How To Be More Italian
I got lured to Italy the clichéd way: by an Italian man. In less typical form, however, we’re still together 16 years later, which has given me ample opportunity to study Italian men up close. From a style standpoint, they are a breed apart. And thank god for that. These are the only men in the world who actually care about what their wives and girlfriends wear and have a thoughtful opinion on it. I’ll never forget my very first visit to Milan when my then boyfriend, now husband, told me to change the outfit I’d selected to wear out that night. And you know what? He was right. Even now, as my own Los Angeles-born and bred brothers look perplexed, pained and/or bored when asked to comment on my appearance, the Italian is a cheerleader of beauty and an ever-faithful style sheriff. An Italian just knows.
As for how they dress themselves, it’s with the same careful consideration – not to mention hard-fast rules – that comes into play when Italians meticulously prepare their food. Most of these well-dressed nationals refuse to be seen in an airport without a collar on. The only time they wear running shoes is when they are actually running. They pair swim trunks with button-down shirts. And they make wearing a gold necklace on a tanned neck – something I was always convinced I hated – look like a million bucks. Beware of an Italian man who does not dress well – he’s clearly lost his mind.
Here are MR PORTER’s 12 rules for being more Italian:
Your mother is a holy human being
You must treat her as such. Never say no to her food. Never say no to a second, or third, helping of her food. Weekly phone calls are mandatory, if distance makes an in-person Sunday lunch impossible. If you live in the same city, be prepared to be present every Sunday and let her do all the prep, cooking, serving and cleaning up. She loves it.
Wear your father’s and grandfather’s clothes from when he was your age
Loafers and other slip-on shoes are for weekends only
You will have at least 15 suits
In 15 different shades of sapphire and navy blue. However, never share the details of your personal tailor, nor ask another man details of his. This is top-secret, classified information and a humiliating admission if you do not already have a good one. Also, a man should always be wearing a collar at all times: so if you’re wearing a T-shirt, you need a collared jacket on, too, and if you’re wearing a collared shirt, you don’t need a jacket.
Learn to master at least one important meal
Never walk around in public in your exercise clothes
Under no circumstances. All Italian men arrive at the gym wearing suits, and they leave wearing suits. In between, they change, work out, shower, and change again. The funny thing is how flashy their workout gear is: Italians are not afraid of very tight, very colourful stretch tops and bike shorts – it’s the same situation on the ski slope.
Never split the bill
It’s tacky. If you’re with men only, you should treat them. Then they should treat you. It goes like this until infinity and everyone feels so much better about it. Like buying rounds at the pub. And never let a woman pay for the bill in a restaurant. Ever!
Don’t eat lunch at your desk
Even if you’re in the middle of a heated debate, the proper thing to do is put your pens down, walk out arm-in-arm with whoever you were just yelling at, and cool down at the nearest trattoria for an at-least-two-course, one-hour meal on the white tablecloth. A glass of wine is still totally acceptable, but hard alcohol is a definite no-no. You will return to work a new man.
Iron your underwear
Even the little iddy-bitty, tiny-little, tighty whities, or stretch briefs, which are absolutely still acceptable with Italian men, including the Serie A winners, who get stripped down to the little guys by their fans once a year. Please make sure yours are done with extra starch. All Italian maids know how to do it.
Never talk about your job at a dinner party
Ride your bicycle to work
Care very deeply about what your wife is wearing
Or your girlfriend or daughter, and be prepared to have an opinion or discussion about it. Men who don’t care about fashion are not cultured.
Illustrations by Mr Giacomo Bagnara