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Alberto Sordi: A Knight of Grand Cross Posted on 17 Nov 12:53

Alberto Sordi in "I Magliari"

I’ve been hesitating about this guy. I mean, I love him and his movies, but his style is not my style. However, he is here for  a straightforward reason: Sordi represents - like perhaps nobody else - the average Italian, or the “Mario Rossi”, if you will (Average Joe). To be even more precise, Sordi is the quintessential Modern Roman Gentleman.

For those of you who have never heard of him: Sordi is regarded in Italy, and especially among Romans, as some sort of popular hero. His movies have entered the collective imagination of modern Italian culture and many of his famous quotes are an integral part of idiomatic Italiano. Italian comedian and director Carlo Verdone, with whom Sordi was very close, once stated during an interview that his mentor was some sort of “Radical Catholic”. He was probably hinting at the fact that Sordi was a true believer, but nevertheless, no exactly what you call your average Catholic. To give you an idea of his personality, here’s a famous quote. Sordi was once asked why he wasn’t married and he answered: “Me, Married? Do you really expect me to put a stranger in my home?” 

Alberto Sordi was not just an extremely prolific actor (200 movies circa), but also an accomplished director and, most importantly, he was made a “Knight of Grand Cross” of the Italian Republic and that’s an incredible accomplishment. He also received many official recognitions for his work - for example, seven “David di Donatello” film award, among others. But some say that the most important achievement of his career was the unconditional love of his fellow Roman citizens. When he passed away following a heart attack back in 2003, a crowd of almost a million people gathered at the Basilica of St. John Lateran to say goodbye. Some claim that when Pope John Paul the Second gave up his ghost two years later, the piazza wasn’t as crowded.

However, we are here to discuss Sordi’s style. And the only reason why I spent a few extra-words for his bio is because I miss him. I feel sorry for all the people that will never be able to enjoy one of his movies, because they can’t really understand Italian. But, as I said, Sordi style is not exactly my cup of tea. There was too much London in his outfits. One may think that  one can never be too British when it comes to dressing well, but I would object. You see? If you were born and raised in Italy, then you must act and dress like an Italian, it isn’t a question of choice: it’s imperative. National identity being crucial for personal development and cultural identity. An healthy fascination with foreign cultures is auspicabile in a gentleman (especially with Anglo-Saxon culture), but excess is never a good thing. “In medio stat virtus”, the ancient Romans used to say: virtue is to be found in the balance between too much and too little of anything. 

This is the reason why I picked this outfit for Sordi: it is simple, classical, well put-together, timeless. Camel jackets are perfect in wintertime, they are somewhat hydro-repellant and they can easily keep moisture and cold winds at bay. Style must be functional, remember? Add a camel jacket to your wardrobe and you will always have something to wear in wintertime. Some modern Men’s Style websites and self-proclaimed style gurus would want you to pair a light-brown camel jacket with black pants. Don’t do that! Black and brown NEVER go well together. Go for Navy blue, instead. The muted color of the jacket would still pop-out, but you’ll be safe from the sarcastic remarks of the usual connoisseur that always lurks around the corner when you decide to go for the “personal” style approach, and that would be me: God forgives, John Cravatta doesn't. Remember, you aren’t a trend-setter, the Duke of Windsor or even Gianni Agnelli: play safe. 

Notice how, Sordi being a Roman, he effortlessly understands the brown-with-blue rule: his madder tie is also simple and works perfectly with the ensemble. Also, notice how well he tied his necktie. That’s an half-Windsor know, correct: Sordi loved Windsors and half-Windsors, that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t like his style. The “fighetta” (little pussy), is there and it is perfect. Huh, pardon: that would be the dimple. Romans sometimes can be quite rude. There’s another thing or two to point out about the necktie and about how Sordi understands style quite effortlessly: that’s an English-spread collar you see on that shirt, which means that the choice of an half-Windsor knot is quite appropriate indeed: bravo, Alberto!

The other thing being: the slope! The necktie doesn’t look like a dying roadkill on the chest, but it’s lively instead. Consider also geometry: look at how the cuts of the collar form a continuum with the lapels on the jacket and go well with the knot as well. On this point, come to think about it: here’s the problem with the ensemble: the necktie is too thin for those lapels. However, the color of the shirt is appropriate (notice there are cufflinks, instead of buttons) and the choice of the wristwatch too. So, we’ll forgive Alberto this minor mistake.


De Sica, the Humble Gentleman Posted on 18 Oct 12:47

Vittorio De Sica

Vittorio de Sica is one of the greatest Italian actors of all times, as well as of the most influential figures in neorealism, there is no arguing about that… “Bicycle Thieves”, anyone? De Sica is the perfect example of how you can become a gentleman, even if there isn’t a single drop of blue blood in your veins. De Sica’s humble origins might have been an obstacle, but this obstacle did not prevent him to become one of the greatest dressers in Italy.

Now, take a very close look at this ensemble: This picture was taken on the set of “L’Oro di Napoli” (The Gold of Naples) and it was in black&white before I personally colorised it. I LOVE the way it looks now. I’ve used a very dark shade of blue for that fantastic, slack, nails-head wool jacket with peaked lapels, and then I went for dark burgundy for the madder necktie, and light-brown for the vest. Moreover, I coloured the horizontal candy stripes of that sublime white shirt with contrasting white club collar. I left the pocket handkerchief in dark grey and white, because I didn’t want to add more colours. Also, I think it looks great with the ensemble.

I would like you to notice three things here: first the small four-in-hand knot, which is quite appropriate given this collar. Second, the arch of the tie: thumbs up to good-old De Sica for that. Third, the way in which the pocket handkerchief has been placed inside the pocket. What can you say about it? It’s just random and that’s how it should be. I see way too many types of folds in nowadays pictures. But the handkerchief is functional, it’s there because it serves a purpose, therefore it shouldn’t be used as a “peacocking” element. What else can you say about the ensemble? There’s a lot going on, right? Careful: if you’re a beginner, you just can’t pull this outfit off: you would look uncomfortable. It works on De Sica, because he’s a great actor and he’s used to dress like that.

But, you see? The micro nailshead pattern on the jacket works well with the checkers on the handkerchief because the difference in size. The same can be said about the figures on the necktie: they work well with both the candy stripes on the shirt and the checkers on the handkerchief for the same reason. More in general, the dark blue colour of the jacket and the other muted colours are a perfect match for the De Sica’s silver hair and his Caucasian skin tone. Finally, notice how the rounded collar of the shirt, worn without a pin, works wonderfully with both the ensemble and the peaked lapels and how it suits De Sica’s square face (it wouldn’t have looked equally as good on a round faced man). Anything else you notice?


Vittorio Gassman, the "Perfetto" Gentleman Posted on 06 Oct 13:18

vittorio gassman gentleman

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?