be able to stop wearing it. These sweatpants are as comforting as a warm cup of hot chocolate on a winter night, plus they are sustainably made with Mongolian cashmere in one of Everlane’s approved factories in China.
Usually I refrain from suggesting any gift “for the home”, as the risk of not meeting the recipient’s taste in high, and they would find themselves in the unpleasant situation of having to dispose of the object by either donating it, throwing it away, or recycling it as a gift for someone else. However, candles are a fairly safe option, especially if they come in a mini size like these Dyptique votive candles: in the unlikely case the person doesn’t appreciate the fragrance, they are gone fairly quickly and don’t leave any bitter feeling of regret or frustration behind.
Chocolate is another great option if you’re unsure about someone’s tastes, because -again- it’s not an object that will perpetually be under someone’s nose, but rather it’s something that can be enjoyed by anyone who walks by. I am a big fan of Charbonnel&Walker’s truffles, which come in a variety of flavors and combinations. Dark chocolate lovers will appreciate the black truffles with Marc de Champagne, while more delicate palates will love the pink chocolate infused with roses.
If you’re confident enough to go down the jewelry route, my suggestion is to take a close look at the person’s style and choice of jewelry and try to choose something that could work with their collection. A giant cocktail ring encrusted with rubies might be cool, but it’s unlikely to work with most women’s collections. Consider instead a pair of miniature gold hoops, which look flattering on most face shapes and complexions, or a minimalistic necklace like this elegant piece by Mejuri in gold vermeil and sapphires.
A classic button-down shirt will find a place in almost any wardrobe, especially if you choose a neutral color or a classic pattern. I like Frank&Eileen’s take on the classic button-down, with a slightly more relaxed fit that’s almost menswear-inspired; the pattern matching is surprisingly good too.
This great stocking stuffer features one of my favorite Florentine brands, Marvin. I am a fan of their Jasmin mint toothpaste, but I am sure that any American girl will love the cinnamon mint tube. I have given away several tubes throughout the years and I can’t remember anyone who hasn’t come back to ask me where I bought it, because they just need more!
I am breaking the rule of not giving something with the potential of sitting unused for years to come, for the simple fact that this pillbox is adorable. The shape is incredibly satisfying just to watch, and I can almost feel its weight by imagining to hold it in my hand. Even if it did sit unused, it would just look like a beautiful design object, and I bet it could double as a cool paperweight.
A CASHMERE BERET $198
A beret is essentially the classier version of a beanie. I know the struggle women go through when they need to conciliate their city life with the burning desire to wrap themselves in something that keeps them warm. I succumbed to the chills of winter weather enough times to know that a warm beanie is the last resort, albeit ugly and resembling a woolen condom, to keep my head and ears from developing ice stalactite. A beret is a relatively basic hat – it happens to be in vogue just now – and if you pick carefully (I like this one in white cashmere by Janessa Leone) you will give something that is way more stylish than a beanie, but just as useful.
GIFT CARDS $25 & UP
Contrarily to what seems to be the popular opinion, I am not against gift cards at all. What may seem like a couldn’t-care-less gift might actually be an effort to make sure the person receives something meaningful and useful that doesn’t go unappreciated. In order to keep this sentiment alive, my suggestion is to give a gift card along with the gift of your time to go find this special something. Pick a shop she likes – it could be Sephora, Nordstrom, or Bloomingdale’s – and make sure she knows that you’ll be there to share a fun afternoon of shopping with her.
Spezzato: the past participle of the verb to break in Italian.
Many things can be broken, both in the Italian and English language: a vase, a mirror, a heart, a dream. However, one thing the Americans and the Brits do not break, unlike their Mediterranean fellow menswear enthusiasts, is the suit.
To the Anglophone population, there is no greater shame than being spotted wearing suit trousers without a jacket. This is probably rooted in a conservative mentality that considers suits a garment to wear when the wearer is required to look their best: business hours, ceremonies, or a house of worship. These are all occasions that require a suit, and why would anyone break something that in itself represents following protocol?
Italians, on the other hand, wear suits for leisure time as well as on formal occasions, and the difference is that they take pleasure in wearing them.
I will never forget my biggest college crush, my Latin professor, who used to march into the classroom, throw his jacket on the chair, and then reveal a painfully perfect single break by placing his feet on the desk and shout “BONUM MANE!” to a crowd of fawning students of both genders. You can tell I was a weird kid back then because I always noticed his jacket and pants were never matching, and it wasn’t because he was a young and broke professor who couldn’t afford a trip to the tailor. The man knew style.
Unlike the average American, who typically scoffs at the idea of having to dress up, for an average Italian it’s completely normal to seek that degree of sophistication for even the most trivial of circumstances.
Since dressing up is fun, Italians don’t mind fooling around with their clothes, and that’s how they oftentimes end up mixing up the tops and bottoms of different suits, in order to create new outfits and color combinations. Breaking up your suits is also an excellent way to repurpose those items that you can’t fully enjoy because they don’t meet your degree of satisfaction, or because you simply got bored of them.
In the broader sense of the word, spezzato indicates an outfit in which top and bottom show a bold contrast in either color or material. A white sport coat with peak lapels will create a beautiful spezzato with some blue linen pants, and you’ll still get the feeling of a “curated mismatch”. The same can be said of jeans; Styleforum has more recently started to embrace the charm of sport coats worn over denim, a form of spezzato Italians have always cherished.
