To break the rules, you must master them first…
In a digital world focused on image, it takes a lot to be considered a style icon. It takes a hell of a lot more to be an Italian style icon. Then there’s Gianni Agnelli. And he’s pretty well in a class by himself.
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If you look up the word ‘sprezzatura’ in the dictionary, you might expect to find a picture of Agnelli as the definition. He defined casual elegance. A true arbiter of fashion, Gianni Agnelli was an Italian business magnate who is about as well regarded for his influential style as he was for his political work and a little car company we know as Fiat.
One of the wealthiest men in the world at the time, one might argue that with a $2 billion worth, being able to afford the finest apparel isn’t much of a challenge. Despite fashion being something one can purchase, style is not. Had Agnelli only graced the tabloids wearing outfits from Fashion Week or Pitti, he would have likely received praise. But nowhere near the praise he has received from the world’s most rakish sartorialists. His style was invaluable, and even with all the money in the world, no one can have style like that.
Gianni Agnelli threw out the rules. His style pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable, eccentric and just plain nuts. From the way he wore his watches on top of the cuff to letting his ties fly wildly in the wind, Agnelli had enough chutzpah to be able to pull off a look that others would be criticized for even attempting. And he did it in the most casual way, all while remaining the most dapper man in the room.
He almost looked like a ten-year-old with the slim blade of his necktie longer than the front; his watch clasped over the cuff of his shirt, and random buttons left unfastened as if he didn’t care enough to do them up.
When we look at pictorials of modern day dandies with the cuff of their jacket left undone or their tie hanging askew, these are all trademarks Agnelli gave birth to. Trademarks of true style. Ones that we now consider synonymous with bespoke or made-to-measure garments.
He was the first to wear his clothing this way. One might even argue that many of the eccentricities we label as sprezzatura are gifts he bestowed upon us. Somehow, he remains one of the only men throughout history who could pull off as many of these signature moves as he wanted without looking like he was trying too hard.
5 signature Gianni Agnelli style moves to try because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
If you decide to pair your Albert slippers with a double-breasted suit that’s fine. If you try to leave buttons undone, it can look great. If you peacock your pocket square you may look dapper. But if you do it all at once, you’ll look like a clown. You can’t imitate a man like Agnelli. Otherwise, you will be going against every style principle he stood for.
Agnelli was an artist. Like Picasso, you might learn from his teachings but don’t forge his paintings, or you’ll look like a thief. Instead of doing them all at once, pick one Agnelli trademark at a time. Here are five worth trying.
1. Leave the last cuff button of your jacket undone.
Not only is this a hallmark of bespoke apparel, but it is the definition of sprezzatura which Agnelli was best known for.
2. Forget the tie bar.
Let the tie run free under a blazer. Don’t thread one blade into the loop of the other. But do ensure the tie is properly tied at the right lengths.
3. Opt for casual shoes.
Okay, so I don’t suggest wearing hiking boots with your suit like Agnelli was known for, but a pair of MTM slippers, drivers without socks or even leather sneakers can add some depth and comfort to an otherwise staunch outfit.
4. Consider a dinner jacket over a tuxedo.
We’re not talking black here, guys. Instead, consider a burgundy dinner jacket, a jacquard jacket or something far more flamboyant. It may not work at the opera, but it’s perfect for a dinner date or corporate event.
5. Go bold.
Bigger bow ties, a cravat over a necktie… These are just a few ways to introduce some sprezzatura into your daily apparel. This is classic Agnelli, but instead of being viewed as a copycat, you’ll be viewed as a sartorially-savvy gentleman.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
He Spoke Style