Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.
The first and second days of Pitti are insane – meetings, parties, and press. The third day slows down dramatically, and by the fourth day, everyone just wants to go home. Presently on the train to Rome to start my trip home, I’m just now realizing that I mostly trawled the booths to take as much advantage of the air conditioning as I could. I should have taken more pictures, but I did catch a lot of video, so check out the stories on Styleforum’s Instagram on these makers:
The days and nights are flying by. Plaza Uomo held an event at the Palazzo Budini Gattai, a 16th century that was built and is still owned by the eponymous family. The next day a few of us got a chance to sneak away from the madness. Andreas Klow (@flannelsandtweed) and Aleks Jovanovich (@aleksjj) and I rented scooters for a jaunt in the Tuscan countryside, and later that evening enjoyed good company with Matt Hranek from W.M. Brown Project and Douglas Cordeaux from Fox Brothers hosted a party where everyone ended up parting ways with a smile on their face.
Check out the StyleForum Instagram feed for stories. These photos are from the evening of day one to the evening of day two. Thanks to Andreas and Aleks for sharing their pics when this third-rate pretend-photographer was slacking off.
What a first day. And what a fun show — Pitti has a reputation of being a place of peacocks, but I prefer to think of it as motley trove of various ideas that, while sometimes silly, can often be surprising. Here’s a few streetstyle photos from inside the fair.
Back in the day, Esquire magazine stalwartly carried the torch of classic black tie. One of my favorite writers of that era, John Berendt, grew up in Syracuse, New York, not far from one of the first appearances of the tuxedo. Almost immediately after graduating from Harvard, he became an associate editor of Esquire from 1961 to 1969 and continued to contribute from 1982 to 1994, when his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published. Many of his columns begrudgingly acknowledge trends while scornfully piss on what he calls “atrocities.” A particularly funny one is when he took umbrage with some of the spirited choices his contemporaries passed off as acceptable black tie. After observing that the first two public exhibitions of Henry Poole’s dinner jacket in America caused quite a stir, he wrote:
“I mention these two episodes…to make the point that, historically, there has never been much tolerance for individual touches when it comes to formal attire. And properly so–if not for the sake of tradition, than because for some reason the classic model is almost always debased rather than improved by innovation….But in a perverse sort of way we can be grateful to them because of what they reveal about the wearer’s level of taste.”
Classics: The Tuxedo, from Esquire, January 1983
For about 100 years, the classic black tie model has remained more or less the same, and is fairly straightforward: the suit itself can be black or midnight blue wool. As for the jacket, the most formal is single breasted peak lapel, and happens to be the most flattering one. Your shirt, which is always white, should be the quintessential marcella bib with two or three studs. A wing collar would have been the first choice a century ago, but nowadays a soft turndown collar has become the norm. Pleated shirts are fine, but I find they go better with peak lapels in a double breasted jacket or shawl collars in either configuration. A notch collar is acceptable, but has the tendency to look more waiter than waited on. Your bow tie, which should never be pre-tied and always in front of your shirt collar, can be in either black silk satin or grosgrain. Ideally the same material should be repeated in the lapel facings, buttons, and a single stripe down the trouser’s outside seam. Your waist should be covered by a double breasted jacket, a formal black waistcoat, or a cummerbund that matches your tie. Shoes are black oxfords or opera pumps in patent leather, although either in properly shined calf leather is a fine alternative. Hosiery is black silk.
Once you have a tuxedo in any of the above, you can start to go crazy – a little – for less ceremonious affairs. An easy way to do this is by simply swapping the top. An off-white jacket is a fine choice for daytime or if you happen to find yourself on a boat. On informal occasions, such as a party in someone’s home, a velvet smoking jacket in deep jewel tones is a louche option, or plaid if you’re feeling particularly festive. In these cases, lapels should never be notched, and facings can be in black silk or in the same color and material as the jacket, depending on how shiny you wish to be. If you feel especially casual, you can swap your courtly footwear for slippers in silk or velvet in black.
There are other options, of course, but listed above are already a dozen or so that will take you everywhere from the opera to the stag party. With the proviso that you have them all already and are exceptionally popular with a calendar bursting with fancy engagements, just don’t. Unless you’re Andy57.
Andy Poupart is a self-professed romantic that loves black tie more than anyone I know. His job, like most of us, doesn’t pit him against secret agents or nefarious megalomaniacs, but if it did, he’d be ready for the part. His black tie closet includes:
Straight-ahead, classic, by-the-book, black, peak lapel, grosgrain facings, single-breasted dinner jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
Midnight blue, shawl lapel, midnight blue satin silk facings, single breasted jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
Deep bottle green velvet, black grosgrain facings and cuffs, shawl lapel, single breasted jacket
Thai silk, red, self-faced, peak lapel, single breasted jacket
To accompany these, he has socks in black and midnight blue silk, two shirts each in white and ivory, all with soft turndown collars and marcella fronts, several sets of studs and links, a butterfly and diamond point bowtie in black grosgrain, another in black mogodor, a fourth in midnight blue satin silk, and black patent leather oxfords. If that sounds like overkill, be assured Andy has worn every piece in his armory many times over, and has his eyes set on a few more. “I keep thinking about a burgundy double-breasted jacket in a fantastic wool/silk velvet,” he grins.
Although all of his outfits are excellent, Andy reckons his favorite is the ivory dinner jacket. “I designed it after Humphrey Bogart’s in Casablanca. When I wear it, I’m a 1940s gun-runner, one step ahead of the bad guys, with places to go and things to do that you can’t be any part of, but we’ll always have Paris. Oh, and a martini in one hand.”