Here is a guide to create awesome spezzato combinations that will revamp your wardrobe and awaken the #menswear god that hides inside your closet.
Color is everything
You have probably already noticed, but the best outfits out there are those that flirt with the most intriguing color combinations. You have to train your eyes to capture the shade of blue that goes best with that precise shade of green, because – everyone knows – god is in the details. You technically can just throw on a pair of grey suit pants and a blue suit jacket, and chances are it won’t look terrible. But will it look good? Will it make feel the way you feel standing in front of a painting by Monet? That precision, that careful research of color, should live in our daily life just like if we were crafting our own artwork.
Pay close attention to how you mix fabrics
It goes without saying: you can’t just grab a cream linen suit and your beloved Harris Tweed sport coat and call it a day. Try mixing fabrics – and therefore textures – while remaining within the limits established by the season. Cotton and linen are a beautiful combination for summer and spring, while wool and heavy silk work magic in fall and winter.
Go for contrast
If you’re doing spezzato, you gotta go spezzato all the way. Don’t break your blue suit just to choose another blue pair of pants to go with it. Don’t pick two shades that are too similar, or it will look like you got dressed in the dark after one too many gin tonics the night before (which can be charming, in a way, but we’ll talk about the disordinato effect another time.) Don’t choose two textures that are similar but different, or it will look just as bad. Go for a bold yet tasteful contrast that will tell people that you chose to be bold.
The fit must be consistent
As tempting as it may be to grab your first suit from the college years to take her out for a spin, perhaps it’s not that good of an idea if your current collection of clothes fit completely different. Try to make a clear distinction between slim cut, regular, and classic fit, so you don’t end up looking like you raided your older brother’s closet.
That seems a lot of things to pay attention to, doesn’t it? And aren’t the Italians the people don’t give a damn about looking too good; screw the rules, life is too short not to laugh at an espresso spilled on your shirt?
That is absolutely true – life is way too short to worry about the state of your garments, and this is usually that point where I tell you to forget everything you just read and go wear whatever the hell you like, as long as it makes you smile. But at the same time, life is too short to miss out on the pleasure that comes from caring for your person, and present the best version of yourself to the world that’s hosting you.
That barista you saw yesterday; the one who had the most radiant smile you’ve seen in a while? She deserves to see your extravagant cufflinks peek underneath the jacket you’re wearing while you thank her for your coffee.
Even the asshole that cut in front of you on the 405 deserves to know that the effort you made to look at your best today is also a gift for him.
One of the most fulfilling moments of my life – and you may very well laugh at this – has been walking on a street of Naples and being greeted by two old, impeccably dressed gentlemen, who took their hats off and smiled at me before returning to their conversation.
Those two men left their home that morning – it was a scorching day of July in Naples – looking as if they were going to attend their daughter’s wedding, and all they were out to do was enjoy each other’s company and walk along the seaside. They took two seconds of their time to acknowledge my presence, and they interrupted their conversation to smile and take their hat off for me. They didn’t do it because it was me – they would have done it for anyone else, and that was the beauty of that gesture. I was honored to be part of the bigger picture in the micro-world of those two Italian men.
But what if people won’t notice, you might ask. What if they don’t care?
It is true that we are living in a world that doesn’t train people to understand and appreciate beauty, and that’s perfectly okay. Those two Neapolitan gentlemen couldn’t possibly have known that their gesture would have made my day.
We don’t do it for anyone in particular, just like flowers don’t care if there isn’t anyone admiring them while they bloom. They just bloom, because that’s what we’re supposed to do in this flawed yet beautiful world of ours. We contribute to its beauty.
Whether it is menswear or something else – it all adds up to create the bigger picture. Practice elegance religiously, and become a master of the small things, and people will remember you as well as they do those details.
And if that still isn’t enough, we will always be there to stroke your ego on the What Are You Wearing Today thread on Styleforum.
You might have heard the word “aperitivo” once or twice if you have Italian friends, as it is a common word we use to describe the light snack, usually accompanied by an alcoholic beverage, which predates dinner.
My job today is to describe in detail what aperitivo implies, so that Americans can hopefully adopt this custom, or so you’ll be prepared should you attend an aperitivo the next time you find yourself strolling the streets of the Eternal City.
Like every occasion related to food in Italy, it is a social occurrence more than a fulfillment of human bodily needs. Unlike American’s happy hour, where places offer drinks and food at reduced prices, aperitivo involves the consumption of a drink that comes with a complementary light snack. The purpose is stimulating the appetite while enjoying a conversation with anyone who is accompanying you – whether it is your colleagues after a day of work, a new date, your spouse, or simply a group of friends. The most similar thing that Americans have is that cocktail hour with the complimentary salted nuts.
The Milanese claim they invented the aperitivo, but the tradition actually originated in my hometown, Torino, in 1786, when the owner of a liquor shop invented vermouth, a white wine reinforced with an infusion of over 30 herbs. Vermouth started being served as a pre-dinner treat along with tiny bites – also typical of Torino – such as tramezzini, olives, and salatini.
What should you wear to an aperitivo?
First of all, you need to make sure your outfit is appropriate for the place and the people you’re going to see. If your aperitivo is going to be a quick meeting with your friends at a café after a football match on a Saturday, you can probably skip the blazer and save your expensive cologne for another occasion. However, if your aperitivo is a date or it takes place at a nicer bar or restaurant, I recommend going for a classic but always appropriate combination of blazer or sport coat and tailored pants. You can play with the accessories to add character to the mix, and to make sure you’re properly dressed for the weather. For instance, if you’re lucky enough to enjoy an aperitivo by the seaside, a light silk scarf might come in handy, and it instantly adds charm to the whole look; a pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes if you’re sipping your drink al fresco while earning you extra cool points (because really, who doesn’t look good in sunglasses?)
