Cilento is the oldest men’s store in Naples, possibly even all of Italy. Like many good things in Naples, it’s not something you’d easily come across unless you knew what you were looking for. It’s outside of the main shopping districts and close to some government buildings. Nonetheless, it’s quite well known to the locals and a real treat to visit.
The shop was founded in 1780, but it wasn’t until 1820 when it was moved to its present location on via Medina, where it’s currently spread across two buildings. The main shop holds a range of clothing, footwear, and accessories that would satisfy the taste of any businessman or outdoorsman. Here you see mannequins with waxed field jackets and floppy cotton hats. Fine leather bags decorate the tops of old wooden shelves, which in turn hold stacks of neatly stacked, soft, woolen knits. Casual trousers and surcingle belts hang from the same display rack, and next to them is a large, heavy wooden tray that holds a selection of handmade ties. Further back in the store, bolts of English wools are set alongside Italian cottons, both ready to be made into custom suits and shirts for incoming clients.
There’s also a large selection of shoes. In keeping with the store’s classic taste, these include models by John Lobb, Edward Green, and Alden. There is an emphasis on brogues, chukkas, and derbies, and a surprising number of them are black, given Neapolitan men’s reputation for mainly wearing brown.
The secondary shop is just outside and a few steps away. This one is a renovated boutique dedicated primarily to ties. The room’s central display table holds a beautiful array of seven-folds, each handmade out of English silk. The designs are conservative and elegant, often using small flower or figured patterns not unlike those I found at Marinella. More ties are displayed in heavy wooden trays at the sides of the room, and under them are innumerable drawers holding sample fabrics for bespoke commissions. Prices start around 100 euros, which seemed typical of the high-end neckwear in this city.
To some degree, much of this description sounds like any high-quality classic men’s store in the world, but what really sets Cilento apart is the small studio above the tie shop. Go through the back, up the stairs, disappear through another set of doors and you suddenly feel like time has stopped. Spread through these five or six rooms is a complete private collection of objects from the company’s 232-year history. There are counters and shelves with old shoes and wool fabrics; beautiful early 20th century furniture, paintings, and prints; and original receipts from the family’s previous business in the shipping industry. There are also forgotten artifacts, such as an old trouser press and sample silk swatches for custom ties in the 1930s. In the other rooms, there are vintage women’s scarves, made for Fiat using some of their 1920s advertisement designs. The whole place is a veritable museum of Neapolitan sartorial history, narrated through the original tools, garments, and even cloths of their time. Ugo, the eighth generation Cilento behind the company, tells me they host many parties and social events here. You can watch video of last October’s and November’s events on YouTube.
Before I left, Ugo was kind enough to give me a bottle of the company’s wine. Only 450 bottles are made per year, and they’re usually given to the company’s best clients. I went home that night, had a few glasses, and listened to the street noise as I thought about how satisfying the day was. It’s not every day you get to check out a men’s store as old as America itself.
M. Cilento e F.llo dal 1780
Via Medina 61 A-B
Tel. +39 081 5513363
Email: [email protected]