If you’re looking to update your look, why not inject a little Italian style into your wardrobe? Check out our guide on how to dress like an Italian.
In the fashion world, if you see or hear the words ‘made in Italy’, you know you’re getting a good deal. Italian fashion prides itself with being high quality and luxuriously stylish. From dressed-down suits to large, classic watches, everything is carefully considered even though it can often look as if an outfit was just thrown together.
Just how do Italian men make their outfits so relaxed, yet fashionably artistic? Or as they would say, sprezzatura?
It’s difficult to point out exactly what makes them so timelessly stylish, but it tends to be a mix of the big and small elements. A fusion of the bigger details such as fabric and colour choices of the suit, and the smaller details such as the trouser and sleeve length.
Of course, you can also argue that the Italian climate has an influence on their fashion. For example, dressed-down linen suits would be ideal for a warmer climate as they’re not as tight or stuffy as say, the formal British wool or tweed counterpart.
However, there’s no reason that the humble British man can’t imitate the same style, especially in the summer months. Whether it’s an informal work gathering or just a meet up with your mates at the pub, there’s a look for all occasions. We’re here to show you how to dress like a true Italian.
Let the Suit Fit You
First thing’s first, we’re going to take a look at the suit. With Italians, blazers are cut to a specific standard. Typically, they're not too close in on the body and are softer on the shoulder too, most of the padding or inner linings usually found in the traditional structured jacket are removed. This gives it its relaxed look and feel.
The main materials used in making Italian suits are cotton and linen (although in the winter months they may be made from mohair or cashmere) as they are lighter making them more suitable for the Italian climate. These suits are likely to look creased and wrinkled which might upset those of you who are after a sharp, neat look, but it’s essential in getting that relaxed comfortable look.
You’re unlikely to wear these styles of suits in a courtroom or in a high-power office job, but if your workplace operates a smart-casual wear policy, it’ll look great.
Get the Correct Trouser Length
What you don’t tend to see Italian wear is trousers that overlap the ankle and the top of the shoes. They have trouser length down to a science and again it’s mostly down to tailoring. The length of the formal trousers tends to stop just above the top of the shoe.
This is called the ‘shivering break’, where the hem meets the shoe vamp without rubbing against each other. The trousers are styled even more thanks to the neat turn ups. This allows the wear to show the full details of his shoes; whether they’re loafers, drivers or double monks, you can see them in all their finery.
Swap your Formal Shirt
The idea of swapping your formal or smart shirt for something more comfortable is so that you can really harness relaxed, borderline off-duty look. You’ll rarely see an Italian man fully suited up and uncomfortable.
Swap your smart shirt for a white or pastel coloured Oxford shirt. The Oxford shirt has a more relaxed feel thanks to its special woven fibres and like the cotton and linen suits, is prone to more creasing and wrinkles. However, it will make an casual impression.
If you want to keep to your formal shirt then alter it to make it look relaxed, open the top buttons and roll up your sleeves a little. It will help your shirt lose its formality. You could be more daring and ditch the shirt altogether. Why not try a simple t-shirt instead? It goes brilliantly well with a blazer or jacket especially during the summer months.
Choose the Right Colours
One thing you might find surprising in the Italian style book, there typically doesn’t seem to be a lot of bold colours. The truly stylish Italians work with a particular palette, usually staying well within the borders of neutral and warm colours.
- Light grey
These often come on top of the list. White trousers are a particular staple in Italian men’s fashion. The palette below will work especially well in the summer, whether you’re at work or in a more casual setting like a trendy pub or bar.
Neutral colours (apart from black), tend to keep you cooler in the summer as they reflect sunlight. If you’re at work, and the dress code is more smart-casual, then go for a neutral-block colour scheme.
Team up a stone blazer with a pair of sand coloured chinos and add a white Oxford shirt. This gives you that cool, calm yet formal look. For more casual occasions, try neatly rolling up the sleeves of your white Oxford shirt – so it sits just above your elbow, and wear a pair of beige or sand trousers. Perhaps add a a grey tie, or if you like, a brown belt for a hint of sophistication to your look.
