Your guide to Italian style
Do (and dress) as the Romans do.
Get your own personal stylist to help you find clothes you love. All online, completely free
There are many things we champion when it comes to America. Not only are we in constant awe of their respect for mac and cheese, but we also think they’ve got a way of working their wardrobes that makes them icons outside of the comfort-food kitchen. And while the phrase “All-American style” might make you think of classic blue denim jeans and baseball caps, we’re here to break it down a little further and reveal what makes the aesthetic so appealing. It’s all in a day’s work.
We spoke to stylist Toby Standing to find out about all things American, from the stylish figures you should be inspired by to the best brands to get that stateside look – and of course, the aesthetics that put this stars-and-stripes nation firmly on the fashion map.
We’ll give you no prizes for guessing where this style originated. That’s right, the East Coast – specifically among students in the ‘50s and ‘60s who were after practical but stylish attire to attend their classes in. The rest, as they say, was history. An aesthetic was born that became a go-to style across America. Academics weren’t the only ones to take up the trend – the desirable mix of comfortability and elegance (which would ultimately be termed “smart casual”) was admired by celebrities, too. Toby looks to Paul Newman as one of the defining style icons of the era, “not only did he manage to drive downtime dressing into the mainstream, he managed to look unwaveringly cool doing it.”
The key to nailing this style, as Toby puts it, is to “get the basics right.” We’re not talking about your socks or sunglasses. We’re talking about the key components that fit the smart-casual aesthetic. Heading to the brands known for their preppy style is a good place to start, and there are few more famous than Polo Ralph Lauren. This boating cardigan, with its shawl collar and oversized fit, is an easy way to nail the trend. “Style with a simple tee, classic chinos, and leather deck shoes – an understated look in all the right ways.”
SoCal is, in case you didn’t know, an abbreviation for “Southern California,” the region celebrated for its relaxed, beachy vibe brought about by the surf culture across the coast. Toby notes the focus of this style is to look as “effortless as possible,” which might sound easier said than done, but that’s why we’re here to help. “Think of the way you’d dress for a day at the beach, but keep the garments as loose-fitting as possible,” Toby recommends.
You might not have a surfboard (or a white sandy beach), but that shouldn’t stop you from getting to grips with the SoCal style. Opt for muted hues this time, so dusty pinks, sage greens, off whites – the lighter, the better. Toby’s quick to reiterate the point that “with a relaxed fit, comes a relaxed attitude – which is key, after all.” This organic cotton shirt from Oliver Spencer is designed in London, but its slouchy silhouette (and pastel palette) make it a winner for the West Coast aesthetic.
The term “western” might have you conjuring up images of cowboys riding on horseback across the desert in fringed jackets – but in reality, the style became popular across America due to its use of durable, hard-wearing materials and simple, sleek silhouettes. Toby points out that “those suede jackets, hard-wearing denim jeans, and stacked boots were just as practical on a ranch, as they were in the cities across America.” Elvis Prestley was known to admire the aesthetic after starring in Western films and taking a liking to the Texan-style hats and leather-trimmed waistcoats. And, in our eyes, if it’s good enough for the King of Rock and Roll, it’s good enough for us.
The focus is well and truly on the fabric this time – we’re talking about suede, leather, and denim. If you want a standout style that’ll last you for years to come, invest in a jacket like this one from Paul Smith. Its tanned exterior instantly gives it that western feel, and, as Toby mentions, “the silhouette is simple and sleek, so you won’t feel like you’re playing dress-up.” Style as Elvis would have intended, with a classic Cuban collar shirt and a pair of straight-leg denim jeans.
A guide to “all-American style” wouldn’t be complete without breaking down the now-iconic term. While “all-American” might sound as if the aesthetic accommodates all styles, it’s used to reference the introduction of a sportier aesthetic seen in the ‘80s and ‘90s with the rise in popularity of brands including Calvin Klein, Levi’s, and Ralph Lauren. Straight-leg jean styles became low-slung and oversized, logo branding left labels and became emblazoned across the front of t-shirts, and athleisure was as commonplace outside of the gym as it was inside of it.
The great thing about this style, Toby notes, is that the all-American brands that kicked off the trend are still just as easily accessible today. Head straight for the big hitters that we mentioned previously, but also feel free to introduce new labels that make a similar statement, such as the Montreal-born skatewear brand, Dime. “Trust me when I say that a cap and pair of trainers will become your best friends when it comes to styling,” Toby mentions. As our trusty kicks are already our closest allies – we’re sold.
Words: Lottie Stanners
Styling: Toby Standing