In claiming Milan as a style destination I understand all lack of surprise. However, few would call it a ridiculous statement to declare that Italy, in much the same way as France, has a particular way of doing things. A code of conduct that bleeds into their culture and psyche. Be it food, wine, cinema, music, art or indeed fashion, it always appears quintessentially Italian.
The city of Milan; along with New York, London and Paris, form the most important group of fashion destinations. Having already discussed Paris as a style destination, I felt compelled to follow in a similarly doe-eyed fashion with Milan.
Milan Fashion Culture
Milan is a retail metropolis, a haven for the fashionista. The latitude of outlets in Milan runs from high fashion boutiques, to small shops, department stores and street markets. Some parts of the city even have a specific shopping character. Fashion and design is in the blood of the Milanese and is reflected in the spirit of the city.
“The essence of style is a simple way of saying something complex.”
To me, this quote from arguably the biggest name-drop in Italian fashion sums up what Italian men sartorially strive for.
The country has a long and distinguished relationship with fashionable expression. When I think about iconic Italian wardrobe items I think about those classic Gucci loafers, turtleneck jumpers, and Borsalino hats.
If I may be even more romantic about it, it conjures images of men in large groups standing in busy town squares smoking cigarettes with immaculate hair and immaculate clothes. Many suggest, without babbling as I just did, that the difference between being just well dressed and having Italian style is grace.
We shouldn’t get swept away in all the fine tailoring and clever tweaks and declare it “effortless style” because Italian men are far from effortless when it comes to dressing themselves. What sets them apart is the extreme effort that goes into their look. Whether they are buying clothes, visiting the tailor or putting an outfit together.
The secret, as Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist writes, is, “Once they put them on, they don’t think about them until they take them off again at night. It’s that graceful thoughtlessness that is so seductive.”
Milan Style Look Book
In Milan, this beautifully considered approach seems plainly obvious. Take a look at this Milan street-style look book and notice the work that has gone in to what they wear. But more importantly, how enviously relaxed they look.
Milan Fashion Week
One of the fashion industry’s calendar highlights is Milan Fashion Week. Twice a year since it was established in 1958, MFW has been providing haute-couture chic, ready-to-wear styling and a large dose of Italian glamour to the fashion world. Set against the relaxed and aloof attitude synonymous with the Milanese, it makes for an entertaining and indulgent spectacle.
Achieving Italian Style
Milan style – and to a greater extent Italian styling – is all about the simple things done very well; with an attention to detail that seems unrivalled. Not as experimental or as eclectic as London or Tokyo, but in a similar vein to Parisian fashion. The look is classic, well thought out and with an occasional flash of flair that makes you sit up and notice.
For summer, think about simple outfits done well like slim fit beige chinos, a classic oxford shirt teamed with a pair tasselled loafers and tortoise shell sunglasses. Bellissimo! Think clean lines, relaxed – but well cut – tailoring, and faultless personal grooming.
There are no hard and fast rules about what exactly to wear. It’s more about choosing carefully. Understanding key colour combinations and what works for you. If you do the simple things well, as soon as you step out on to the street, or in to the café or off to work – the hard work has already been done.
Here are the FashionBeans five (tips that is) to following the Italian dress ethos:
- Good tailoring and a good fit.
- Keeping things simple is sexy; nobody likes a try hard.
- Use good colour combinations.
- Add that subtle bit of flair, e.g. pocket squares, woven belt or summer scarf.
- Relax! Once you’ve made your outfit choice, let it speak for itself.