Young Neapolitan Style

Young Men’s Suits & Accessories in Naples

During my last trip to Naples, I not only had the chance to meet Giancarlo Maresca and a number of craftsmen, but I also met a number of young men with a strong sense for tradition and an affinity to suits and fine clothing. While older men often have a matured style, young men are more likely to experiment, which is just as interesting. Today, I would like to introduce you to suits, outfits and the style of young Neapolitan men and elaborate on how you can draw some inspiration from them, regardless of if you are a bespoke aficionado, off the rack buyer or a student on a budget.

Suits & Jackets

Giuseppe with bow tie, mustache, & navy blazer

Giuseppe with bow tie, mustache, & navy blazer

Vintage Neapolitan suit by Pugliese

Vintage Neapolitan suit by Pugliese

First of all, I must say that it is an illusion to believe most men in Naples are well dressed and when walking through the streets you will find many teenagers wearing anything but classic clothing. However, every once in a while you will spot a gentleman in a great outfit. The density of truly hand sewn suits is higher than in most other cities in the world. I probably saw 5 – 10 men a day that were exceptionally well dressed – among them many young ones. In the past, I already discussed the Neapolitan jacket styles and reported from my experiences in Napoli, so I will highlight the things I saw young men wearing. Unsurprisingly, the maritime culture that is so well expressed  in navy suits and jackets has also rubbed of on the younger generation. So, most men will start out with a navy blazer and suit. Giuseppe, Gabriele and Gianni all own navy jackets and suits. Often, they combine them with light blue or white shirts and red, blue or other ties.

A Neapolitan classic - the navy suit

A Neapolitan classic – the navy suit

While this is exactly the way you should start out as a young man, by beginning with highly versatile pieces and expanding from there, I noticed the Neapolitan tendency to stick with navy and change the details, such as the weave of the cloth (think worsted,  fresco or hopsack), switching out buttons or altering the color shade. Personally, I think it is great to have a selection of navy but it is not advisable to have half of your closet consist of just one color. Then again, when you are young, you can only invest in so many pieces and it makes sense to choose something that can be worn often. Instead of relying only on workhorse navy, you can also look into gray, subtle stripes and maybe even windowpanes.

Gabriele in a 3 piece suit with a rare double breasted vest

Gabriele in a 3 piece suit with a rare double breasted vest

Supporting young local tailors

Unlike many other young men, Gianni, Giuseppe and Gabriele owned a lot of handmade clothing. Now you may think they are just spoiled brats who have their bespoke wardrobe financed by their fathers, however that is not true. On the one hand, bespoke suits are considerably cheaper than in most other cities of the world. On the other hand, they decided to support a tailor friend, Enzo, whose rates are lower than many tailors and a fraction of what you pay at Rubinacci. So, they are actually supporting a young tailor that will be able to work for them for the next 60 years.

Gabriele in navy blazer with mother of pearl buttons

Gabriele in navy blazer with mother of pearl buttons

Fullness under the hip

Fullness under the hip

For example, Gabriele had a great three piece suit in grey glen urquhart made for him. The most unique part about it was the matching double breasted waistcoat with 5 buttons. Generally, double breasted vests have two rows with an even number of buttons; in the 1960’s some tailor came up with the idea to change it up a bit and so he  used a single end button to create a V shape. In the past, I had seen it in old tailoring magazines and photos but I was happy to see that a young man like Gabriele would give it a try. You might not like the look of it, but you have to admit it is fantastic to see a young person appreciate old world crafts.

Casual belt, hopsack blazer & bright red trousers

Casual belt, hopsack blazer & bright red trousers

Giuseppe was also a good example of individual style. He paired a standard Neapolitan single breasted patch pocket blazer in navy hopsack with a white & blue striped shirt, red trousers, sand colored cloth belt and chocolate brown oxford half brogue shoes. Some of you may think that the red is too strong, but I think it is great that he tries out new things in regard to color and texture. Just navy, gray or khaki combinations are not very exciting, especially when you are just 20 years old. However, don’t assume that they wear suits all the time – when it is hot outside a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops are in order for them as well.

