O’mast: Pride and Passion.

I chose to write this post in Italian first and then translate it into English since most readers here on tumblr are not Italian you can just scroll down to the English translation. It is only right to honor a beautiful documentary about Naples and some of the great Neapolitan tailors in a language that is closer to their own than English (although Neapolitan dialect can often sound to other Italians like a foreign language). It is often said in Italy that “siamo tutti un po’ napoletani” (we are all a bit Neapolitan) and in fact there is so much of that saying that comes out in the film. I recommend that you purchase the DVD from The Armoury as soon as they start distributing it in the next week or so.

 

O’mast: Orgoglio e Passione.

O’mast è un film che parla sopratutto di orgoglio e di passione. L’artigiano che ad un tempo era considerato uno di tanti lavoranti o commercianti che offrivano merce fatte con le loro mani, oggi è venerato come artista. Anche se Gianluca Migliarotti, il regista, nella chiacchierata in sala dopo la proiezione dell’anteprima Americana del suo film-documentario su l’alta sartoria napoletane dichiara che il suo non è un requiem, purtroppo un pizzico di malinconia si sente a fine filmato. Non è colpa certo di Gianluca che rende un bellissimo omaggio non solo a dei personaggi importanti della sartoria partenopea, ma a Napoli città bella è solare al di là di tutti i suoi problemi di cui si legge spesso nella cronaca. Si sente sfuggire dalle mani del tempo un qualcosa d’importante, la cultura (mondiale) del fatto a mano, del mestiere dove si deve saper usare tanto la testa come le mani per creare pezzi unici quanto pratici e belli. C’è chi fra i presenti alla Casa Italiana della NYU si lamenta che questi sarti non sono nell’orbita dei comuni mortali che non possono permettersi un abito da svariate migliaia di Euro. Eppure c’era una volta quando ogni quartiere di sarti, calzolai, arrotini, fornai, macellai e altri ne aveva a bizzeffe. Allora c’è n’erano per tutti i gusti e per tutti i portafogli. C’è pure da ricordare che ci sono persone che spendono svariati migliaia di Euro sul prêt-a-porter quando potrebbe benissimo farsi fare un abito come si deve da un sarto acclamato.

Mi guardavo torno torno nella sala e vedevo giovani tra cui alcuni dei blogger più gettonati del momento nella sfera #menswear. Mi chiedo però se basta un piccolo gruppo di appassionati a risuscitare il sarto e la sartoria? Non ti parlo dei lavasecco di quartiere che per arrotondare si mettono a farti l’orlo del pantalone, ma del vero sarto che ti fa un paio di pantaloni o una camicia su misura ad un prezzo ragionevole (non dico certo a prezzi stracciati). Il problema come dicono in O’mast è il fatto che c’è molta ignoranza di cosa vuol dire farsi un vestito su misura e credo che molto di questo sia il concetto che il sarto (qualunque sarto) sia molto costoso e poi che ci vuole troppo tempo. Ma il tempo ci vuole qualunque volta uno abbia il desiderio di costruire qualcosa di qualità che durerà per sempre. Sono il primo ad ammettere che con due figli non ho tempo per farmi fare un vestito su misura, ma allo stesso tempo la giacca o il pantalone lo faccio modificare se non trovo una taglia esatta. Lo so che non è la stessa cosa, ma è un esercizio nel cercare di indossare cose che mi stanno meglio piuttosto che peggio.

O’mast è un bellissimo film anche se ci presenta con un vero miraggio che forse non faremo in tempo a raggiungere prima che sparisca per sempre. Insieme alla malinconia però mi sono portato a casa l’ottimismo di una sala piena di evangelisti che si spera spargano la voce su questo film che documenta una specie in via d’estinzione che ha bisogno del nostro aiuto per sopravvivere e chi sa se un giorno non si torni tutti a trovarsi tanti artigiani sotto casa con prezzi alti e bassi e qualità diverse ma sempre con prodotti fatti a mano con orgoglio e passione.

 

O’mast: Pride and Passion.

O’mast is about pride and passion. The artisan who once was considered one of many workers or merchants who offered their handmade ware today is revered as an artist. Although in the post-screening chat Gianluca Migliarotti, the film’s Director, was adamant that his was not a requiem, a touch of melancholy is certainly palpable at the end. It is not certainly Gianluca’s fault whose beautiful homage not only to some of the most important Partenopean master tailors (“O’mast” in Neapolitan dialect), but also to Naples a beautiful city with a sunny disposition despite everything that you may read about it in the press. There is a sense that something important is slipping through the hands of time, the culture (globally) of making things by hand, the craft for which you must use your head as much as your hands to create unique pieces that are practical and beautiful. There were some present at NYU’s Casa Italiana who lamented the fact that these master tailors are not accessible to common mortals who cannot afford a suit that costs several thousand Euro. And yet once upon a time each neighborhood had multiple tailors, shoemakers, blade sharpeners, bakers, butchers and others. There was something for every taste and for every budget. One must not forget that these days there are people willing to spend thousands of Euros on prêt-a-porter when they could just as easily have a suit custom made by an excellent tailor.