My only recommendation is to leave the tie at home – or remove it if you’re going out directly after work: it will make people around you more comfortable, it will show them that you value the leisure time you spend in their company, and that you left behind your work day.
Blazer: Sartoria Formosa
Pants: Rota Pantaloni
Shirt: Barba Napoli
Hat: Larose Paris
What do you drink at an aperitivo?
Today, vermouth is no longer the only option when you want to treat yourself to an aperitivo. For the summer months, the most popular drinks are the infamous spritz – a cocktail made of prosecco, Campari, and a splash of sparkling water – and the mojito. White wines are also a valid option, especially if bubbly, and typically every place serves its own aperitivo concoction made of fresh fruit and alcohol. For those who choose not to imbibe, alcohol-free options involve juice-like drinks made of fresh fruit and seltzer water.
During the winter months, the negroni is always a hit, along with red wines and any other cocktail the bar offers.
What do you eat at an aperitivo?
Most places will provide your table with free snacks such as olives, potato chips, and tiny sandwiches to consume while you enjoy your drink. In the past few years, many places adopted the concept of apericena (aperitivo+cena – dinner). With the purchase of one drink, the customer has access to a large buffet that is essentially all-you-can-eat. The selection varies, but it usually consists of cheese and cured meats, pizza, sandwiches, deep fried vegetables, salad, and – occasionally – warm dishes such as pasta and risotto. Apericena are understandably quite popular among young people, since they provide a fulfilling dinner and a drink for less than €10.
If you’re not likely to visit Italy in the immediate future, you’ve still got the chance to enjoy aperitivo in the comfort of your own home – just like I do.
In fact, when I moved to US three years ago I made sure to bring with me a few things I could not live without – the bidet and aperitivo were on top of the list. I will not bore you with the details of the former (maybe that’s going to be Jasper’s next assignment for me), but I can provide you with a list of things you need in order to organize an aperitivo at your own place.
- Drinks. If you’d like to try your hand at bartending, a spritz is a quick and easy recipe and it’s likely to be appreciated by everyone in your group (but do keep a bottle of wine in the fridge in case a guest asks).
- Food. If you’re not in the mood to prepare tiny sandwiches and warm dishes, you can just buy plain ingredients and serve them in small cups. Grab some olives from the grocery store – and make sure they’re not pitted and they come from Italy or Spain. Serve them with a plate of your favorite cheese and some cured meats, if you can get them fresh the same day (do NOT buy the packaged types that taste like fat-laden cardboard). Potato chips and similar snacks will work just as fine, especially if you don’t intend this to be your dinner.
- Pay attention to the setting… Even if it’s just a late afternoon snack, make sure everything looks tidy and pleasant to the eye. Food tastes better when it looks good. Use matching cups and the appropriate glasses for the type of drinks you’re serving. For a full Italian experience, treat your table to a nice, clean tablecloth.
- …and to the outfit. It would be a shame to present such a lovely table to your guests and not look just as glorious.
- Repeat. That’s right. Aperitivo is not a special occasion. On the contrary, it is a trivial one, like having coffee after school. It is a time for people to get together and catch up on everything that’s going on in their life, whilst consuming delicious snacks and beverages. Having an aperitivo at your own place is also a wonderful way to save money if you’re on a budget, since it’s way cheaper than having a drink out (and you get to choose the music, which is not of little importance if you, like me, are already sick of Taylor Swift’s latest album blasting out of speakers in any public space).
Naturally, you don’t need to serve wine or cocktails each time; you can get creative and make your own, alcohol-free signature drinks for the aperitivo. It can be as simple as seltzer water with an infusion of citrus fruit and berries, or more elaborate using juice and maraschino cherries to decorate, but I would advise against sodas. As I mentioned at the beginning, aperitivo is a social occasion – and what matters in the end is finding the time to enjoy the company of your friends, your colleagues, your date, or even your partner at the end of a long day.
Food and beverages have the magical power to bring on conviviality; the Romans and the ancient Greeks knew this well, and those who could afford a proper banquet would organize the courses around the topics of conversations that they intended to discuss. The banquet described in the Satyricon by Petronius is a perfect example, with one of the courses being a statue of the fertility god Priapus with the belly filled with saffron-squirting cakes and fruits. Or, think of the power of gathering around the table in Plato’s Symposium, where inebriated men praise the god of love, Eros.
If you’re keen on medieval lore, you’ll certainly know that King Arthur made the round table specifically to encourage conversation and deliver a sense of equality among his knights, so that they all could be served equally and sit equally at its board. Each man’s opinion was therefore equally valuable.
Today, our lifestyles brought us to consider our food as merely either a primary need – thereby consuming our meals quickly in order to be able to return soon to our daily activities – or we focus entirely on the food by experimenting with textures, colors, and flavors, or perhaps calculating those macronutrients. Only during special occasions, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, or other celebrations, do people and food reconnect to create that special experience that our ancestors so deeply treasured.
The good thing is that we can re-educate ourselves to find balance again, and enjoy company as much as food when the two happen to encounter. You can do so by picking up an exotic custom such as the Italian aperitivo, or you can research yourself the method that best suits your lifestyle and interests.
