Spezzato: Mixing Suits like an Italian

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.

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Arianna Reggio

Arianna is an Italian trapped in Southern California, and she's still trying to cope with the fact she's living in a country where they put pineapples on pizza. She is into both Style AND Fashion, but she hardly ever writes about it because all her free time is spent between yoga, rock concerts, and Victorian poetry.

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About Arianna Reggio

Arianna is an Italian trapped in Southern California, and she's still trying to cope with the fact she's living in a country where they put pineapples on pizza. She is into both Style AND Fashion, but she hardly ever writes about it because all her free time is spent between yoga, rock concerts, and Victorian poetry.

25 thoughts on “Spezzato: Mixing Suits like an Italian

  1. “mixing up the tops and bottoms of different suits”

    “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”

    You’re referring to a blazer/sports jacket and odd trousers, not a suit. You can’t break-up a suit (i.e matching trousers and pants) unless it has rusticating features like a navy suit jacket with patch pockets and brown horn buttons, or is made from a textured material like a linen or tweed.

    I don’t want to sound mean but this is really Menswear 101 and the article above should never have made it past the editors desk. Come on guys.

    • Actually you can, and you just provided a few examples of things that would work in a spezzato. Some suits are better candidate than others for mixing & matching, but like you said, working with textures and staple colors is a great way to revamp one or more suits and be creative with an outfit.

      • But none of that is explained in the article. You talk about the ‘curated mismatch’ of a white sports jacket and blue trousers but a jacket and odd trousers are never supposed to match in the first place.

        The article comes across like the author just doesn’t know the difference between a suit and a sports jacket. The only suit jacket in the pictures above is the peak lapel navy suit jacket and vest (@_db_) and it looks terrible. Textbook example of why you shouldn’t be breaking up a suit.

        • I’m sorry but how is it not clear? I explain in the article that in order to create a pleasant spezzato effect it is crucial to pay attention to color, fabric, and texture of the garment – which is exactly what you pointed out. This can be obtained either by breaking up a suit or pairing a sport coat with odd pants.
          It seems to me that we are saying the same thing, except that you didn’t like the example I provided in the article – which is fair, but a matter of personal taste.

          • The crux of your article is that breaking up a suit is a cool and fun and hip and Italian thing to do.

            It’s not.

            It’s difficult to do, fraught with danger and literally every single example you posted bar one is of a odd jacket and trousers, not a suit. The Italian professor you’re gushing over in the introduction was wearing a sports jacket and slacks, not a suit. The jacket and trousers didn’t match because well, they’re not supposed to match. Why you feel the need to paint this as an Italian thing is beyond me. The Anglosphere that you’re so keen to paint as staid have been wearing odd jackets with odd trousers since the 1920s and probably before that if we count the Norfolk jacket.

            The suit jacket that can be broken up is a rarity in the wild. Like, really rare. Very much the exception rather than the rule. Corduroy. Tweeds. Linen. Rustic cloths that most guys will only have made up as a sports jacket because they’re difficult and loud as a suit. Manton’s celebrated ‘blazersuit’ is an exception.

            You know what most suit wearing guys have in their wardrobes? Smooth finish worsted charcoal, dark gray and navy suits. I find it difficult to believe that Italians are the exception to that and I’m still not convinced you really understand the difference between a sports jacket and a suit.

    • Sensible answer from Lucido. The whole article is a confection of the writer’s imagination. The first pic shows a guy in white slacks and a camel linen jacket.

    • This strikes me as a case of mansplaining. Lucido calls specific attention to the author’s “gushing” over her professor, which suggests his anger is owed to a sort of male jealousy. That and perhaps British chauvinism marked by the resentment of the article’s Italian bent. Some of the points made–that it is difficult to split a true suit, for example–are valid, but the tone of meanness and anger seem excessive. If you “don’t want to be mean” then moderate your defensive and angry tone.

  2. This has been one of the best articles yet. Don’t be discouraged by the nay-sayers. I dress like this every day, and I enjoy every moment of it. Cheers and thanks!

  3. Beautiful ending!!! I have enjoyed every bit of this article and I could not agree more with all these valuable points…they are greatly appreciated!

  4. I agree with Lucido’s basic premise. Most readers will have only smooth worsted wool suits (like myself), don’t bother purchasing items to try to break it up it will just be a waste of your money. I fell into this trap once.

  5. the only thing that I can see is relatively easily to break up is loud windowpane. And the only exception on the Italian side I can think of (actually wearing suit jacket as sportscoat) is pinstripe, and even then it’s typical pinstripe sportscoat rather than suit jacket

  6. This whole ‘Italians dress better’ guff is really annoying and is so wrong. The ‘shirt with jersey over the shoulder’ look is ubiquitous and is definitive of how Italian men dress, but it looks childish, like your mum dressed you.
    Likewise the pre-stressed jeans that so many Italians wear. Horror of horrors; Italian women wear some of the worst denim.
    Mixing suits is the height of crassness and poor style.

  7. With you much of the way Arianna on the general principles of color, Italian sensibilities, etc. but the split suit just doesn’t work. It’s always obvious, usually discordant and most important of all totally unnecessary when there is no shortage of individual jacket/pant combinations that achieve the same effect without any of the downsides.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment this article. I am glad to see it brought up some thoughts and musings on style.
      I actually didn’t write it to teach anyone how to dress to look “cool”, or because I think “Italian style” is the best. In fact, I apologize if that’s the message that passed. If I keep writing about the same subject, it’s because it’s the one I know best, being an Italian who was born and grew up in Italy – and because people expressed interest in the topic.
      Culture plays a role in taste, even in a day and age where people can easily connect from anywhere in the world. I think it’s good and healthy to have personal preferences and sensibilities, but I also think it’s enriching to learn about different perspectives and point of views; if anything, they provide a good topic of conversation and they make us reflect upon our own taste and culture. Thanks again for stopping by!

  8. I concur with Phil and the others who graciously complimented your writing skills and this article… as do I. At times those who frequent the online forums tend to exude too much confidence in their budget levels and opinions to see beyond those pale and unkind limits and thoughts. May I borrow your quote for now and in the future, the one that says” 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”. You did do just that my dear! Your contribution is noted! Thank you!

    • Your words warm my heart! Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article. Have a beautiful day,


  9. the word itself resembles and is, in my view possibly a form of sprezzatura: sometimes anyway? One has to be very careful with this practice though it will look, of course, very unstudied.

  10. Arianna Reggio I liked the article, normally can’t be bothered with the stuff on here. Don’t be put off by the criticism.

  11. A wonderful article, regardless of some negative comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



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