Sartorialists usually think rules ought to be either followed or broken, depending on one’s rebellious inclinations. The in-betweens are sometimes referred to as ‘a twist’, which still implies the bending of a fundamental rule.
However, we should only call those instructions that we are compelled to follow for social reasons by the term ‘rules’; these might apply to uniforms, black tie, and other functional outfits that are collectively mandatory–you wouldn’t think of setting foot on a judo mat with a silk paisley belt, would you?
Sartorial tips fall under the umbrella of recommendations rather than rules: they’re mere guidelines to make your life easier. For instance, the Italian background, is arguably the most useful sartorial tip ever, especially if you have a taste for bold-coloured or patterned jackets.
The ingredients are very simple: light blue shirt and navy tie.
Simon Crompton came up with the phrase after noticing the different approach Italians and British men take on the shirt/tie combination:
« The Italian Background: an awkward but persistently useful phrase I coined back in 2008 to describe the tendency of Italians to wear blue shirts and navy ties under strongly coloured suits.Rather than the English alternative – bright shirts and ties under sober suits. » (which he calls ‘the lawyer background’).
If we were to pursue the cultural allusion, it could be likened to another Italian specialty: like pasta, which is made of flour, water and eggs—the quintessential simplicity— the light-blue-shirt-and-navy-tie is the foundation of almost infinite combinations.
This simple bedrock is the rewarding source of falsely conservative and subtly casual outfits, imaginative patterns and colours. It’s simple but it lends itself to many variations: the blue shirt can be textured (dobby, oxford, etc.) or patterned (small checks, narrow white and blue stripes) and the tie can also be subtly textured (grenadine, knitted, shantung) or patterned (as long as it fades into the main colour and the pattern is small). And, of course, the jacket can be any colour or pattern you fancy: it’s guaranteed to work.