Rebuilding Your Wardrobe: Style Guide to Pitti Uomo 96

The smell of freshly brewed espresso, the chimes of commuter bicycle bells, and the commotion from the Piazza del Duomo outside the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore all characterise mornings in the city of Florence. Founded as a Roman military colony with high walls during the first century BC; Florence became the seat of the Duchy of Tuscany and the capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871. Later, it became a bustling city of tourism for people from all over the world. Steeped in rich history, including achieving pre-eminence in commerce and finance, learning, and especially the arts, this city holds many a secret for the would-be explorer.

Within the city walls live people from all walks of life. Amongst the members of this community, an understated sense of style exists. “Sprezzatura” – this term refers to a sense of casual elegance in doing things; a nonchalance that conceals the considerable effort taken to achieve stylish results.

It is thus quite fitting that since this city is known for its distinct elegance, that it would be selected to host Pitti Uomo . The best description of the themes for Pitti Uomo 96 would be; loud colours, large prints, fancy dress shoes, oversized outfits and deviations from the status quo.

In this summer edition of Pitti Uomo, people dared to push the proverbial envelope into what could possibly be done with fabric. They didn’t limit themselves to suits. Some wore safari jackets, others were in jumpsuits made from a variety of fabrics.

What is Pitti Uomo?

Simply put, it can be described as the “World Cup” or even “The Heart” of menswear. By definition, Pitti Imagine is comprised of a collection of fashion industry events (including Pitti Uomo) held in Italy. Pitti Uomo specifically, encompasses the largest trade shows and platforms for all things relating to menswear clothing and accessory collections, and for launching new projects in men’s fashion.  While “Uomo’’ directly translates to “man”, as I’ve come to understand in the midst of attempting to make Italian my seventh spoken language; it was pleasant to see so many women participating in the trade show dressed in all the regalia afforded by this occasion. Admittedly, there were some women that out-dressed some of the men, in my humble opinion. This was in the form of suits paired with either trousers or skirts ensuring the “Donna” (which means woman) is also recognised at the event.

Italy is very hot around this time of the year, and one needs to dress for the harsh Mediterranean summer. Given my preference for the classical look, I kept to the traditional lounge suit for all the days of the trade fair. This is not to say I was boring, I was able to add energy and flair to my outfits with silk scarves that matched my suits. Because of the temperatures, my suits were unlined, which are much cooler than the lined alternative. Evidently, unlined outfits are the standard for the harsh summer Tuscan conditions. What is an unlined suit, you ask? These consist of jackets that are unstructured in nature which means no shoulder pads or lining for the framing. They are more breathable, as the layering allows improved air circulation, especially on warmer days. The lightweight nature of these jackets makes them more comfortable and less unwieldy. They require very precise tailoring to ensure that the hems and seams look neat and tidy on the inside of the garment.

As with any good suit, one should look at an unlined suit as an investment which, with the right loving care, will provide pleasure for years, decades even. As such, be prepared to pay a premium for a well-tailored unlined suit. A tailor needs to take extra care to ensure that the inside of each seam and hem looks as neat and tidy as the outside, making them even more difficult to construct. They are also at risk of losing structure quicker due to the absence of lining for support, which means careful pressing when you’re travelling. However, in my opinion, they’re still the best option relative to both lined and the hybrid half-lined version because you don’t want sweat patches on your shirt underneath your jacket.

Another classic option for places as hot as Florence is the linen suit. Similar to the unlined suit, your biggest challenge with the linen suit is structuring; so you have to get it right the first time. First, ensure that the jacket fits perfectly on the shoulders. Because it’s a linen suit, it is obviously unlined, which means that there aren’t any pads in the shoulder area for support. As a result, the garment needs to fit snuggly. In addition, the initial fit on the shoulder is vital. Tailors can seldom alter suits correctly, here, at a later stage because it can drastically change the look of the garment. As far as design goes, the world is your oyster concerning whether you choose to wear a single, double-breasted or even safari suit. Your only limiting factor will be the occasion for which you need it. In its casual nature, the linen suit allows you to get away with more than what a wool suit has to offer in terms of styling. While the latter may call for a formal shirt and maybe even a tie, the former gives you the freedom to wear with a V-neck t-shirt. You have my permission to express yourself. Try pairing a linen double-breasted jacket with stonewash jeans and sneakers…it’s allowed, so go wild.

As far as the appropriate shoes are concerned, the Pitti Uomo affair allows a whole host of options, including wearing your suit with sneakers. This is certainly a more comfortable option than formal dress shoes given the amount of walking one does in Firenze. Given my outfits, Belgian loafers were my preferred mode of transport at Pitti. Outside of which, I was amazed at how great the bike culture is in Florence as a whole. Coming from Johannesburg, cycling is only something I consider for leisure and exercise. In Florence, it’s the cheapest form of transport even used by businessmen and women in suits.

Writer: Ndzutha Mngqibisa