Whatever your intentions are, bring a good attitude along with a nice bottle and tasty food, and you’ll have the recipe for the best time of your day.
But what exactly is grenadine?
First of all, grenadine is a small miracle of sartorial tradition, since its making employs, even today, machines that originated in England during the Industrial Revolution – or their direct descendants.
Grenadine fabric is produced with a gauze-style weave, often referred to as a Leno or Cross weave. It involves two warp yarns twisted around the weft yarns in order to provide a strong yet sheer fabric. The structure is similar to the English gauze bobbinet tulle; bobbinet tulle was the first machine-made gauze to be produced, when John Heathcoat invented the bobbinet machine (also called Old Loughborough) in 1808.
However, everyone knows original grenadine is produced exclusively in Como, a small town in northern Italy you may have heard of because rich celebrities do love a mansion overlooking a beautiful lake.
The wooden looms used in Como to produce grenadine weaves are usually referred to as Jacquard looms, but they are in fact descendants of the English gauze machine invented by John Heathcoat – only upgraded to produce a more elaborate weave. Even the Italian word for grenadine is a tribute to the English gauze: “Garza a giro inglese” means “English weave gauze”, and the two varieties of grenadine are respectively referred to as Garza fine (or Garza piccola) and Garza grossa.
It’s not clear how this technique travelled from the Old Blighty all the way down to Como, but it seems to have passed through France:
“Lyon: an important French center for silk machine laces. […] A fierce competition begun between France and Britain: the English inventions – the Warp Frame (1775) the organ barrel for automatic patterns (1780) and Dawson wheels, also for patterning (1807) – were quickly copied in France, while the English were also quick to apply the French Jaquard. In 1885 an old Loughborough was smuggled across the Channel. In England, Heatcoat had used these machine for cotton nets. In France, because of import restrictions on cotton, silk was used, with great success, and nets such as Meklin, tulle illusion, and black grenadine were soon being made.”1
The Industrial Revolution and two wars played a crucial role in shaping the economies of many countries of what todays is known as the European Union – and the history of many traditions born in the 20th century are certainly worth researching and upholding.
Como’s tradition of silk-making, however, dates back to the 16th century, when the Duke of Milan – under whose jurisdiction Como fell at the time – made the decision to promote sericulture. At first, Como established itself as a crucial part of the initial process of silk-making through the breeding of silkworms and the yard spinning, whilst the weaving process used to be almost exclusively executed in other European cities (Lyon above all).
Only in the 20th century and especially after WWII did Como become the sovereign maker of silk in all aspects of its process – from sericulture to the spinning of the yarns. Other European cities did not survive the aftermath of the wars and ceased to be textile centers, propeling Italy – specifically Northern and Central Italy, and the centers of Como, Biella, and Prato – towards a second Renaissance of the textile production.
Today, sericulture is no longer part of the silk-making process that happens in Italy, due to the elevated costs of an activity that cannot be supported by technology and remains reliant on principally human labor in a hands-on job. In modern days, the silk yarns come from China or Brazil, and they are dyed and woven in Italy.
Fermo Fossati and Seteria Bianchi are perhaps the most renowned and appreciated makers of grenadine in Como.
The former is the oldest silk-making company in Italy – the third oldest in Europe after the British Vanners and Stephen Walters & Sons. They have been associated with neckties since the early 1900’s, when ties made their appearance as an accessory to embellish the necks of European gentlemen.
However, you might be more familiar with Seteria Bianchi, which produced the fabrics for the Brioni jackets worn by Daniel Craig in 007 Casino Royale. If you’re a car aficionado, you might know that Seteria Bianchi also provided Mercedes Benz with the interiors of the concept car F125. The list of prestigious clients goes on, culminating with Sartoria Gammarelli, which is the official supplier of clothes for the Church and, by extension, the Pope. On their website, they state that they can provide over 100,000 patterns for their fabrics, and that the selection of textiles is just as broad; they even offer a mind-blowing textile fiber made of silk wrapped in pure gold.
Ettore Bianchi, the former owner of the Seteria, wrote the International Dictionary of Textiles, published in Italian in 1997, from which I took the liberty to translate “grenadine” (“Garza a giro inglese”): “A fabric quite common in the past, now forgotten, which was employed to make shirts and colonial uniforms in Tropical areas due to its incredible breathability. The fabric employed is cotton, and the weave is an English gauze in which two warp yarns are twisted around the weave and around the weft. The weight is between 150 and 250 gr/m2, but the open gauze weave makes it a quite light and breathable fabric that is excellent in presence of harsh climates such that of the Tropics. This fabric has been also employed to produce curtains.”2
There is still much for me to discover about this incredible fabric, and my sources in the United States are limited to what I can find on the Internet. I am certainly going to research the topic further the next time that I return to Italy, and I hope I’ll be able to provide even more details about grenadine and its history when I get the chance to talk with those who make it.
Or, perhaps we should just enjoy the beauty of grenadine and only wonder what brought it to us throughout the centuries of textile traditions in Europe. Sometimes I am torn between the desire to acquire knowledge and to indulge in the poetry that lies in the unknown.
The Romantics felt outraged by Isaac Newton’s theory of light, as they thought he stripped poetry out of the rainbow; the moment magic had a name and an explanation, it stopped being inspiring. The recent solar eclipse made me reflect on this exact thought; we all knew what was coming and why, but perhaps in our knowledge we missed the poetry of the event. Darkness overcoming light, only to let light forcefully shine again – so bright that the human eye cannot even stare at it.
