Learning to Care and Other Lessons from Italy

Trevor Stuurman/Huffington Post 

Trevor Stuurman/Huffington Post 

Having just been back home to Italy to visit my family, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect upon the ways in which growing up there influenced how I present myself to the world.  Had I grown up on this side of the Atlantic, I’m one hundred percent positive that I would not be the bleached blonde haired, skinny jean wearing guy that I am today, and I shudder at the image of what could have been (Patagonia quarter zip fleece pullovers and Sperrys, anyone?).  That being said, I don’t dress like most Italians do, especially the ones my age amongst whom I’ve always kind of stuck out, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t assimilate any of what Italian style is all about.  

 

The thing that most struck me growing up (and still strikes me when I go back) is that everybody cares about how they look. The Italians view there appearance as a reflection of themselves to the outside world (and rightly so), so being put together isn’t even up for discussion. This might not necessarily translate into following all the latest trends: in fact, often times trends arrive in Italy a significant amount of time later than they do in the States. It could even be little things that we don’t even think about, like never leaving the house with wet hair. Anybody from parents dropping their kids off at school (I can’t remember ever witnessing a single pair of Uggs or yoga pants) to older people doing groceries, everybody has put some sort of thought into what they wear out, which in itself is a beautiful thing.  

Tommy Ton/GQ

Tommy Ton/GQ

Another thing that I grew up with was the absence of any sort of stigma surrounding guys caring about how they dressed.  From the grandfathers with their tailoring, to the middle aged men with their sweaters in muted pastels and jeans that could not be classified as “dad jeans” because too well fitting, all the way down to kids my age, they all paid attention.  Never once was I taught, either directly or indirectly, that guys weren’t supposed to care about how they dressed, nor was it seen as “effeminate” or “wrong” as it so often times is here.  Your judgement might be questioned for the specific articles of clothing you chose, but your having an aesthetic is never, ever going to be a topic of discussion.  

 

There are several more lessons that I could talk about, but to pinpoint the intricacies of the Italian way of dressing would warrant a book, not an article.  The emulation of their disheveled elegance has been attempted by many, but successfully executed by only a few.  Instead of trying to emulate what they’re wearing, why don’t we all try and emulate the absolute concepts at play.  Caring about how one looks when we walk out the door should become second nature; let us put an end to workout clothes in a non-workout context, because besides being flattering on virtually nobody, they are the ultimate symbol of not caring about how you look.  And boys, can we please stop believing that caring about how we dress is wrong?  I’m not saying that you should nerd out over the stacks on Slimane era 17.5 MIJs like me and my friends do, but maybe next time you go shopping, you bring along a friend whose style you admire and ask for his opinion.  

 

Helmut Lang's Art Exhibit at the Dallas Contemporary Museum

Helmut Lang's Art Exhibit at the Dallas Contemporary Museum

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