Somewhere in between. Remember our Roman motto? In medio stat virtus. The first chapter of the book which deals with the concept of “causal”, or sportswear – if you wish – represents some sort of a rite of passage. This makes sense because the more you venture into the windy road of casual style, the harder it is to establish borders, the fewer rules you will encounter. Let me introduce you to the fantasy world of casual style.
I’ve spent the last chapters on formal style dispensing rules and commandments. Now I’m telling you: forget everything I said. Casual is casual is causal. It means that you don’t have to carefully match colors and textures and calibrate outfits to events and venues. The key word is “relax”. When you dress casual, supposedly, you are not working and – even if you are – your job is probably some sort of creative job.
You might be tempted to ask: “Am I supposed to just grab what comes out of my closet and put it on?” I’d say yes, in a certain sense. Like the skilled guitarist picks the strings on the right spot of the fretboard at the right time, with the proper intensity, gusto and intention, and it always looks as if he is able to play effortlessly, you should be able to pick and choose each and every single item of your outfit with the same ease. Although, one might be fooled into thinking that the guitarist is merely exhibiting talent, while in reality the exciting music your ear is the result of years and years of boredom and exercises. Much in the same way, the experienced dresser can actually pull out the perfect item from the wardrobe only because he has carefully trained his eyes and his mind to mix and match colors and texture for years and years.
Just to give you an idea: I bumped into one of the thousands upon thousands of articles written by a self-proclaimed style guru on one of the most important Italian newspapers the other day, and the title caught my attention because it had to do with neckties. It was entitled “Knots, length, color: the rules of the necktie”. I started reading and soon realized that I was faced with another one of the many “10 style tips” articles that are coming out these days. The article was superficial, but at least correct. The only problem I had with the piece was the excerpt and the conclusion. The major piece of advice went something like this: “the most important thing to remember when it comes to choosing your necktie is, let your feeling of the moment and your intuition be the leading factor in your decision”. I couldn’t disagree more, in fact, I have even commented the article with something that went, more or less, like this: “if you know nothing about colours, textures, bon ton and dress codes and you follow your intuition, it will most probably lead you to wear the wrong necktie in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The path to hell of style is paved with good intentions.” This being a communist, Godless country, they didn’t publish the comment, of course.
Now, when it comes to casual style: you understand what I mean when I say that, in a certain way, you can actually grab whatever comes out of the closet, provided you know what you are doing? It makes sense, doesn’t it?
The combo you see in here is composed of an off-the-rack Tombolini, two-buttons sporty jacket made in wool with notch lapels and flap pockets, the color of Gunmetal Grey, which was tailored to fit my measure by my Tailor/friend Marian Vitel, a pair of wonderful five pockets in cotton, the color of Cocoa Brown, finished with a windowpane pattern by Teleria Zed, a pair of Guess sneakers in charcoal grey, a dark grey driving cap by OVS, a white button-down cotton shirt by MOSCA ’54, an ascot tie made in silk in Nantor green with a pink&blue paisley pattern by the Tie Shop Rome (don’t bother searching for it, it’s a limited edition) as well as an off-white satin silk pocket square, also by the Tie Shop Rome. Looking closely, the earnest among you, might even notice I’m wearing a vintage Rolex Oyster (datejust).
The most important thing that must be said about this outfit is: it isn’t properly formal, and it isn’t properly casual. I’d say, however: it’s more casual than formal, for sure. Maybe we could call it “formual?” To put it in terms of wearability, I don’t think it’s formal enough for a Friday at the office, but it would be perfect for the nine o’clock cocktail party, the same day.
This is your first step in the fantasy world of sportswear, ladies & gentlemen, in medio stat. formual…
ALSO ON "A GENTLEMAN IN ROME"
As you probably know already, a blazer is different from a jacket because of its original purpose: these were common items in the wardrobes of Captains during the good-old fashioned age of navy battles, when men used to be the breadwinners, wear pants and never moan about circumstances (or days of the week), and the women used to be amazing, wonderful, sensitive creatures with long skirts.
I like American graveyards. Actually, I like American everything. Whatever.
Anyways, I do not suggest you should attend a funeral dressed like this, or even a wedding. Rule of thumb for this kind of events is: discretion. You don’t want to be the best-dressed man of the event. I tried hard to be discrete, the other day, at my best friend’s funeral… ehm… wedding. But I didn’t succeed. You see? At some point a group of rather interesting youngsters (the friends of my best friend’s brother) invited me at their table and told me that, in their opinion, I was by far the best dressed man at the wedding.
I replied: “I take it as a compliment”, but that was a little white lie. God forgive me. Inside me, I knew I had failed. No seriously: you need to be discrete sometimes. Today’s outfit is an archive image because I got fat at the wedding. Doh!
I call this outfit, “The Mad-Hatter”: the fun-check linen jacket with notch lapels and patch pockets is from @spadaroma - main color? Resolution-blue. The straw fedora hat in dark-polo blue is also from Spada, one of my favorite clothing stores in Rome. They have great non-expensive stuff. But I got this pair of types of denims in periwinkle blue by @rehashjeansmaker from @m_o_s_c_a . I love them. They don’t fit me now, but they will fit me again eventually… The Carmine Red seven-folds silk necktie is from @tieshoprome, as well as the tiebar and the white pocket square. I’m also wearing my favorite shoes, a pair of oxfords in brown pod, from Wilton of London. Speaking of which: they are more comfortable than sneakers!
