Unless you rub shoulders with those in the fashion industry, the chances are that you won’t have come across the wordSprezzatura ( pronounced sprettsatoora). Let me explain its origins and why as a man, you should be conscious of the word when choosing your wardrobe.
Sprezzatura is an Italian word originating from Baldassare Castiglione’s “The Book of the Courtier”, where it is defined by the author as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”. It is the ability of a courtier to display “an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them”.Sprezzatura has also been described as the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent indifference reticence and nonchalance. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “studied carelessness”. Or in modern parlance “total cool”!
The word has become rather over-used in the fashion business but it makes a change from words like “chic” “classic” and “timeless”. In fact the word has been used in the clothing world to mean several different things. Some see it as the ability to wear great clothes without seemingly having to try- throwing on clothes with an air of casual indifference, and yet looking as though you may have spent ages carefully choosing the combo. It can also refer to a guy who makes a “wrong” clothing decision, but nevertheless plays it out and holds his heads high with a smile, leaving others to dither and mither about whether it’s wrong or not, leaving the man himself to get on with his business. But it can be a fine line between carefully crafted dishelvement (like displaying a distressed look but without looking like a tramp) and appearing sloppy.
I would argue that good examples of Sprezzatura are Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Bastian and Gianni Agnelli. Some would argue that our own Top Gear presenters display how to pull off the genre and how not to. Jeremy Clarkson is sprezzatura. James May is not. See the difference?
Here are some beginner’s tips to perfecting (or possibly imperfecting) the art of sprezzatura. Present a slightly crumpled quality shirt. The quality shows you care, the lack of ironing shows you don’t care that much. Get it? A tie should be worn slightly off-beam, off true, a few millimetres off the centre of your top collar button.
Socks? Why bother? Leave them off for a day. But make sure you have designer pumps or Italian brogues and a decent pair of strides to go with your bare ankles.
A nice touch is to split your suit trousers and jacket. Wear your suit jacket or better still a tuxedo, with distressed jeans or even thick corduroy pants. Then wear your designer suit trousers with a jeans jacket, or a Guns n Roses t-shirt. Mess it up consciously- and of course never tell anyone that you’ve thought about it. It’s all a shrug-of-the-shoulders natural gesture from a man who never has to think about what he’s wearing!