“I know that all sounds silly, but I don’t care,” he states. “It’s how I can express the side my personality that I want to portray. I think that when we get dressed, in any sort of clothes, we are telling a story about ourselves, how we wish to appear to the world. When I wear black tie, I feel I’m presenting the best me.”
I have to catch up to Andy – I’ve got a few black tie rigs myself, but alas, no velvet yet.
You can wait until the invitation requests it, or you can do like Andy and where it wherever you want. To be honest, even a black trash bag is better than not trying at all, but as long as you’re trying, you might as well do it right. To that end, try your best to follow John Berendt’s sage words:
“My advice is to stick with the classic unless you happen to have a tailor with the prescience of a Henry Poole. And the odds are you do not.”
“The way it supports, you’ve never felt anything like it.”
Frank and I were chatting during l’ora dell’ aperitivo in Florence at the StyleForum Maker Space. It was the final evening before the final day, when vendors leave the Pitti booths after the sun sets and talk shop with those they’ve met throughout the day over a cup of something viscous. Frank’s company, Giin, is perhaps better known for their lapel hole object d’arte flowers, but his side gig – men’s underwear and undershirts – intrigued me, since I’ve never given either one more than a passing thought.
“Sell it to me,” I challenged, to which he said the opening line. “You see how I’m cupping this glass of chardonnay? That’s the kind of support I’m talking about. It’s there, but natural.” I was a little incredulous – natural wouldn’t describe anything I’ve tried that’s made for down there. Frank must have read my face because he immediately responded with another angle: “You can wash and wear them the next day.”
Now that was something that struck a chord with me. The practical usefulness of something that could withstand a sweaty, pick-and-shovel day in the field and be ready for tomorrow might prove applicable for vacation as well. “All right,” I nodded. “I’ll take a pair and put them to the test at work. Then I’ll take them on my next vacation in Turkey. We’ll see how they perform.”
He chuckled. “I’ve already tested them in Singapore. If they can handle those summers, Turkey will be a cakewalk.”
Frank ended up sending me a week’s worth, “just in case,” he writes, which I tell my wife in the event that she refuses to touch a person who hasn’t changed their underwear after a day. The fabric is fantastically soft, made from a mix of high twist cotton, polyester, and Lycra that Frank says took extensive trial and error to perfect. I put them on in preparation for running power in the crawl space in the Tenderloin’s Salerno Hotel lobby – a sweatbox if there ever was one – and the first thing I notice is the second-skin snugness. Boxers, these ain’t, but after a few minutes, they stretched to the point where I didn’t notice any snugness, and – perhaps disconcertingly – I didn’t notice them atall, meaning I had to remind myself that I’m actually wearing underwear. Part of the reason is the fabric, some magical hybrid of high-twist cotton, polyester, and lycra that is featherweight and silky smooth that was developed in-house. Also, there is a not a single stitch anywhere; instead, the seams are bonded with a thermoplastic film called Bemis that Frank swears by. “Throw them in the dryer if you want,” he challenged. “The fabric will wear out before the adhesive does.” The result is a low-profile non-abrasive pair of chonies that you forget about almost as soon as you put them on.
Up in the stuffy 100-year-old crawlspace, I twisted, contorted, and twisted my day pulling MC home runs over ductwork, underwater pipes, and carefully stepping on black iron supports, and not once did the underwear bind, ride up, or fall down. At home, I finished the daylight with a perspire pool of a Shawn T workout, hopped in the shower and per Frank’s instructions, washed with soap and water, hung to dry overnight, and put on a new pair.
The next day I did the exact same thing – work and workout – except instead of grabbing a new pair, I reached for yesterday’s and did the sniff test. To my amazement, they smelled not just clean, but laundered. No trace of yesterday’s funk at all. Nonetheless, since my olfactory senses have been dulled from years of construction inhalation, I handed them to my bloodhound-nosed wife for confirmation. She took a pair of tongs, held them six inches from her face, and took a deep breath. Her eyes widened.
“Impressive. If anything…” she pursed her lips. “I smell a hint of EO body wash.” And with her blessing, they were green-lit for Turkey.
Bringing underwear on vacation is always a gamble: what if you’re nowhere near a place to do your laundry? You’re better off throwing them in a nuclear waste disposal and buying a new pair than risk repacking them and spreading the odor to the rest of your luggage. But if Giin underwear is truly wash-and-wear…
In short, the underwear wasn’t compatible with the whirlwind ten-day Turkey tour. We did have a shower every night, but since we departed for a different city every morning, there wasn’t enough time for the underwear to completely dry in the hotel before repacking them. However, we bookended our trip with several days before and after in Istanbul, and had three straight days on a boat; in these instances, the every-other-day rotation worked fine. Not surprisingly, the fabric handled the Turkish heat with aplomb, never once feeling clammy or uncomfortable. Additionally, they come in mid-grey and nude, giving them ninja levels of invisibility underneath white pants or shorts. Because even if your aloha shirt is shamelessly crass, at least your unmentionables are modest.
I don’t know of any other real-life stress test to put Giin underwear under, but I’ll bet that they can take whatever can be thrown at them. More than that, they are easily the most there-yet-not-there pair I own, equally comfortable and imperceptible. Just wash, allow to dry for 24 hours, and you’re good to go.
And if you’re wondering about support, just think of Frank holding a glass of chardonnay.
Read the review of GIIN’s seamless undershirts here.