“Philosophy will clip an angel’s wings,” reads one of the most beautiful poems of our era.
For the time being, let us enjoy the things we don’t know, even if it is just the obscure history of a woven fabric coming from a distant, lake-side city in Italy.
2. E. Bianchi: Dizionario internazionale dei Tessuti, Tessile di Como, 1999.
Sometimes, there is nothing more satisfying than window-shopping for things we will never buy. How many times have we stared in awe at the window of a prestigious boutique, like a kid in front of a candy store, despite knowing we’ll never enter the realm beyond those automatic glass doors?
I present to you the 11 of the most absurdly expensive shoes you can (and should) buy right now. Naturally, I’m leaving bespoke options out of the list, and I’ve limited the number of exotic leathers – because they are the equivalent of adding truffle to a dish and they always make it to the top of the “most expensive” lists. Sneakers are out too, because there are just too many rappers competing for who wears the most ridiculously overpriced kicks.
This is just a treat for the eye, as I’m ready to bet none of you reading this article could put together such a sybaritic footwear collection. If by any chance there is a spendthrift among you who can, please consider donating 1% of your shoe expenditure to a girl who’s been saving for her first Chanel bag.
Enough with the idle chatter. Let’s get to it!
It’s hard to say no to shoes that bring up memories of your maternal grandmother and her antediluvian cane chairs. Lucky you! There are plenty of sizes left.
“There is something special about a pair of Norwegian Split Toes,” says the description of the shoes – “and it’s not that they resemble a vagina,” I might add. You’re also walking on what seems to be a royal emblem, probably borrowed from some fallen Neapolitan aristocratic family. Cool, isn’t it?
A little over a grand will buy you these classic monk straps from Stefano Bemer, the leather of which shines brighter than your future.
Gaziano & Girling brag about having just a handful of people working painstakingly at their workshop in Northampton, but I bet in reality they employ Santa’s little helpers for 11 months a year, and that’s the reason why you’ll never get this pair of shoes for Christmas, even if you keep asking.
393 Big Macs; 78 manicures; 6 years of membership at Planet Fitness. If you can give up all this, you’ll have enough cash to bring home these handsome English-made boots by Styleforum favorite Edward Green.
If you’ve been dreaming of Donald Duck embroideries and feline heads appliqués on your footwear, you can breathe a sigh of relief, as Alessandro Michele for Gucci just made your dreams real.
Okay, perhaps they’re not exactly what we would call a staple color, but you can always tell your billionaire friends that these rare boots are crafted from the skin of one of the heads of the Lernaean Hydra.
If you trust yourself to buy shoes from a country that has given us Christian Louboutin as well as ASH, for just over two grand you can take home these bicolor monk-straps and safely ride your bicycle in the dark without having to worry about using reflective gear.
Black leather and buckles don’t always equal a Fifty Shades of Grey scenario. However, should you decide to bring a little kinkiness into your shoe closet, don’t miss on these Ferragamo monk straps. They’d pair wonderfully with this other leather accessory.
Loafers are having a moment right now, and you certainly cannot go wrong with these carta da zucchero casual loafers by Italian luxury brand Stefano Ricci. Besides exquisite crocodile details, these shoes feature galvanized palladium details. I Google’d it, but I wasn’t able to figure out what galvanized palladium is, although it seems to be just another word for “plated”, used by Italian luxury maisons who like highfalutin descriptions. If there is a goldsmith among us, please humor me.
BERLUTI LIZARD OXFORDS $5050
A staple in every Russian oligarch’s wardrobe, these oxford shoes in lizard leather are created from a single piece of hide, and have no visible seams. Do you have an idea how big a lizard we’re talking about here? If some hunter in Costa Rica has risked his life to hunt down Godzilla-like reptiles to satisfy your need for shoes crafted from sub-tropical animal skins, then you deserve to pay the ludicrous price tag.
Let us know in the comments if you’re the proud owner of any of these shoes, and please do comment leaving a link in case you are aware of even more amazing[ly ridiculous] deals we might have missed.
Once again, as with the Solaro fabric we wrote about earlier, we have to thank British colonialists for bringing us seersucker, one of the most appreciated summer suiting cloths. The British adopted the use of this traditional fabric from India as a summer option for their clothes and textiles . “Seersucker” is the combination of the Persian words shir and shekar – which mean milk and sugar. The distinctive texture of seersucker is probably at the origin of its name, since it presents both smooth stripes (like milk) and rugged ones (like sugar).
Seersucker is weaved in a way that causes the cloth to “pucker”. The cloth is woven on twin-beam looms that run at different speeds; the warp yarns are pulled to different degrees of tightness, causing the fabric to crinkle, in a process known as a slack-tension weave. The bumpy surface and the traditional white and pale blue pinstripes are intrinsic peculiarities of seersucker. Seersucker’s unique texture helped earn it a reputation as a breathable fabric. Because the surface doesn’t lay flat, it is less likely to stick to the body even in the presence of sweat, allowing the cloth to dry out quickly as air circulates through it more easily.
It is because of this characteristic of the cloth that seersucker originally made its appearance in the American apparel industry in the form of garments destined for blue-collar workers who needed a sturdy yet breathable fabric for their summer uniforms. Naturally, these were not suits, but rather overalls, work jackets, and headwear with the goal of keeping the worker cool even in presence of strong sources of heat, including furnaces.
