For those who haven’t yet heard of Pitti Uomo, it’s the twice annual buyers fair, held at the Fortezzo di Basso in Florence, where the world’s fashion buyers come to view upcoming collections from makers around Italy and elsewhere in the world. Collections are viewed, orders are planned, inspiration is gained and months later what is on display at Pitti will be on offer at stores around the world, available for purchase by the general public. For observers of the industry it offers a window into changing trends in menswear, for business owners on both sides of the fence (buyers and sellers) it is their life blood for the next 6 months. Pitti has grown significantly in the past decade and it is rightly a highly valuable and worthwhile event to the global menswear market.
Unfortunately, in recent years, Pitti has gained significant recognition for the increasing ridiculousness of the peacocks who attend for the simple purpose of being photographed by a global media hungry to interpret the wearers narcissistic and hyper-inflated egoistic clothing choices as representing style or the forefront of menswear. Of course this isn’t the case, as the truly stylish men who attend Pitti often slip through the photographers lenses unnoticed, with a few exceptions from photographers keen to pick out the stylish from the fashionable…. which are rarely the same thing.
Most of the overdressed men you’ll see in images of Pitti will be of individuals who’ll never set foot inside the pavilions to view the collections of producers. Rather, after months of planning outfits they merely arrive, sit at the entrance for hours on end, making cringe-worthy pleasantries with equally vacuous mannequins in the hope of feigning a friendship which will attract photographers attention and generally try to look disinterested whilst hoping desperately the photographers will snap their photo and feed their ego’s.
The tragedy in all of this, aside from the obvious one of individuals feeling the need for this confused validation, is that the millions of other men who will see this content in the media in different parts of the world will often interpret this to mean that caring about how you dress requires the putting on of every item you own, in every colour you can find and strutting about like Liberace at Mardi Gras. It isn’t. Caring about how you dress and moreover the very essence of style is to have a clear sense of who you are and then dressing accordingly. To this end, there are a few exceptions at Pitti, the likes of Luca Rubinacci, Lino Ieluzzi and a few others, whose colourful and extroverted dress are simply outward manifestations of who they are and how they feel comfortable. This should be celebrated. As a result, they manage to wear clothes that the rest of wouldn’t be able to get away with in a month of Sunday’s and they do it well, all the while looking somehow at home and stylish. Contrast this to the pocket square obsessing, tie adjusting, cape wearing, sock abandoning adorers of self who primp and pose for the cameras twice a year (tip: capes are worn if you’re a reclusive Count who wishes to make dramatic exits or you’re employed by Marvel to fight crime. The same goes for overcoats hung across the shoulders – which only appear genuine if your name begins with “Don” and ends with “Corleone” and socks are worn because it’s winter in Florence and it’s freezing). The issue that these clear efforts at attention getting raises is that it removes any element of authentic stylishness and merely looks affected, a silent plea for approval unable to be found from within. It harks back to Emerson’s quote “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” Those who are genuine appear at ease, those who are only dressing for others are at odds with themselves and their environment.
Bruce Boyer – gentleman, walking encyclopedia on stylish dress and authority on more’s of menswear, points out that this type of behaviour has largely come about since the designer era (post WW2), where bi-annual catwalk shows for women have, over the ensuing decades, slowly and now irrevocably bled into menswear, encouraging us to eschew style, throw out our wardrobes every year and start again with the latest eye-catching designs to reflect how current and “fashionable” we are. It has given rise to many men moving away from an appreciation of subtlety, preferring instead to scream about how stylish they are with clothes that are clearly not authentically “them”. Again, the few who can do this authentically can be spotted in seconds and there is no hint that they are in any way disingenuous.
Pitti is, without doubt, one of the world’s most fascinating experiences of people watching and, fortunately, there are many examples of stylish men, dressed with a subtle and clearly authentic style that much can be learned from (pay particular attention to the Japanese, their ability to take a well-known aesthetic – such as that of the classic English or Italian gentleman, put a unique twist on it and make it look better than anyone else is consistently inspiring). On any other street of any other city in the world, you would notice them, not because they jump out at you, but because they are tastefully dressed and carry themselves well, it’s simply that at Pitti they tend to disappear into the background noise of the circus, which for most of them is how they would prefer it as they dress for themselves, not for others, aside from knowing and respecting that to be well dressed is a simple courtesy to others.
As Pitti continues to grow in the years ahead, there is a high likelihood that the Peacocks will increase in number and severity, in line with the increasing narcissism our world is partaking in, until enough people who consume media become sick of the repetitiveness of the spectacle, leaving the Peacocks without an audience. Until then, for those tuning in the images seen in newspapers and magazines every 6 months, try to cut through the noise and find the men who pursue style over fashion, there is much to learn from them, you’ll just have to look a little harder.