That’s a vintage Philip Watch at my wrist, russet-brown strap. And I’m also wearing a leather belt in dark Brown from the Tie Shop Rome. Thanks to my friend @marian_vitel for the tailoring. Actually, I take that back: it’s his job, why should I thank him?
What can you say about this outfit?
A “perfetto” gentleman, as well as a Knight of Grand Cross, the late Vittorio Gassman was one of the greatest Italian actors of all times. The son of a German engineer and of a Jewish woman from Pisa, he was born in Genoa, in 1922.
Apart from other important prizes and recognitions, he also received the Order of Merit from the Italian Republic. Most importantly, though, Gassman was blessed by God with both beauty and talent. Italians will always remember him for his role in “L’Armata Brancaleone” (“For Love and Gold”), one of the best movies of all times. The colorized picture you see here is probably seventy years old, but, as we all know, style is timeless. This magnificent tweed jacket in forest green, with notch lapels, is finished with a houndstooth pattern, quintessentially British in its nature. It goes extremely well with that white cotton shirt: it’s a great combination of textures and colors. The polka-dots on the black necktie are a shade of light mauve. The outfit works because the dots are considerably bigger than the houndstooth patterns of the jacket. Now: obviously we can’t see the pants, but how about a pair of dockers in cachi? And for the shoes, I’d go for a nice pair of chocolate brown suede brogues.
The combo would be great for an evening cocktail party in front of a crackling fireplace, surrounded by interesting people, jazz music, good stories, Scotch whisky and Cuban cigars. Thoughts?
This distinguished French gentleman’s name is Henri Le Blanc. A long time ago, way before the advent of the personal computer and the GAMEBOY, he wrote a fascinating book entitled “The Art of Tying the Cravat,” which you can now download for free.
This book has been written in 1828, but don’t think for a second that it is passé. To the contrary, Le Blanc’s sense of style and elegance could easily rival the one of nowadays’ most renown self-appointed “fashion experts”.
Take a look at this description regarding the “cravat sentimentale”, for example.
“The name alone of this cravat is sufficient to explain that it is not alike suitable to all faces. You then, whose nature has not gifted with skins of silk – eyes of fire – with complexions rivalling the rose and lily: – you to whom she has denied perly teeth and coral lips (a gift which in our opinion would be rather inconvenient) – you, in fact, whose faces does not possess that sympathetic charm, which in a moment, at a glance, spreads confusion o’er the senses, and disorder and troubles in the hearts of all who behold you – be careful of how you expose to public gaze a head like that of a peruquier. We repeat – avoid it; and be assured that if your physiognomy does not does not inspire sensations of love and passion and you should adopt the cravat sentimentale, you will be a fair butt for the shafts of ridicule which (with no unsparing hand) will be showed upon you on all sides”.
How magnificently politically incorrect, I say! Despicable me! Chapeau. À propos, today isn’t the first Wednesday of the month, but let me say something serious anyway: when I’ll become King of the World, all the men that wear shorts&sandals away from the beach will be lapidated and then fed to the lions for good measure. God forgives, John Cravatta doesn’t. And this admirable marvel of a man who was Henri Le Blanc, reminds us that style is about rules to follow. There are people out there who don’t like to follow rules and consequently dislike fashion. But you see? You really have to be careful when you go about your business, because there’s plenty of people out there, in the world. People can be harsh at times and they will judge you. It isn’t called the urban jungle for no reason, after all. We would all love to live in a perfect world, a world in which nobody will judge books by their covers and people from their dresses. But, like Bob Dylan would put it: that ain’t the case, babe! The world is what it is: it isn’t bad or good, it is only what it is. And you have to take it for granted, like it or not. Moreover, consider that the world will become worse indeed. When I come to power I will make sure that everybody reads Le Blanc’s book from cover to cover at least once a week. It will be like the madrassa of style. Nobody will be allowed to wear the wrong thing at the wrong time and in the wrong place, under penalty of death. I’m considering lapidation, or perhaps decapitation, but I haven’t decided yet. Decapitation sounds interesting, but I’ll have common’s people blood all over my pavement…
You might think this is a bit harsh, but that’s only because you have unfortunately allowed modern thinking to take over reasoning. But seriously, it really doesn’t take much to dress like a man and if you don’t do it people will take you for a kid. I’m not kidding you. You must be aware of the fact that your clothes should be of the right size, the right material, according to the season, the appropriate colors and they should be well ironed and not stained. Furthermore, the accessories you wear must be adequate not only to the occasion, but also to your clothes: watches, belts, hats, you name it. It is not about fashion, really: it’s about not being sloppy.
Pardon me, if I feel like Henri Le Blanc: you then, whose nature has not gifted with reason , you to whom she has denied wisdom and critical thought (a gift which in our opinion would be rather inconvenient) – you, in fact, whose faces does not possess that sympathetic charm, which in a moment, at a glance, spreads confusion o’er the senses, and disorder and troubles in the hearts of all who behold you – be careful of how you expose to public gaze. I might be there watching you. Remember: God’ forgives, John Cravatta doesn’t.