Tag Archives: Guido Wongolini

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.

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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.