We owe the surge in popularity of seersucker in classic menswear to New Orleans’ clothier Joseph Haspel, who started making men’s suits in seersucker fabric in 1909 as an alternative to traditional suits during the scorching, humid summers in the South. Haspel actively marketed his creation as comfortable and convenient – the fabric not only allowed the wearer to stay cooler. It also did not requiring ironing. To prove the value of his product, he swam in the ocean in his seersucker suit, hung it up in the bathroom, and wore it later the same day to a dinner party, amazing the attendants with tales of the cloth’s versatile properties.
Haspel’s notion – using a “poor man” fabric to create garments for the upper class – was a success; many professionals and politicians from the South started wearing seersucker suits.
Up north, in the 1920s, American undergraduate students started wearing seersucker for a very different reason. Little did the care about the versatility of the fabric, or its peculiar look: they adopted it in an attempt to elevate apparel that traditionally was linked to the lower class. Unlike genteel Southerners, preppy students favored seersucker for only one garment – usually a sport coat to wear with chinos, and never really adopted the full seersucker suit look.
By mid twentieth century, half of the United States was wearing seersucker during the summer months: workers on railroads in the South, students at Princeton, lawyers, writers, and even politicians adopted it, glad to be spared the embarrassment of either being soaked in sweat or be spotted on duty without a suit.
So what happened? Why is seersucker no longer an obvious choice for people throughout the nation to escape the heat and find ease in a cool, comfortable, and low-maintenance fabric?
Progress gives and progress takes.
When air conditioning started blasting in America’s offices and stores, white-collars ceased suffering in humid environments; they no longer needed clothes to protect them from heat and humidity. Seersucker slowly but inexorably fell out of favor, as people decided that they could wear a regular three-season suit at work even during the dog days of summer.
Today, seersucker has been relegated to a purely stylistic choice, and, in a surprising shift of events, the prerogative of people who had enough disposable income to invest in an unnecessary garment. The cheap, blue-collar favorite seersucker had become a luxury as soon as people stopped seeing it as a need. After all, that is true luxury: the use of resources on unnecessary goods and experiences.
As its popularity started fading, seersucker remained the choice of extravagant Americans who used it to express their social status, as the Rolling Stones explain in the lyrics of Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man:
Yeah, I’m sharp
I’m really, really sharp
I sure do earn my pay
Sitting on the beach every day, yeah
I’m real real sharp, yes I am
I got a Corvette and a seersucker suit
In recent years, seersucker has made a comeback on the shelves of menswear stores as an option for those who are brave enough to experiment with vintage-inspired apparel and accessories. 1920s clothes are experiencing a second life, partly due to Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby and its costumes; large lapels and Southern inspired garments and prints re-entered the market, this time to be stored in middle class American closets and available in relatively affordable ready-to-wear options.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott introduced Seersucker Thursday in the 90s – usually the second or third Thursday of June – in which Senators are invited to show up in Congress wearing seersucker to remember the days pre-AC when the cloth was a staple in Washington. The tradition is still going strong.
Still, seersucker remains an extravagant choice, and it is certainly not a staple in a man’s wardrobe, but rather a micro-trend that only a niche embraced.
Most of you probably don’t own a seersucker suit – which makes quite of a statement especially when worn on a daily basis – but there’s a good chance that you might have some garment made of seersucker in your closet. Perhaps it’s a sports coat, or maybe a shirt. Like most things that fall out of fashion, we are slowly reintroduced to them through bits and pieces when the fashion industry tries to reinvent itself season after season, tapping into old trends and giving them a twist.
In a day and age where comfort seems to be taking over the fashion industry (think of athleisure and athluxury), one would expect seersucker rising to popularity once again, at least amongst those who appreciate classic menswear.
Think about it: seersucker provides a great option for those who don’t want to give up their sartorial needs even during the hottest days of the year, and due to its crinkled appearance, it makes for a great travel companion. You can literally don a seersucker jacket from your luggage, as it will be just as good as when you first wore it. And the same goes for seersucker pants; if you ever cursed your trousers after sitting for a long period of time because of unaesthetic wrinkles running throughout the fabric, you might be a good candidate to appreciate a seersucker suit.
I wouldn’t be surprised if seersucker made its way back in our closets, this time as a polished form of athleisure – to fit the needs of those who don’t want to give up their sartorial needs but are willing to embrace comfort and convenience.
Feel free to comment down below with your thoughts on the matter.
Here are a few examples of forumites wearing seersucker this summer. If you’re curious about seersucker, I highly recommend browsing the Southern Trad thread on the forum, where gentlemen from the South (but really, from anywhere in the world) publish photos of themselves in amazing seersucker garments during the summer months. You’ll surely find more inspiration and a place to ask questions about this fascinating cloth.
We all know that you can build a long-lasting wardrobe by buying clothes that are good quality and are meant to last more than a few seasons in style. To truly ensure that your clothes last as long as you’d like to wear them, you need to take proper care of them. Here are 5 tips to make your clothes last longer.
- Spot clean your clothes
I know that many people tend to throw their clothes into the laundry bin quite easily and often –whether because they think everything should be washed after 1-2 uses, or because they don’t want to put the garment back in the closet with other clean clothes. Obviously some items need to be washed immediately after the first use, like underwear and activewear, but most clothes can be worn multiple times with just a little effort.
