We’ve all heard the term bandied about. And most of us have read its verbose definition: “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.”
Some of us might even know that sprezzatura was coined by Italian Renaissance author Baldassare Castiglione in the 17th century, who used it to describe courtiers in his courtesy book The Book of the Courtier.
The learned amongst us will also know that sprezzatura is definitely not the trussed-up peacocks of Pitti, who burst flamboyantly onto the international menswear stage each year for a four-day period.
So what is it exactly?
The thought process behind sprezzatura is the same thinking behind all sensible approaches to styling menswear. As tailor Hardy Amies put it, “A man should look as if he’s bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them”. This is sprezzatura.
The original definition of sprezzatura disappeared from menswear conversations until around 2006, when street style pioneer Scott Schuman (AKA The Sartorialist) started making his name snapping inimitably stylish Italian gentlemen.
This then led to an increased interest in Pitti Uomo, a trade show that had previously been seen as staid, and so began a domino effect, with old-school Italian brands like Boglioli, Brunello Cucinelli and Loro Piana gaining stockists and column inches as more and more men sought to emulate the Pitti look.
Then Pitti started to eat itself. People realised they stood a better chance of being photographed at Pitti if they out-preened others, creating a rare breed of street style subject known as the ‘Pitti peacock’.
Men originally known for their mastery of sprezzatura began distancing themselves from what it had become. The Sartorialist noted in a post from 2008 titled ‘The New Sprezzatura?’ that “It seems the Italians are dying to find new Agnelli-isms” after spotting a man with both monk-strap fastenings undone. He signed off with, “I’m not condoning, just reporting”.
When we asked tailor and Instagram don Luca Rubinacci about the term, he said “Sprezzatura is an error that makes an outfit stylish, [and] is not related to clothes but to the personality of the man”.
Simon Crompton of Permanent Style noted in his post about sprezzatura that, given the original usage of the phrase, it was “Bizarre, then, that the term is used in reference to strutting peacocks at Pitti, whose striving for style is so obvious”. However, he did point out that sprezzatura was still achievable – just maybe not via the moves so often deployed on social media.
Go-To Sprezzatura Moves
So how do you introduce some (admittedly vague) sprezzatura to your style? Glad you asked…
The Oversized Narrow Tie Blade
As this is a style of accessory rather than a specifically misplaced item, it’s somewhat easier to pull off. You won’t really have to think about it while it’s on.
Consider it your gateway to the world of sprezzatura.
The Wristwatch Over Shirt Cuff
This is, to be frank, a move that could be seen as preening. But sprezzatura is about studied nonchalance, and that can only be achieved through repetition.
We suggest wearing your watch in this manner until it becomes natural to you. Once that happens, it’ll appear natural to others too.
One issue with #menswear sprezzatura of the early 2010s was its focus on super-slim cuts. A relaxed cut allows you to wear a suit but not feel constrained by it.
Don a slightly looser navy suit with a T-shirt and trainers for an outfit with sprezzatura that wouldn’t look out of place any given Saturday afternoon.
This is another laid-back affectation that’s easily executed. Simply take a blazer you already own to a tailor and have one of the buttons switched out for another style.
The subtle difference will set your tailoring apart.
The key here is to try footwear styles that wouldn’t usually be seen with the kind of outfit you have on. This means trainers with suiting, and shoes with jeans and a T-shirt.
The aim is to blend different styles until you create your own studied yet relaxed look.
How do you introduce some effortless nonchalance into your own daily looks? Any go-to moves you’d like to share?
Let us know in the comments section.