As I looked around the auditorium last night I saw many young faces some where bloggers that are currently riding quite a wave of popularity in the #menswear sphere. I wonder, though, if a small but passionate group is enough to resuscitate the tailor and the concept of “la sartoria”? I am not talking about the neighborhood dry cleaners that can hem your pants, but an actual tailor who can make you a pair of pants or a shirt from scratch at a reasonable price (but not necessarily a bargain). The problem as is mentioned in O’mast is the fact that there is a great deal of ignorance about what it means to have a custom suit made and much of this comes from the misconception that tailors in general are all expensive and that the process is too drawn out for the tastes of a society that wants everything now. Time, though, is exactly what is needed anytime you want something of quality built that will last a lifetime. I am the first to admit that with two kids I have neither the time nor the patience to wait through multiple fittings for a suit to be made, but I do still take the time to have necessary alterations made to a suit or pants if I do not find a perfect fit. I know it is not the same thing, but it is an exercise in trying to wear things that fit better rather than worse.

O’mast is a beautiful film even if it presents us with a veritable mirage that we may never reach in time before it disappears forever. The melancholy was mitigated by the optimism of an auditorium packed with evangelists who I hope will spread the word about this film that documents an endangered species that needs our help to survive. Who knows one day we may find, as it was years ago, a plethora of artisans around the corner with prices from high to low and differing qualities, but always with products made by hand with pride and passion.

 

O’MAST from Kid Dandy on Vimeo.


Sprezzatura, Wabi-sabi and the future of men’s style in Italy

I wanted to add my two cents to Guido Wongolini’s recent comment about sprezzatura vs. wabi-sabi.

The reason sprezzatura does not resonate with me either (and frankly I do not understand the States-side obsession with it among “menswear” enthusiasts) is the lack of natural poise that it implies (think of the duck on a pond analogy). Working hard to make something look effortless is not an Italian way of life, either. Actually it is a well-known fact that Italians work hard not to work at all.

Italians have for centuries dressed elegantly as part of their DNA. They can do so effortlessly and look like they have done so effortlessly because of their incredible “sartorie”. Where they do put their efforts is in creating simple lines, well made fabrics, natural shoulders, proper fit, hand sewn details and quality craftsmanship that has been handed down through the generations.

This cultural norm (dressing well effortlessly) in Italy is under constant threat these days. There are the so-called Italian fashion houses that have moved even their “black label” production abroad in the pursuit of larger profit margins at the expense of quality or worse they produce garments using Chinese run sweatshops on Italian soil and cheap imported fabrics in order to skirt Italian “Made in Italy” label laws (as is the case in Prato – once the pride of the Tuscan textile industry). Then there is the latest imported American mass-fashion such as Abercrombie & Fitch for whose crap Italians line up around the block here in NYC. And lastly the horrific style worn by the “coatti”, “tamarri”, “truzzi”, “zarri” and “cafoni” (think Jersey Shore, but they actually live in Italy) with huge Carrera glasses (often knock-offs), gel, huge D&G black and gold watch, shiny puffer vest jackets worn over gaudy t-shirts and lots of gold around their necks and pinned to their ears. Good grief.

If anything, as wabi-sabi implies, most Italian men (the ex-Prime Minister aside) age gracefully and handsomely while accepting the transience of life and the beauty of aging. This sadly holds true only for the older generations that have included icons such as l’Avvocato and Marcello Mastroianni as well as the latest generation to age gracefully such as Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and Diego Della Valle. I see someone like Lapo Elkann who is certainly a genius at branding himself and FIAT, but from whom I cannot truly draw any sartorial inspiration with the exception of the times he wears his late grandfather’s wardrobe.

Premised all of the above there is no doubt that Italian men can still pull off elegance and style like few in the world. Will Italy maintain its sartorial edge and position in the global pantheon of great tailoring traditions? Time will tell.


No Country For Old Guys (Like Me).