It’s easier to just throw a shirt in the washing machine rather than take the time to spot clean even a tiny little food stain. However, washing your clothes is stressful for the garment for a number of reasons: the fabric wears down, the stitches suffer, the shape can be compromised, etc.
Make an effort to spot clean whenever you can, in order to spare your clothes from unnecessary washes. This is valid also for stains in the back of the neck, which are oftentimes the reason why we feel the need to wash a shirt: buy a natural sponge (those fluffy, yellow sponges that dry up when they’re dry), soak it in tepid water, add a drop of detergent, and brush it gently over the stained area. Rinse off with cold water and repeat if necessary. Armpit stains – another curse for our precious garments – can be easily avoided by buying a deodorant without aluminum (this is the best on the market according to my experience).
- Aerate your clothes
Another way to save your clothes from a trip to the washing machine is to let them aerate immediately after you remove them in order to get rid of any trace of smell. Leaving your clothes hanging will encourage the air to circulate through the fibers, and it will most likely get rid of most smells, including sweat. If you enjoy the smell of fresh laundry every time you wear something, you can put some water in a spray bottle along with 4-5 drops of essential lavender oil or 8-10 drops of orange blossom water, and spray down the clothes while they hang. If your shirts are not completely soaked in sweat, you will probably be able to do this trick at least a couple of times before inevitably sending them to their washing destination.
For jeans and sneakers, as odd as it may sound, putting them in the freezer is an excellent option to avoid throwing them in the washer, as the cold kills the bacteria responsible for the smell. Just make sure to seal everything in a plastic bag if you don’t want your next steak to smell like the gym’s locker room.
- Avoid machine washing
Again, it is way easier to throw everything in the washing machine and come back an hour later to freshly laundered clothes. However, machine wash can be quite stressful for garments, even if you use cold or lukewarm water. Natural fibers don’t like being tumbled around, especially if other items in the machine have stiff, pointy, and hard parts like buttons, zippers, and chains that can potentially damage them. Additionally, elastane fibers suffer from heat, and after repeated exposure they eventually lose their elasticity and alter the shape of the clothes. Avoid machine-washing at least for your favorite items and for those with natural fibers, and prefer a simple soak in lukewarm water. Trust me, most items do not need energetic washing and tumbling to get back to a neat state, and water and a tiny bit of detergent will do the trick.
- Store seasonal items in fabric garment bags
Many people use plastic bags when it comes to storing clothes and making space for seasonal items. While this protects them against insects and moths, you have to consider that humidity is just as harmful for textiles, and plastic bags generate of lot of it – even in the driest environment.
The Hanger Project offers a variety of garment bags made of cotton twill; they’re affordable, breathable, and reusable, and they’ll protect your suits and coats until the time to use them again comes.
- Do not dry your clothes in the dryer
I first encountered a dryer 5 years ago, during my first visit to the States. As an Italian who used to hangs her clothes on the balcony to let them dry, I had no idea such thing as a dryer even existed, until my then-boyfriend-now-husband threw my favorite pair of jeans inside his, and returned them to me two sizes smaller. Since then, I refuse to use the dryer for anything that I care about. I am fine with underwear, t-shirts, pajamas, and everything that is not meant to last a lifetime, but I hang all my precious textile belongings in the bathroom (sadly, in the US I don’t have a balcony to hang my clothes en plein air).
I’ve noticed that the few times I washed and dried my pants, they shrunk to a size smaller, only to loosen to a bigger size the first time I wore them, leaving me with no other choice but to throw them back in the dryer to shrink them again. This happens especially to clothes that have a percentage of elastane in the fibers, as elastane doesn’t react well to heat, and eventually it loses its properties.
This is everything! I hope these tips will be useful to some of you, and that they’ll extend the lifespan of your clothes so that you can enjoy them for years to come.
By the way, let me tell you that you guys in America are really missing out not drying your clothes outside, as there is almost no feeling more beautiful than wearing something that has been soaked up in the sunshine.
The Internet has played a crucial role in introducing menswear aficionados to the visual nuances that permeate tailoring traditions – whether they come from the good old UK or the sunny shores of Naples, and the Neapolitan jacket has undeniably grown in popularity for men who shop and appreciate classic menswear. The following is a guide to Neapolitan jacket characteristics – what differentiates them, and what makes them worth owning.
Neapolitan jackets offer comfort and lightness, and they are, de facto, the leisurewear of tailoring. If properly constructed and tailored, you should be able to perform any daily task while wearing a Neapolitan jacket – from riding a bicycle to harvesting tomatoes (tasks that you will witness with your own eyes if you take a walk in the southern Italian countryside).
As dress codes at workplaces become less and less rigid, following the 21st century tendency of upgrading leisure and casual clothing to “everyday” clothes, Neapolitan tailoring has found a niche in the market of people that appreciate fine tailoring but won’t give up comfort and a bit of edge in their style.
This is my humble contribution to explain to the many, English-speaking fans of Neapolitan tailoring the beauty behind her majesty the Neapolitan Jacket, so grab your glass of Aglianico now, and keep reading.
Traditionally, the Neapolitan jacket has no shoulder padding. While it certainly helps make the figure appear broader in the upper part, shoulder padding restricts movement, and if you are a Neapolitan gentleman who is used to gesticulating a lot, that is definitely a deal breaker.
