The President of Kiton USA and I were chatting when he noticed my button-down collar was unbuttoned. “Sprezzatura!,” he exclaimed. We both knew who he was talking about.
The French may have joie de vivre but the Italians have sprezzatura. Variously defined as studied nonchalance. Making the difficult look easy. Intentional carelessness.
Sprezzatura’s avatar was Gianni Agnelli, considered by many to be the 20th century’s most stylish man. Andy Warhol took pictures of him, Jacqueline Kennedy dated him, and the wealthiest international playboys copied him (and secretly wished they were him). He had every unfair advantage a man could want – wealth, good looks, a sense of style, refined taste – and did I mention he was Italian? In his prime, during the 60’s and 70’s, Agnelli ran Fiat when it was the largest employer in Italy.
He had a few signature looks. He wore his watch on the outside of the shirt cuff, hiking boots with suits, the skinny end of the tie longer than the fat end. And yes, the unbuttoned button down shirt collar.
As a public service to the vast majority of American men who have none of Agnelli’s advantages I offer the following top nine guide to what is not sprezzatura.
- Trying to imitate Gianni Agnelli: Imitating anyone is inherently not sprezzatura. Reread the first four paragraphs.
- Wearing a belt with suspenders: If your trousers fit properly you need neither belt nor suspenders.,
- Your belt not matching your shoes: See #2.
- Going sockless: Depends. Ten below zero? Not sprezzatura. With square toed shoes? Not even Gianni Agnelli could make square-toed shoes sprezzatura. With cowboy boots? That’s masochism, not sprezzatura. With espadrilles on Miami Beach? Maybe, as long as you’re not trying to channel Don Johnson circa 1984. The ankle holster was a dead give away.
- Paper clips for cufflinks: It’s a possibility. You might try this look if your actual cufflinks are golf balls, a bull and a bear, American flags, any sports team logo or Shriner hats.
- Wearing a tie for a belt: See numbers #2 and #3.
- Dress shirt untucked: This is sloppy, not sprezzatura. I bet you wear square-toed shoes too.
- White sneakers with a suit: Depends on your industry. Funeral Director? Probably not.
- Big beard, flannel shirt, rolled up jeans, Danner boots: You sir, are a lumbersexual. Mr. G. Agnelli was no lumbersexual.
So what is sprezzatura?
Wearing Kippo shorts to the gym: This is a sure bet for sprezzatura. No one needs to see your smartphone dangling from your arm.