As I mentioned in our recent piece about the Neapolitan Jacket, Giancarlo Maresca – the Gran Maestro of the Order of the Nine Knights – invited me to join him for his personalized tour of Naples.
All over Italy, he is well recognized as an expert in the area of bespoke clothing, style, elegance & la dolce vita. On top of that, he knows the tailor & craftsmen scene in Naples like no other – he even seems to know when a young tailor will be successful before the tailor knows it himself.
During my stay, I ate a superb authentic Neapolitan lunch at his home, but I also got a glimpse into his closet.
Today, I will introduce you a bit more closely to Gincarlo Maresca, give you some highlights from his wardrobe, and provide you with some insight to the Cavaleresco Ordine.
Giancarlo Maresca – Il Gran Maestro
Before focusing his energy and passion into the Ordine, Maresca sailed on ships as an officer in the Italian navy for six years. At the same time, he studied philosophy. After he finished his naval career, he attended law school and once he graduated, he practiced law for 16 years in Naples. Although it was his profession, his interest in the job diminished. Eventually he decided to leave law to focus on the Ordine full time and to write about masculinity and how it has changed over time. Many of his essays appeared in the Italian issues of the gentleman’s magazine MONSIEUR, beginning in 2000.
Cavalleresco Ordine dei Guardiani delle Nove Porte translates to mean the “Knightly Order of the Guardians of the Nine Doors.” The name is certainly as elaborate as the concepts the Ordine professes to follow. The core of this organization are, as you would imagine, the Nine Steps: 1. The table, including food & beverages 2. Action in terms of cars, engines & athletics 3. Smoking 4. Bullfighting 5. Women 6. Gambling 7. Dressing 8. Art 9. Unknown pleasures. Pause for reaction…with such a clearly masculine orientation, the idea behind the Ordine was to create a place for men where they could socialize and learn more about the finer things in life.
The idea was sparked in three decades ago, the organization was informally created in the mid 1980’s and founded officially in November 1997. Its goal is to promote good taste (in their definition, of course), aesthetics, and the deeper meaning behind the subject matter at hand, beyond simply possessing them. Essentially, it serves as a kind of club where men who share similar interests can discuss among likeminded peers with a particular passion for artisanal products and quality goods.
As such, the Ordineorganizes ‘Academies’ in cities across Italy and sometimes even abroad, on a monthly basis. These weekend events evolve around a specific topic, such as chocolate, seafood, shoes, tweed or whiskey, and they typically include elaborate meals, many cigars and interesting conversation.
Apart from these in-person events, the Ordine also maintains a website, www.noveporte.it where members and visitors (partially) can discuss and share their knowledge, once they have registered. Unfortunately, the site’s layout and graphics are almost as old as the Ordine, but that is a very conscious decision. Rather than updating the administrative system behind it, they want to focus on high quality content. Maresca told me that it is like a cathedral that can never be completed, but at the same time, it is a castle that stands the test of time without any changes. This statement is so very Italian, and at the same time, it’s exactly the kind of elaborate language that Maresca uses.
Personally, I have to disagree with him in this regard, because I believe an updated website would vastly improve the Ordine‘s ability to share great content. Change is not always for the worse and can help spread the word. The internet itself is the best example -but each to his own.
What I really appreciate about the Ordine is the focus on in-person events with the internet being an vehicle to enable live, personal connections. Of course, this requires a lot effort and organization, but it is absolutely worth it.
The Wardrobe of Giancarlo Maresca
If his choice of language and profession is any evidence of his style, I expected to see great things in Maresca’s closet – and I wasn’t disappointed. As a naval officer, Giancarlo Maresca came to own a number of different navy and blue suits and blazers and while most are solid, the texture of the fabrics ranges from fresco and flannel to hopsack, which is always different. Of course, he had a number of tweeds, solaros and vintage fabrics in his collection. Lately, he has been wearing a extravagant shawl collar dinner jacket in green velvet for black tie events.
Apart from that, Giancarlo owns a number of beautiful off-white suits that are perfect for the hot Neapolitan summers and go well with his numerous straw hats and canvas spectator shoes.
Since he also likes to wear combinations of sports coats and trousers, I found neatly organized trousers in beige, camel, charcoal, light grey, striped morning trousers, red, mid-blue and of course, various shades of brown.
But there are always more things that could be created, and so he stores a number of vintage fabric lengths in his closet that sparked his interest. For example, at a Scottish cloth Academy hosted by the Ordine, it makes sense that he would pick up fabric at the source for a future piece. Considering that Maresca has all the basics covered, there were a range of very special fabrics in his closet.
First, he had a diamond twill dark and mid brown tweed, a beautiful navy, beige and red gun club fabric, as well as a bold orange/brown windowpane fabric for a sportscoat. He also had a few fine worsteds with pinstripes in mid blue, overcoat tweeds and lovat green fabrics as well. The boldest fabric was probably an orange/light green fabric with a bold 1 inch orange and beige windowpane – I’d love to see that made up one day because Maresca pays a lot of attention to fit as well as the cut and styling of a suit.
His shirts are also special in the sense that they are hand-sewn and feature matching buttons. For example, his grey/blue linen shirt had blue mother of pearl buttons, whereas his white tuxedo shirt features black mother of pearl buttons instead of studs.
When it comes to shoes, he seems to have a fair amount of oxfords and derby shoes in a range of colors, but most of them are brown. In addition to a beautiful pair of antique patina wingtip shoes, I like his selection of suede colors which had a short nap ranging from reddish brown over to greenish grey and grey-brown. Of course, he also keeps a fair number of black box-calf leather shoes in his closet.
In terms of neckwear, Giancarlo Maresca owns a huge tie collection including many vintage and modern pieces. They were are all sorted in drawers, so he could choose club ties, jacquard, printed ties, wool or cashmere ties, knit ties, raw silk ties, etc. Based on what I saw, he has at least 500 ties, but recently he also enjoys wearing the papillion –
the bow tie – more and more. Of course, he doesn’t wear the standard stuff you can find at most haberdashers but much rather special shapes in smaller sizes that are all interestingly tied.
Overall, he owns a great wardrobe that would make many men deeply jealous, but I am not so sure that many would trade places with him when he wears a suit outside on a 90-degree-plus day.
I am really glad to have met Giancarlo and his family and friends because they enabled me to have an authentic Neapolitan experience – Grazie Giancarlo!
What do you think of his wardrobe? Do you prefer bigger bow ties?