Exposure to new cultures is an enlightening experience, and something all should strive for. In this series ‘Culture Shots’ we want to provide everyone the chance to learn something new from a culture they may not be familiar with. Small shots, easily digested, no chaser needed.
Style is more than clothes, that we know for sure. Beyond simple material items and closer to a natural sense of fashion, it is the perfect blend of creativity, study and self-expression. Whether it is the grace of small details, or the message behind big statements, there is no limit, no barrier. Style is an undeniable aspect of fashion; sometimes it becomes an idea, and sometimes it becomes a culture.
The Art which conceals Art
If there ever was an effortlessly cool style, then that would be sprezzatura at its finest. One of those words that is quintessentially Italian, sprezzatura belongs to the brotherhood of the English gentleman and the Parisian slash Frenchman, but like them, sprezzatura has its own distinctive element- one that is uniquely and unmistakably Italian. Renaissance writer Baldassarre Castiglione was the first Italian to make use of it in 1528, in his savoir-faire guide for social conduct, ’The Book of the Courtier’ (Il Libro del Cortegiano). Sprezzatura has since then been roughly translated as “intentional negligence”, “studied carelessness”, or “#IWokeUpLikeThis” in the social networking era. Show to the world - but also, cultivate within yourself - the Art of appearing nonchalant, and you are halfway there.
Baldassarre Castiglione: “(….) una certa sprezzatura, che nasconda l’arte e dimostri ciò che si fa e dice venir fatto senza fatica e quasi senza pensarvi”
Between la extravaganza and la grazia (more or less)
Time has passed since sprezzatura first became fashionable and central to the idea of Italian style, but sprezzatura is still an Art that is unfamiliar to all but a few fortunate individuals. First, because there is no specific dress code to adhere to, and second, because it is less about the clothing itself and more about the style, the way, it is worn. In an age of opulent excess, we have seen how the classic styles of European powerhouses have modernised (or radicalised), to adopt quasi industrial forms, almost losing touch with the timeless spirit that came to characterise them. But that should not be the case with sprezzatura. Of studied elegance and refined character, the magic of sprezzatura relaxes the polished look and steers away from the usual sartorial guidelines, mixing formal and casual wear with a creased handkerchief, a loose tie, or the popular, watch over the cuff. The sprezzatura wearer bends the fashion norms he (or she) - no gender distinction here, although it is true that the style is more associated with menswear - considers worth bending and only, after carefully studied thought. The goal is a crafted natural manner, a delicate balance between the luxury of fashion and the organic sense of style, where personal brand and individuality cross the finish line miles before the material. Sprezzatura is artfully complex in its apparent effortlessness.
Sprezzatura icons - then, and now
Without a doubt, Pitti Uomo is the world’s largest showcase for international menswear, and the best time of the year to understand sprezzatura. Traditional but innovative, the fashion fair brings collections, trends, and street style together in an explosive celebration of classic dress and contemporary projects, in all things men’s apparel. Indeed, Pitti Uomo is an endless source of sprezzatura inspo and an event definitely worth checking out! We wanted to do the same here at YUGEN and that is why we bring you these three sprezzatura style icons, who have become timeless synonyms for creativity, discovery and reflection.
Creative director, entrepreneur and founder of eponymous luxury label, Brunello is an advocate for everything that is authentic, retrospective, and handcrafted. Often called a “philosopher designer”, Brunello’s identity is marked by a deep humanistic approach that has defined all aspects of his life, including his style. His sprezzatura follows the same organic path, and usually takes the form of a crumpled and tight mismatched suit jacket, an offbeat playful game of textures and patterns, and a slightly ruffled look, but it is all with an overall sense of assurance and poise matching for today’s modern world. Brunello takes the Italian classics and shapes them to his taste, into an image that is of true fit to his character and principles.
Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli
Fiat’s legendary CEO, Gianni was a nonconformist, always seeking and peculiar, who treated his fashion as a playground for experimentation. His was a bold contradictory style: suave but with a distracted air, that matched the strength of his charismatic intelligent character. The “Avvocato’s” trustee friend was the wristwatch over the cuff and he wore this gusto, but he was also experimental in the rest of his everyday style choices, not afraid to mix and match. Shirts, usually in light tones, with button-down collars left unbuttoned, suede boots paired with formal suits, and wide loose ties, to name a few. For all of this, Gianni is considered a timeless sprezzatura icon in the sartorial world.
G. Bruce Boyer
Bruce is a menswear journalist, and former editor for GQ, Town & Country and Esquire. He is best known for his longtime loyalty to the conservative Anglo-American style that has come to define his dressing, which he established when he was only 15. Since then, he has set out to perfect his style, pairing urban and country wear and experimenting with small aesthetic details that would be missed by the majority, but he has never sacrificed his personal trinity of comfort, simplicity, and quality. His sprezzatura is found in the style of his oversized suits, the reveal of personal identity, and his knack for surprising colour palette combinations. Bruce is a different, but nonetheless impressive, representation of sprezzatura.
Strong against the changes
The world keeps speeding up, trends continue popping up, and the readiness of fast fashion remains as appealing as it is, but sprezzatura still stands strong against the current. As the years go by, sprezzatura is the proof that the message it defends: the self-awareness of character and aesthetics; the willingness to stay true to the old traditions even in the face of zeitgeist changes, is a correct one.
No sprezzatura article would be complete without some visuals, so we have pulled together a few of our favourite examples, across the seasons.
Sprezzatura Spring / Summer
Sprezzatura Autumn / Winter
Written by Carlota Pano. Image credit to Jonathan Daniel Pryce, Tommy Ton & JKF Man Photography