The dos and don’ts of polo shirts
Before you pop your collar, learn how to style this smart casual staple
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When in Rome or not, Italian style is always on the fashion map. There's something suave, considered, and entirely cool about it. Plus, like many European styles – it always feels effortless yet elevated. And luckily, it’s surprisingly pretty easy to pick out some of their defining pieces, making their aesthetic all the more simple to master. Better yet, they have quite the taste for looks that feel tailored and smart, so they’re perfect to turn to as we begin the occasion season.
Let’s go back to the Renaissance, shall we? A time when art, ideas, and yes, fashions truly flourished; cue all things extravagant and expensive and made of textiles like velvet, silk and jewellery.
Fast-forward to post-war times, and Italy began adopting some American methods of production. It was Giovanni Battista Giorgini who made the first contact between Italian designers and American buyers; and his fashion show in 1951 made Italy an international leader in fashion design. Then, the 1960s is when you really begin to see designers like Gucci and Valentino making their mark, the ‘70s and ‘80s being when Versace and Armani follow.
If we were to attempt to define centuries of Italian style, we would sum it up as ‘sprezzatura’. It’s a pretty old word – we’re talking 1528 old – but it essentially means to look elegant but appear like you totally haven’t tried at all. “A certain nonchalance, so as to conceal design and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without thought,” is how Baldasarre Castigo (the man who made it up) described it.
Traditionally, Italian fashion is synonymous with quality and craftsmanship but, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t necessarily mean looking super slick and tailored. “In fact, the tailoring is often relaxed and feels more comfortable than formal,” Artemis tells us. Think unstructured jackets and regular fit trousers. Or try out mismatching utility pieces with classic smart casual items, “a utility jacket paired with some linen trousers and loafers is a great way to give your look a contemporary edge.”
"To go along with the whole relaxed tailoring vibe, it’s great to look to natural fabrics like linen, cotton, and wool when shopping for your tailored pieces,” Artemis says. More often than not, they’ll opt for these in white or neutral shades, which although particularly great for the summertime, you’ll see Italian’s do this all year round. And to make it feel really authentic, don’t be afraid to let these pieces show their creases – “it comes with the fabric territory and emphasises how suiting can be casual.”
Italian’s are world renowned for their shoes, so if you’re really wanting to achieve their look, you’ve at least got to get the footwear right. Stick to the classics like brogues, loafers, or derbies – these will help those linen white trousers we mentioned earlier feeling nice and smart. Or, if you’re keeping it casual don’t shy away from simple canvas trainers – they’ll still feel formal when styled right but are just a little comfier for everyday.
When it comes to the ultimate finishing touch for any Italian inspired outfit, Artemis advises to invest in your accessories – “you’ll never see bulging pockets interfering with a great trouser fit on an Italian.” But beyond a bag or a good wallet, Italian accessories can extend to a pocket square, a wear-with-everything watch, even a good pen is a nice touch. These are just the little things that make even the most simple of looks feel considered – a surefire way to master the art of sprezzatura.
Barena is a small family-run company that should be your go-to for relaxed trousers and blazers. The brand takes a fabric-first approach to design so you know whatever you purchase is going to feel incredible. Plus, they’re approach to design takes inspiration from the history of how rural Venetians used to dress so it’s going to feel really authentic, too.
To go along with your soft tailoring you got from Barena, look to Stone Island for the workwear and military-inspired streetwear that’s going to make it feel even more 2021. Expect shackets, polos, and sweatshirts – all of which will create the backbone of your casual wardrobe.
Even for the times you’re not strolling around Italy, you can kind of make it feel like you are with a great pair of shades. For that, browse through Persol’s selection for classic pairs that won’t date. They’re versatile enough to wear with a t-shirt and shorts, or with your relaxed tailoring if you’re heading to a summer wedding.
For any good wardrobe, you’re going to need a solid pair of jeans. For the Italians, they’re going to shop at Diesel for these (as is most of the world). This is the international denim brand that you probably already know lots about but long story short, great fits, great washes, and definitely something for everyone.
Then to the shoes. Another family-run brand that Artremis is all about right now is Fracap. They stock premium hiking boots that, still to this day, are handcrafted in the original factory in Monteroni, Italy. The soles are Vibram and all the dye comes from vegetables – so there’s some pretty cool facts if someone asks where your shoes are from.
Words: Yasmine Kennedy
Styling: Artemis Crowley