On account of these considerations, Neapolitan tailors removed the shoulder padding from their jackets altogether. In order to facilitate freedom of movement, the Neapolitan shoulder on informal jackets is sewn like a shirt sleeve (“spalla a camicia”) and it follows the natural curve of the human body rather than give it shape. This type of sleeve is cut about 10 cm larger than the armhole, and it can be finished with the “repecchia” – that visually interesting shirring the tailor creates with the extra fabric. This little flair, which supposedly allows for even more freedom of movement, is known as “manica a mappina”, and it gives the jacket a beautiful “rugged” appearance (“mappina” is a Neapolitan word for rag).
For formal occasions, the Neapolitan shoulder features a “rollino” – a little roll of padding that raises the sleevehead to drape more cleanly.
The Neapolitan sleeve is usually shorter than that found on other jackets, as Neapolitans love their shirt cuffs to peek right above their wrists, especially when adorned with elegant cufflinks. The sleeves are cut closer to the arms, in order to avoid extra fabric hanging when these are raised (again, you’ve got to admire that talent for speaking with their hands).
In line with the sinuous shape and lines of the Neapolitan tailoring, the pockets of a Neapolitan jackets are usually curved and applied as patches; the breast pocket is called “a barchetta”, which literally means “little boat”, due to the higher top corner of the pocket, which, along with the rounded bottom, gives it the shape of a stylized boat. The side pockets are equally curved, and their shape recalls that of a pot – hence the name “a pignata”.
Neither of these features have any practical functionality, but they are particular to Neapolitan tailoring and they contribute to the sophisticated yet relaxed look of a jacket made in Naples. As an ultimate touch of elegance, double hand finished stitching runs throughout the sides of the patch pockets – a recurring feature in informal Neapolitan tailoring.
Just like shoulder padding, lining is considered an unnecessary burden and the Neapolitan tailors keep it as minimal as possible. Usually, the jacket is unlined or only half lined, in order to provide lightness; even the sleeves are completely unlined, as they’re meant to fit like a second skin. Additionally, the lining is often left open (“volante,” literally “flying”) so that we can admire the fine details and construction of the jacket.
Neapolitan jackets are famous for their wide lapels, which oftentimes are peaked (“a punta”) for double-breasted jackets, formal jackets, and coats.
The “risvolto dentellato” (the “classic” style of lapels – not peaked) are notoriously wider in Neapolitan jackets: they can be as wide as 4 inches, compared to the 3 inches of a regular lapel width).
Just as is the case for the pockets, the Neapolitan lapel features double stitching running along the sides – a stunning detail that’s peculiar of a Neapolitan creation – although reserved for the less formal pieces.
The “scollo a martiello” (literally “hammer neck”) is the opening of the jacket over the shirt, which in Neapolitan tailoring is perfectly parallel to the lapels.
The cran (but you can call it sgarzillo if you want to give your tailor a good laugh) is the space that separates the lapel and the neck, and it is usually higher in Neapolitan tailoring to create the illusion of a more slender figure.
You might have noticed that Neapolitan jackets tend to be shorter in the back; in Neapolitan dialect, they say the jacket “zompa arrèto,” which roughly translate as “it jumps in the back”. This characteristic allows for the jacket to “slide” gracefully along the body.
The vents on the sides are notoriously quite deep in Neapolitan jackets – up to 12 inches.
The darts (“pences” or “riprese”) in the front go all the way down, to help the fabric follow the shape of the body and create elegant quarters.
Buttons and Buttonholes
Perhaps the most infamous characteristic of the Neapolitan jacket is the three-roll-two construction (“tre bottoni stirato a due”); the Italian translation makes it clear that the lapel that hides the third button is actually ironed by the tailor, who gives it a roll that elegantly folds over the button. The reason of this choice is – you might have guessed it – the extra freedom of movement provided by a longer opening in the front.
The buttonhole on the lapel is called “occhiello” in Italian, and it means “little eye” for its elongated almond shape. There isn’t really a tradition for a specific type of buttonhole in Naples, but we should note a tendency of Neapolitan tailors to prefer slightly shorter and thicker buttonholes that resemble those of a shirt, while “regular” buttonholes of English tradition are more elongated and slender. Some tailors add a little teardrop shape at the end of the buttonhole, but that’s an aesthetic choice that does not refer to a particular tradition.
For what concerns the buttons on the sleeves, they are always working buttons, and they are always overlapping, as if they were kissing each other.
If you ever find yourself strolling by the street of Naples, please do consider investing in a bespoke piece from a Neapolitan tailor. They represent a milestone of cultural heritage and tradition, and we owe them a great deal in terms of style and lifestyle. Additionally, having a suit made by a Neapolitan tailor is an experience that goes beyond the mere object that’s handed to you at the end of the process; it is a ritual. And, like every ritual, it involves libations, which in Naples can’t be anything other than caffè. When you’ll walk in the tailor’s atelier, you’ll be welcomed by a tiny cup of black, scorching coffee, and delicious Neapolitan pastries.
Don’t be surprised when you’ll see the workers take just one sip of coffee as you drink all of yours: they greet every customer with a cup of espresso, and while they won’t let any of them enjoy it solitarily, they simply can’t handle that much caffeine in a single day.
L’eleganza dello Stile – Duecent’anni di vestir maschile – Vittoria de Buzzacarini, ed. Lupetti.
Note di Stile – Sergio Cairati, 2016, sold by Amazon digital services.
The jacket used as a model is by Sartoria Formosa for No Man Walks Alone and can be purchased here.