All too often, men outside of Italy seem to idolize certain brands and tailoring houses and their “Neapolitan” style – but what exactly is the Neapolitan style? During my time in Naples, I saw a number of suits and jackets; based on that, I can say there are definitely a number of things that are very characteristic for a true Neapolitan jacket, but garments alone don’t represent authentic Neapolitan style. Much rather, the person wearing the suit, his character, gestures and last but not least the sprezzatura are all vital elements of Neapolitan style.
Fortunately, I had the chance to spend my time with true Neapolitans and as such, I was able to experience their lifestyle beyond pure aspects of dress or fashion. It all started with a classic home-cooked three course lunch at the residence of Giancarlo Maresca, who is not just a true Neapolitan gentleman but also a writer for the Italian Monsieur and the president of the Cavalleresco Ordine dei Guardiani delle Nove Porte, an Italian association of gentleman. In the future, watch for dedicated articles about Mr. Maresca as well as his association.
The Neapolitan Jacket & Suit
During my conversations, I learned one particularly notable idea that stood out among many: the most important part of the jacket is it’s soul. Now, you may wonder how it is possible for a jacket to have a soul, but Neapolitans of style don’t consider their jackets to be made of just of a piece of cloth. Instead, it is the materialization of the tailor’s artisanal handwork that creates this one of a kind coat, created by an individual, on an individual, for an individual, and it is this combination that creates the sole of a suit or a jacket.
Now, that aside, the Neapolitan jacket has a number of hallmarks.
- The collar is a bit higher than normal, with a gorge that is a bit higher than traditionally in England but nothing extreme
- The shoulders are soft and natural, without any or very little padding. Regular suits often come with con rollino shoulder, sport coats often with spalla camicia. Basically, these two terms explain how the fabric seams of the shoulder and sleeve are folded, see below.
- Typically, the sleeve is bigger than the sleeve head resulting in little wavy fold in the area of the sleeve next to the sleevehead. The Italians call that grinze, we call it shirring. See the pictures in the gallery below.
- The back is cut with a good amount of waist suppression and flaring side vents creating a very elegant, yet dynamic look
- The front dart extends all the way to the bottom hem to create a more elegant look in the front
- The Neapolitan jacket is made by hand and only marginal work is done by machine
- The canvas is soft and the jacket minimally lined
While these aspects are essential to virtually all Neapolitan jackets, there are a number of other features that are also typical today, but are by no means essential:
- The color is navy. Naples is located by the sea and as such this maritime color is omnipresent and the men I met had their first suit all made in navy- and about 50% of their wardrobe consists of some form of navy garment!
- The front is often single breasted with 3 buttons and 4 cuff buttons. Even in October, it may get very hot in Naples and as such a single breasted suit will wear a little cooler because there are no overlapping layers of cloth.
- The coat features patch pockets. Patch pockets are more informal and suit the slightly more chaotic Neapolitan lifestyle better than jetted pockets or flap pockets in my opinion.
- At the moment, trousers are cut narrowly with cuffs that do not show much of a break and you will always find belt loops even though it may be worn with suspenders as well.
- Shoes come in a shade of brown.
- Shirt collar are big and individual
- Silk ties are printed, not woven, though there are many exceptions to this rule. The classic neapolitan tie is lightweight, with a three fold construction and untipped. While Rubinacci always keeps them at 8 cm, Marinella ties vary in width. 7 fold ties are not really Neapolitan and hence mostly sold to Americans and tourists.
- Small armholes and tapered sleeves
In the following video, you can learn the details of a neapolitan sport coat.
Obviously, there is not just one style but many different ones. As such, I want to introduce you to the style of a young Neapolitan today, with a few more to follow over the course of the next couple of weeks in our Gentlemen of Style series.
While I was enjoying a drink at the Reale Yacht Club Canottieri Savoia together with Mr. Maresca, Giuseppe, Gabriele and Enzo. In conversation I learned that Naples is home to a number of different flea markets on the weekends, where real (sartorial) bargains may be found at times and I was invited to go. Since I am always up for an unique experience, I said yes right away even though that meant I had to get up at 4:30am in the morning after a long day and hardly any sleep, because as it turned out, the people on the Piazza in front of my apartment in Naples celebrated all night long.
Once I met with Giuseppe, his friend Gianni picked us up in 1997 Fiat Punto that had been thoroughly (ab)used. While Gianni was in his mid-twenties, he was accompanied by 65 year old bargain hunter Salvatore. Before the journey could begin, we had to drink cafe and eat a cornetto con crema (a croissant with a pudding filling).
Once at the market, Gianni spotted a double breasted suit right away that he bought for 2 Euros. Of course it was entirely hand sewn by an old Neapolitan tailor – what a find!
On the way to the next market, we passed areas with piles of garbage on the street and when I asked to stop for a picture, Gianni took the opportunity to try on his new acquisition – on the street of course, where else!?
Oh and of course you must smoke – a true Neapolitan always smokes!
All of a sudden a car passed us and Gianni was convinced they were heading for another flea market, so we all hurried back into the car and Gianni performed an impressive demonstration of how quickly you can accelerate with 45 horsepower car. While chasing the other car, he felt the need to change his trousers and so he did just that, all while driving and smoking of course! It turned out the car was going somewhere else but I had a demonstration of true Neapolitan style, right there.
After this experience we headed to Gianni’s home, where he showed me his sartorial acquisitions. Of course, he also tried on his new suit again and looked at the shoulder line – and he wasn’t happy with it. Two seconds later he was ripping apart the seams of the sleeve lining in order to rip out the shoulder padding.
Once he had removed it in one shoulder, he smiled and noted “I like this shoulder now”. Once again, he did all that while smoking, talking and just being himself. Once he stood there, happily in his suits, I realized that part of this whole style was not just his suit but especially his personality and a certain nonchalance, that made his outfit look as if it was effortlessly put together, although quite a bit of thought and discussion went into it.
At this point I realized that anyone who wants a Neapolitan suit or jacket should visit Naples at least once, because without this experience chances are you won’t wear it well, and the jacket will be worn without a soul.
What do you think of Neapolitan jackets and Style?
Picture credit: London Lounge, Bespokenn