As some of you may know, I have been much more active on my tumblr recently as I struggle to keep awake and work and blog while surviving the birth of my second son. The sleep deprivation is well known to those of you who are parents, especially of newborns. I enjoy tumblr because, much like Twitter, it allows you to glimpse at content quickly and it is perfect for the current “younger” generations that are beyond ADD and parents like myself that have minutes, if not seconds, to mindlessly enjoy a distraction such as the Internet before inevitably having to focus on preventing a toddler from burning down the house (I also get extra points for typing this post with one hand).

I have for the most part stuck to tumblr’s about men’s style since that is the content I like to discuss here and on The Dapper Dad tumblr. Understand that tumblr is really not meant for a thirty-something, married with children guy like myself (or The Daddy Complex, who I believe is the only other Dad with the guts to try out tumblr), so it is an anthropological exercise for me to see what is on the mind of the free spirited and care free twenty-something’s. Most of the popular tumblr’s are single guys in their twenty’s who fit in skinny jeans and suits that I could never fit into because my body is not a temple, but rather a pantry.

On tumblr you can ask the bloggers questions and for the most part these very stylish chaps actually know their sartorial stuff despite being young ‘uns. They are a bit too obsessed with “sprezzatura”, Park & Bonds, Nickelson Wooster, Boglioli, double monks and as of late Michael Bastian, but their passion is praiseworthy especially as I see more and more young men dress horrifically on their way to work and even worse on weekends (lucky baseball cap from college, fleece, khakis and sockless loafers – good grief). I do hope that these tumblr “menswear” crusaders prevail on their peers to dress in a way becoming of a man no matter what the occasion. There is no “art” to dressing like a man, but only the tinniest bit of effort put forth to have on hand clothes that you can grab and throw on without looking like a train wreck and that actually fit you properly.

Even as I struggle each morning to survive a toddler (i.e. PB&J) and a newborn (i.e. spit up), I can still manage a shirt, pants and shoes that are not sneakers or Crocs on my way out. One way to see if you are dressed appropriately is to say to yourself: “Would I have dressed like this in High School or College?” and if the answer is yes then go back inside and change. You may not be Gianni Agnelli or Marcello Mastrioanni, but simple and clean will go a long way in making you feel and look great.

Since most of you are in my situation and have already sewn your wild oats and settled down to a family life, I wanted to share my three favorite style tumblr’s with you. I think you will find the first very informative, the second inspirational (and probably aspirational to many) and the third just makes me laugh when my I am having a crappy day.

Put This On (@PutThisOn)

Curated by Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor out of Los Angeles, Put This On is (outside of the various men’s style forums) one of the most informative sites for men to find advice and information regarding men’s clothing and style from A to Z. They know their brands, their bespoke, their fit, their maintenance and cleaning, their eBay, their fabrics and much more. They are also one of the few places where you do not have to be a slim and trim college kid to ask about what might fit best for your body type. They also have a great web video series that will soon enter its second season and talks about different aspects of menswear such as the history of specific garments (e.g., denim) or how real leather shoes are made (e.g, all leather insole). There is no glamour or glitz to this site and that is what makes it special. They are down to earth and realistic. This is dressing well for real men. It is a great place to start even if you just want to up the ante a bit on your next business trip or date night with your wife.

 

MostExerent Brog (@GuidoWongolini)

A.k.a. Guido Wongolini who’s real name shares the same initials, but here he has playfully turned Italian which is one of his favorite sartorial schools. GW has quite a wardrobe. Carefully built using mainly bespoke tailors, his “guardaroba” fits him perfectly and is quite stunning. His almost daily self-portraits are a look book in and of themselves and yet he is not in the fashion industry. With his equally stylish sister (http://stoneleighgallery.tumblr.com/) often snapping pictures of various suit or pocket square details, his blog offers a look at how ideally (and with quite a bit of liquidity) you should dress on a daily basis and for various occasions. This is one of the most fun tumblrs I have come across because it reminds me of the days I used to travel frequently for work in Europe from my home base of Rome, Italy. Those days are long gone, but GW who jet sets for work throughout the Asia Pacific region of the world with a home base of Sydney, Australia allows me to reminisce. I don’t think I could live that that life now (travelling for work these days is, in fact, not as fun), I lived it to the fullest and enjoyed it at the right time in my life. I am not big on reality shows, but this is one that I enjoy checking in on from time to time.

 

Nice Try, Bro (@NTBro)

I would have to guess that he is one of the young whippersnappers that I mentioned earlier, but NTB is just too funny. He spares no one and pokes fun at anyone who crosses the line in the fashion world. Answering questions and doling out some good advice along the way (he actually knows his stuff – sartorially speaking), he can be self-deprecating and quite amusing with his comments. It’s refreshing to see him call out some of the silliness that is out there. Equally amusing is how offended some people get by his snark, proving that they take themselves way too seriously. This is someone I would have (and probably still today, if I had the time) enjoyed hanging out with back in the days of carefree bachelorhood and pre-parenthood. At the end of a long day when all sorts of crap has piled up, I do enjoy popping in on his tumblr for a laugh or two.

