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.