Relaxed in T-Shirt, shorts and flip flops

Relaxed in T-Shirt, shorts and flip flops

Hand made clothing on a budget

Of course, their budget is limited and so they can only afford very few new pieces a year but that’s where Naples’ vintage flea & pop-up markets come into play. Every Saturday morning, they scout these markets for bespoke treasures and they find a suit or a jacket almost every time! The great part about it is that one of these hand me down suits rarely costs more than 5 €. Furthermore, you can find handmade shoes, ties and all kinds of other accessories at the same price level and so it is really easy to create a great wardrobe on a budget if you have a typical build.

Very Neapolitan - suspenders & belt loops

Very Neapolitan – suspenders & belt loops

Fortunately, I had the chance to see some of Gianni’s flea market acquisitions,  which consisted of a Solaro suit, light blue fresco jacket with mother of pearl buttons, coarse homespun jackets with spalla camicia and classic navy suits in great condition that all cost less than a pizza! Many of them had noteworthy details, such as the belt buckle place holder of the Solaro suit or the fullness hidden in the pleat of the Pugliese suit.

Spalla Camicia

Spalla Camicia

Salmon colored over the calf socks with cognac shoes

Salmon colored over the calf socks with cognac shoes

Gianni in a Solaro suit he picked up on a flea market

Gianni in a Solaro suit he picked up on a flea market

The belt buckle place holder

The belt buckle place holder

Once you combine vintage and bespoke your outfit will likely be less expensive than if you bought it new off the rack and at the same time, it will look better and will be made of higher quality. For example take a look at this outfit from Gianni. The blazer was bespoke creation from his friend Enzo, the pants were vintage, as were the shoes from Valencia. His salmon colored socks and white shirt were new and the tie came from a flea market, just like the suspenders. If you look closely at the trousers, you will notice the belt loops and suspenders. Now, a British gentleman would frown upon such a combination and personally, I always try to wear one or the other, but this pairing means the pants can be worn with anything. Neapolitans love the combination of both. In any case, his outfit is a perfect example of making new and old things work beautifully together. While I think there are few places in the world were you can find such an quantity of handmade clothing items at such ridiculously low prices, the young Neapolitan trio shows that you can dress elegantly and classically even when you are on a budget. If you live in a large city, go out and explore your vintage stores and you will find many unique items that are made to much higher quality standard that anything fast fashion or even department stores have to offer. Alternatively, eBay is a good place to start if you know your measurements. Bear in mind that you will likely spend the most money at your alterations tailor, so begin by finding a reliable and affordable one who understands fit.  When I started to build my wardrobe, I did exactly the same thing. I scouted eBay, stopped by at second hand shops and found interesting vintage pieces. Just a few weeks ago, I picked up a vintage silk bow tie at an estate sale for $3.  When I did not like those pieces anymore, I sold them to finance my next wardrobe addition.

Anglophile Gabriele & his Jaguar E-Type

Anglophile Gabriele & his Jaguar E-Type

Gabriele is a perfect example that style goes far beyond clothing. He is a traditionalist and prefers manual Leicas and old cars that need to be worked on. In the trunk of his Jaguar E-Type he always has tools so he can fix things on the spot if it gets too hot. I sat in his car and it at 6′ (1.83m) it is anything but comfortable. Considering it needs a lot of work and gets only a few miles per gallon this car is only for people who are obsessed by its beauty and old world charm – Gabriele is certainly one of them.

Vintage ties with club stripes

Vintage ties with club stripes

Selection of vintage tie patterns

Selection of vintage tie patterns

Ties & Shoes

While many young men in the US often have just one tie (that they probably didn’t buy themselves!) and the interested Americans might have thirty. Young well dressed Neapolitans had over 200 each. Again, only a fraction of these were bought new, and if they were, then often bespoke. On the other hand, the used ones were all  from the flea market. Building such a tie collection on a budget allows to have a lot of different varieties  textures, materials and colors. Such a neckwear mix will help tremendously to create unique outfits even if you just own 2 jackets and one suit because every time you put something on, the combination of tie and pocket square will be different, unless you create looks to wear repeatedly. Personally, I hardly ever wear the exact same outfit twice and even if I combine a certain suit with a shirt, the color of the socks, tie and pocket square will always change a little bit. I really enjoy this kind of wardrobe matching because it makes me use all the things I own and not just wear the same 5 things over and over again.

