La Dolce Vita

Italy – a country synonymous with good food, good weather, and a taste for high-end fashion. With brands such as Prada, Armani, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana among others it is fair to say that Italy is a strong player in the fashion industry. England, too, has its fair share of influential brands such as Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Burberry. So why is it that Italy as a nation is generally seen as more fashionable than England? The answer is culture, and possibly also vanity. While the Italian culture places such a precedence on appearance, it is not so embedded into English culture (although, admittedly, this is changing).

It is fair to say that Italians can be considered vain and that men spend just as much time and money on themselves as women do. But what is it that makes Italian men’s fashion stand out so much? Ironically, it is the simplicity of it all. Being raised in a culture that places such an importance on your appearance because it is seen to reflect you as a person, means that an Italian man is less likely to sport ‘loud’ clothes with bold prints, or heavily over-branded pieces that can make an outfit look cluttered and clumsy, for the fear of being seen as brash. Instead they prioritise quality and craftsmanship, choosing pieces that are more simple in design, which quietly exude elegance and class, reflecting better on them.

For Italians the saying “quality over quantity” rings true in every aspect of life, from good wine and food to high quality clothing. Italian men spend obscene amounts on their clothes – over £54 million in 2012 – with the justification being that they would much rather have fewer costly pieces of clothing that are a higher quality, as it reflects better on them as a person rather than if they were to have a wardrobe full of cheaper fashion items. As the culture for fast fashion intensifies, some would argue that frequent shopping is needed to stay ‘fashionable’. But the beautiful simplicity of Italian menswear suggests that the opposite, in fact, is true. Italians take advantage of the cyclical nature of fashion, as buying something of quality will always looks elegant and will invariably come back into fashion in the near future (take the aviator sunglasses or the trench coat, for example). Unlike in England where fads have invaded fashion, and you can quickly find yourself looking very unfashionable, there are much subtler changes in Italian fashion each season. This allows Italians to spend more on their clothes, in the knowledge that they will be able to wear them years on end, and it will be a valuable investment.

The Italians’ reputation for being fashionable and stylish, therefore, has not come without considerable expenditure. Central to the culture is the prioritising of appearance above nearly everything else. Is it worth it? Is it a wonderfully simple approach to fashion that other countries should adopt? Or is it just vanity? You decide: the Italians definitely aren’t bothered.

Sebastian Spalding-Siracusa

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