Milan is internationally known for its fashion and the fashionable people who work there. It’s a city famous for its style, with the Milanese men having thoroughly earned that recognition. I’m yet to find a city where the men dress as consistently well as the Milanese do; the rarity is a poorly dressed men, rather than in most cities where it’s the other way around.
For all the style of the Milanese, quality menswear stores aren’t as prolific as most people would expect. Like most other major cities these days, the city centre is overrun with the typical chain brands where any local sense of the city’s style and people is lost in the race to the bottom and the $5 t-shirts of the global juggernauts. M. Bardelli is a rare gem, offering classically stylish menswear, from suiting to weekend wear, made in Italy and to a high standard.
Rarest of them all, however, is the (in?)famous Al Bazar of menswear icon Lino Ieluzzi. Many of you will recognise Lino from his Instagram account here where he’s a prolific poster of his daily outfits, usually snapped outside the store, cigarette in hand, smile on face.
Lino’s own style is miles away from what many of us would be capable of wearing with any degree of seriousness, yet on Lino, it feels somehow right. Brightly coloured jackets with strong contrasting checks, separate trousers, double monks or spats and a lengthy chain hanging from his trousers, always finished off with his signature “lucky” 7 ties. Whether we would wear the clothes which Lino does is irrelevant,; he is another example, (like Francesco Maglia) of authentic style – knowing who he is, what he likes and dressing accordingly. An external reflection of an internal self-awareness. This quirky style has made Al Bazar somewhat of a pilgrimage for men from all over the world, particularly the Japanese, who have to pay a visit and have their photo taken with Lino.
There are only a few shops around the world where, if they were the only shop you had access to, you could be well dressed for any occasion (formal or casual) for the rest of your days (other notable mentions being The Armory and Paul Stuart ). Al Bazar is comfortably on that list though, with a unique selection as to make it stand out from any other store anywhere else in the world. Where the difference is perhaps most evident is in the extensive range which Lino carries, meaning that anyone from a dandy to a conservative has every option they would want access to. It’s a tribute to Lino that he is able to stock such a comprehensive collection and understand those who dress differently to himself (which is almost everyone).
Options in separates (unmatched jackets and trousers, sold separately, as opposed to a suit) are thorough, with (and I’m guessing here), in excess of 100 different options in jackets alone, from completely unlined summer mohairs to heavier winter tweed blends. Trousers are equally well catered for with similar options to choose from. All of the options are approached from a true tailoring perspective, meaning properly floating canvas jackets, hand sewn button holes and quality cloths.
The options in knitwear cover every situation and style, ranging from basic wool pullovers to thick four-ply cashmere roll-necks for seriously cold weather.
Elsewhere, there are countless casual trousers, (cotton, corduroy, linen etc) jeans, classic flight jackets (either filled and cashmere lined, or completely unlined), shirts, t-shirts and really everything else you’d want, no matter how casual or formal you want to be.
Whilst I try to wait and have all my suits and shirts made bespoke these days, forgoing immediate gratification for something which will be perfect for a lifetime to come, there is occasionally a great value option which presents itself; to this end I ended up walking out with a jacket and two pairs of trousers. It’s almost impossible for me to find a ready to wear jacket which I a). like and b). fits me (most are too big or wide, as it’s harder to let something out that take it in and retailers rarely have the confidence to trust they can sell to slim customers). The issue with Al Bazar was stopping at those few things, when there was so much there which I liked.
It’s a jovial environment for the most part, with my only criticism being the Italian custom of staff shadowing you around the store and strongly suggesting options (which are usually options I’m not interested in), where I’d be preferred to be left alone and able to find a staff member if I want to ask them something. It’s everywhere you go in Italy, though, so you come to expect it in every store, but I never get used to it.
I came back for a second time just before I left Milan (where I said a quick hello to Lino before he left for Pitti Uomo) and spent my time with Massimo, a younger member of the team who “grew up in Al Bazar”. Perhaps because we were of similar ages we had a lot to chat and joke about. It’s Massimo who you’ll see in most of the pictures here.
Definitely worth visiting if you find yourself in Milan, Lino will almost always be there and you’ll be hard pressed to walk out without finding something you’ll really like.
Al Bazar: Via A. Scarpa, 9, Milan, Italy.