Full Brogue Oxford with a beautiful chestnut brown patina

Full Brogue Oxford with patina

Vintage crocodile leather shoes with pointy toe

Vintage crocodile leather shoes with pointy toe

Black Oxford Full Brogues

Black Oxford Full Brogues

Shoe & tie storage in old book shelf

Shoe & tie storage in old book shelf

Interesting button shoes

Interesting button shoes

Another impressive experience was Gianni’s shoe collection. He had everything from unusual button closure shoe, over black plain oxfords, brogues, tassel loafers, monks and even crocodile leather shoes in his repertoire. Only boots don’t seem to be his style, but since he lives in Naples there is no real use for that. Again, the majority of these came from the flea market and were mostly of Italian or Spanish provenance.

Chocolate brown half brogue oxford by Antonio Pio Mele

Chocolate brown half brogue oxford by Antonio Pio Mele

Cognac Brown Derby Full Brogue with 2 inch cuff

Cognac Brown Derby Full Brogue with 2 inch cuff

Final Words

Overall, these young Neapolitan men had a more exquisite wardrobe than most men in their fifties, yet they were able to compile it with taste, on a budget and of course, partially because they live in Naples where you can find such steals. Even though you may not be so lucky to live close to a metropolitan area with many vintage stores, places like ebay or etsy will help you find unique, interesting accessories as well as hand made clothing that won’t break the bank. Even if you can afford to buy new things, the weave, color scheme or fabric of a vintage piece is simply not available anymore and so this old world piece is the place to go. Of course, you can set yourself limits. For example, I am put off by used shoes and I won’t wear rented bowling shoes either, but that’s just me. Fortunately, you may be able to find new old stock, such as my Morlands sheepskin boots, which I really love for the winter. So go out and see what you can find. Of course, we’d be happy to find a few pictures of your acquisitions in our inbox. What are your favorite vintage pieces?

20 replies
  1. Nikola Mileta
    Nikola Mileta says:

    Another great article Mr. Schneider.
    This one is especially informative because it tells us that you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars/euros to look good and to wear good quality clothes.
    Unfortunately many men think that they need to buy expensive and labeled clothes if they want to look nice and if they want quality.
    This article shows us that you don’t need to sell your kidney to look good. Of course not every town in the world has such a tailoring tradition and such flea markets like Napoli but there are other sources where you can buy good stuff.
    For example I think that everyone should walk around his home town and try to find some artisans that still produce good stuff for affordable amounts of money.
    Last month I had a tear in my shoes, and although they were not some high quality shoes I liked them because they were comfortable and great looking. So I took them to local shoemaker so he can repair them.
    This shoemakers shop is not located on the street but in the backyard of residential building in the downtown area. When I went in I was surprised by his work. He is making made to measure shoes for less than 200$. I was speaking with him and he can do what ever model you like.
    Shoes look really good, double stitched, two layers of leather, leather soles… Whole nine yards.
    So, I was thinking, should I visit him and make my own shoes for 200$ or should I spend twice the amount for some labeled shoes.
    The same thing with tailors. Best tailor in my town is selling his jackets for 250$-300$. Hand made. 120s-150s wool. They use sewing machines only for some parts of the jacket.
    For the same amount of money you can get some Massimo Dutti or some other mass market brand that have not seen human hand. Not to talk about the quality of the materials which cannot be compared.
    So, my point is that you don’t have to spend lots of money, if you don’t have it, to look good. You just need to stroll around your town and look for local artisans that still exist. You just need to find them and give them a try.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Great to hear that you are supporting local craftsmen, and this thought can be extended. The other day, I made beef wellington and the filet of beef that I bought from our farmer at the farmer’s market cost less than half of what grovery stores would charge. Also just recently, we moved and bought new furniture. If you want to buy quality dining chairs, you have to spend several thousand dollars, so we searched for hand carved chairs and had them reupholstered locally in the fabric of our choice with the foam density we like. Local craftsmen often lack the taste but they provide good quality. It is our job then to guide them so we receive a product of high quality in the style we like.

