Peacocking at the Super Bowl of menswear.
In the heart of Florence, Italy stands the Fortezza da Basso, the Fortress of St. John the Baptist—a 16th Century military complex that, for the past four or so decades, has played host to the luminaries of menswear during the bi-annual convocation known as Pitti Uomo.
Every January and June, peacocks of diverse plumage converge upon the Fortezza’s vast plazas for a trade show where the highest-end manufacturers and retailers engage in commerce, and set the trends for the coming year. But that has nearly become Pitti’s secondary purpose. The primary industry dominating the scene as of late is social media, and I’m admittedly one of its most rabid consumers.
I look forward to Pitti in the same way that sports fans look forward to the Super Bowl. While it’s an event I’ll probably never attend in person, I’m fixated on the players with whom I might remotely identify, though—in reality, are in a far different league.
For one, most are wearing shoes that cost roughly the same as my entire collection of sports coats. For another, I’m five-foot-six and afflicted with what some would call a terminal case of “dad bod.” When I put on a white suit (a staple of the Spring/Summer Pitt gatherings), people are less likely to see David Bowie from the “Let’s Dance” days than they are David Byrne from the “Stop Making Sense” days.
So, why the fascination with an event I can’t afford to attend, for clothes I’ll never be able to wear? For me, the answer is inspiration.
At the core of Pitti is the concept of sprezzatura—studied nonchalance. It’s that bit of incongruence in appearance that’s just enough to make a distinct impression, without moving full-bore into parody or clownishness. Think Frank Sinatra and his trademark orange pocket square, not Regis Philbin and his garish monochrome shirt and tie ensembles from the early 2000’s. Pitti has sprezzatura in spades, and it inspires me to think about how I can take my own appearance to the next level.
I work in a business casual environment and carry a similar discipline over to my leisure-time wear. And while my personal and professional wardrobe can easily be classified as “basic,” I don’t allow myself to be confined to a strict regimen of blazer-oxford-khakis. I’ll go for a punch of color to liven things up, but only with one garment at a time. At my daughter’s bat mitzvah, for example, I wore a traditional navy pinstripe suit accented with a pair of screaming hot pink socks. In the winter months I may rock a sober, charcoal grey v-neck sweater and conservative white button down at the office, but they’re paired with a bright yellow pair of cords.
I’m at peace with the fact that I’ll likely never quaff a cappuccino while leaning against the Fortezza’s pebble-studded half-walls, as I present the perfect photo-op for a street style photographer. And I’m okay with the thought that I’ll never have my picture snapped with menswear’s iconic elder statesman Lino Ieluzzi, as he flashes his trademark thumbs-up with one hand and holds his omnipresent cigarette with the other. I’m comfortable participating in Pitti via the portals of my phone, tablet and computer, and I’ll use what I see to inspire a dash of literal—and figurative, color to my perfectly basic yet well-received personal style right here at home. That’s my sprezzatura.