 

There is so much great content on men’s style out on the Internet and these are a few of the guys that when I get a few minutes of silence I gladly check to see what they have been up to. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think. Maybe you’ll find a nugget of info or maybe you’ll get in a good laugh. Either way I am sure they can give you a bit of reprieve from the daily grind of kids, work and whatever else is on your mind.

 


Piero Lissoni’s Alessi Tic watch almost 10 years later

In 2008, Piero Lissoni gave an interview in which he talks about his philosophy on the office, architects and the work his firm has done around the world. Lissoni is known for his simple and minimalist designs. What is impressive about Lissoni is that he overseas projects in their entirety (conceptualization, art direction, design, production etc.) and clearly loves his “job.” For a while now I have been fawning over one of his many design collaborations. The Alessi Tic chrono watch. I find it stunning even after almost 10 years since it was produced. Linear, simple, futuristic, yet retro, the watch is well built and feels solid on my wrist. There is really not much more to say about it and if you are into the technical details of the movement you can visit the Alessi site for more info. One less item on my wish list.


Never forgotten.


Religion and Style

I just found a gob of jam stuck to the bottom of the dining room chair when I went to move it. The sensation was similar to finding gum stuck to the desk chair in High School. This, for those of you who may not know it yet, is life with kids. It used to bother me, greatly, but as any living being must you adapt to survive. Once all the crumbs, spills, stickiness and more is vacuumed, swept up and wiped I take my shower and shave. This is a purification ritual that I must perform each morning in order to start the rest of my day as an adult who aside from the world of parenthood, must also function within society at large, the one that has no idea what it means to have kids and quite rightly couldn’t care less.

I head straight for my closet and make a point of dressing like an adult regardless of whether it is work or a day out with my son that awaits me. Dressing like an adult means that I could walk into a church or temple or other sanctuary and feel that I am dressed appropriately (unless of course I am at or near the beach or working out). I choose religion to make my point, not because I am a man of religion, but because religion (supposedly) represents a certain etiquette and decorum that first and foremost is meant to lead believers to respect themselves in order to be respectful of others.

If there is anything I can still control in my life these days, it’s my wardrobe. My wife is an incredibly stylish Italian woman and certainly very opinionated when it comes to what I wear, as any respectable Italian wife should, but I need to feel comfortable first and foremost in my own “skin”. False modesty aside, I think I do pretty well on my own. I stand taller and walk taller when I feel well dressed this goes for work cloth as well as casual clothes.

Whatever your style, just make sure it’s tidy. Kids, although certainly a major hurdle, are no excuse to looking shabby. That is really what being dapper is all about. Also, never confuse style with snobbery and never ever equate fashion to style. Style is about you and not about what others want you to be – dad’s should understand and appreciate this more than anyone else.


J.J. Hat Center – A shop experience of a bygone era.

It is no secret that I love hats. Unfortunately, they don’t always love me back, but that is another story. They are just as practical as they are an accessory that adds immensely to your personal style. The problem is that no one sells hats anymore these days. Sure there are plenty of street vendors cashing in on the latest straw fedora craze, but like glow lights at the circus those are meant to last until you reach the corner of the next block. You can also find some in stores that are stocking them because fedoras and driving caps are “in” again, but try asking one of the kids on the floor if they can help you find your size or a specific brand and they just stare back (“I just work here…”).

That’s why I pray everyday that shops like J.J. Hat Center will never disappear because it would mean that hats, as they were meant to be, are extinct. These gentlemen know their hats and can tell your size just by glancing at you. They are welcoming and extremely helpful. It is one of those places you wouldn’t mind hanging out in to shoot the breeze with the guys – just like an old school barber’s shop. The stories and the anecdotes keep you smiling as they grab hats seemingly at random for you to try, but all of them fitting you well and making you look and feel great. I walked out yesterday with this super-lightweight linen driving cap by Doria (Borsalino’s casual line). The color works with anything you have on and keeps the sun off without overheating your noggin.

If you are every near the Empire State Building in New York walk a couple of blocks south on Fifth Avenue and you will see a large yellow Borsalino sign nestled between tchotchke dealers and fast food joints. Open the door and step into a shop experience of a bygone era when the staff was courteous, friendly, helpful and actually knew what the heck they were talking about.