      • Nikola Mileta
        Nikola Mileta says:

        This is so funny because I was in the same situation with my ex girlfriend two years ago. Since good furniture is hard to find at affordable prices and in measurements that you need we found local furniture maker who made us beautiful huge sofa.
        As you say, they are lacking the taste, but we brought the pictures and they made exact copy. For less than a thousand euros. Same would cost in shops for around two thousand.
        Regarding food, in my country we still have lots and lots of farmers who sell their stuff on town’s market places so we can eat decent food. Prices are not small, but at least we eat well.
        There are still quality stuff to be found, you just need to find it.

  2. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Fascinating. Personally speaking I found it most uplifting to be able to create different combinations and permutations within one’s wardrobe. Expansion on that of course is a bottomless pit :-)

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Sajeel, I know many men work on a specific combination and then they were it all the time – just like that, without any variation. Not only is that boring, but you will also wear down the items considerably faster than if you’d switch things up. When you mix things together, things will sometimes not match or simply not look pleasing in the beginning but over time, you will learn and develop a great sense of color, pattern and texture combination. For example, I am sure Mr. Barbera did not start out with the outfits he wears now – it was a process that lead him to where he is today.

  3. Lugman
    Lugman says:

    Hello Sven,

    Very interesting website I must say, I am about to have a bespoke suit made as I had selected the most beautiful Loro Piana chocolate brown suiting, it’s a rich bitter chocolate colour. I have also chosen a well I think it’s nice a lovely radiant lining which is almost a dark salmon colour it’s difficult to say its an unusual lining. Anyway, I’m using brown mother of pearl button for the jacket and pants do you think this might be too much and what can you suggest for the stitching? Would a burnt dark caramel cotton look good? Or will this date and I just stick to brown cotton? I have located an Italian tailor from Firenze living here in South Africa where i am based, so it’s costing me a small fortune to make this suit, but it will all be for the best, in the end.

    Your input would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks
    Lugman

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Lugman,
      Your buttons are always easily exchanged. However, I would take lining, cloth, fabric, and thread outside with me and see what I like the most. Personally, I am not a fan of contrast pick stitching but each to his own.

  4. sailor
    sailor says:

    on etsy i found a great estate deal. a box of 70 ties for 50 bucks. save for the few ugly, 5 inch wide ties from the 70’s and 80’s (which it eventually dawned on my to cut up into pocket squares!!!), the rest were stunning silk and wool ties from the 50’s and 60’s. best purchase of my life!

  5. Park Jacobs Weatheby
    Park Jacobs Weatheby says:

    Thanks once again Mr. Schneider for another excellent and thoroughly informative article as always.

    If I may please permit me to solicit your advise on a matter I just recently purchased a vintage double breasted camel hair blazer at ebay and I would like to pair it with complimentary trousers I’m thinking something in medium to light grey and even navy colored?

    Best Regards,

    Park

  6. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Having lived in Naples for six years ( a long time ago), I can vouch for the great dress style that some Neapolitans have and your article and photos illustrate this so well. Viva Napoli!

  7. Elio
    Elio says:

    Hi, Very interesting and inspiring article! What I remember most about menswear in Naples is that the navy that the Neapolitans are so fond of using, is actually a bit lighter and more saturated (is that the word?) than what is traditionally considered as ‘navy’. Fits in well with the blue of the Mediterranean! :-)

  8. Sebastian O. Bauer
    Sebastian O. Bauer says:

    Hallo Sven,

    vielen Dank für deine immer wieder tollen Berichte über die schönen Dinge des Lebens und dein wunderbares Auge für Details.

    Vor gut 15 Jahren war ich auf einem Schüleraustausch in der Nähe von Amalfi und wurde dank deiner Berichte darin bestäkt, dieses Jahr einen Trip durch Italien bis nach Amalfi zu unternehmen. Da liegt ein Abstecher nach Neapel natürlich nahe. Auf welchem Flohmarkt würdest du mich denn schicken, wenn ich mir auch gerne einen schönen Anzug schnappen würde?

    Herzlichen Dank für deine Inspirationen!

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