Walk this Way
Italy is the birth place of the driver shoe and of course the horsebit (or Gucci) loafer among others, so completing your look with some fashionable Italian footwear is a no brainer. It’s a good idea to get acquainted with types of shoes if you haven’t already.
Italy is famous for its cars as we all know, and it was the nations love for the automobile that inspired designer Gianni Mostile to create handmade moccasins specifically for driving - hence the name driving shoes. They were originally made out of soft leather, (of course nowadays they’re made from other materials as well) and featured little rubber pebbles on the sole.
This made it easier for the driver to work the pedals as the traditional Oxfords and Derbies were considered too big and clunky to control them properly.
Since its birth in 1963, driver shoes have become a very popular type of footwear – and not just for people with cars. The original founders, the Car Shoe Company still sell their signature drivers. This type of shoes is ideal for the smart-casual occasion, so team them up (sockless) with a neutral coloured summer suit or a smart short sleeved shirt and chinos.
If you want a more dressier look, then go for a pair of horse-bit - Gucci loafers. This stylish dress loafer was first created in 1953 when Guccio Gucci combined refined style with the company’s saddle-making and equestrian history. The design of the shoe is based on the typical penny loafer, but has a brass strap shaped like a horse’s snaffle on the front. This is an iconic shoe that will go extremely well with formal summer suits.
No outfit is complete without the odd accessory here and there, and the one thing Italians love to wear is a watch. That doesn’t mean to say they put on any old watch around their wrist, far from it. You tend to see lots of Italian men wear a large sports watch, something made by the likes of Rolex.
Their fascination with quality and style makes luxury watches a must, so do invest in one. However, it’s not just the style of watch, but how they wear it that makes a big difference. They prefer to fit the strap perfectly around the part where the hand immediately meets the wrist.
This allows the wearer to always have the watch in view even when they’re wearing a suit. It also stops the watch from moving to the wrong side.
Another big accessory is the sunglasses. OK, you might be slightly hesitant with this one as we do get much less sunshine than Italy. However, a good pair of shades always goes down well, splash out on a designer pair to get that ultra-cool, elegant look.
Embrace your Individuality
It does feel as though Italians see fashion as an art and art is subjective, which is why it’s important for you to find your individual element or quirk. If you browse fashion magazines or images on the web, you’ll see dozens of street-style shots of Italian men in groups in similar clothing, yet each one has done something different. It’s all about finding that one or two quirks that’s right for you.
It’s difficult to suggest any as it’s really down to your individual taste and what you’re comfortable with. You could:
- Hide the cuffs of your sleeves in the blazer.
- Fold the cuffs in a particular way.
- Undo the sleeve buttons of the blazer to reveal more of the cuff or watch.
It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Bend the Rules
Linking to the idea of individuality is the act of bending or even breaking some of the fashion rules. In fact you may be able to find your quirk by doing something normally considered as unusual.
For example, an Italian man might team up a typical blazer or jacket with a plain or slogan t-shirt and add a pair of relaxed work trousers. Some may even decide to only tuck half of their shirt in. You could, as the guy below shows, wear a neutral colour outfit and add a brightly coloured cardigan.
It does sound eccentric, but it’s done for the love of fashion. It works for the guy below because everything is plain and neutral and the only splash of colour is the yellow cardigan. This helps him to stand out and look smart without going overboard.
These suggestions won’t go down well if you’re going to a board meeting or interview, but it would be great to try out on your day off. Just remember, you need to know the fashion rules before you break them. Don’t just mix everything up and hope for the best. Experiment a little and see what works best for you.
So there you have it, an in-depth guide to nailing the Italian style in eight easy ways. The key thing to remember is that there isn’t one straight forward rule to follow. It’s really all about mixing and incorporating the big and small details together while keeping an air of opulence and luxury.
For example, choosing the right kind of fabric and colour of your suit, to arranging your cuffs differently, it all merges to create a unique overall look. Another thing to remember is that maintaining the classic, luxurious style brings out a certain level of self-assurance.
Italian men look and feel confident and it often shows, so having the right attitude helps. The Brits are known to be quite formal and reserved, but feeling relaxed and more confident is another key aspect in nailing the Italian dress code. Think about that when you start experiment with your outfits.