I've been working in fashion for the past seven years, sometimes as a designer and often in the realm of social media marketing and copywriting. At the moment, one of my clients is an Italian retailer that specializes in designer fashion. It's a really fun gig because I get to speak Italian with my bosses and then translate their vision for a worldwide audience.
Occasionally my fashion-fashion and bike-fashion worlds collide. As they did when I was researching men's street style in Florence and came across these delicious photos.
There are two innately Italian concepts that spring to mind when I look at these shots. The first is La Bella Figura: the ever-important impression that the Italian is making in public. Even though Florence and Milan are very cosmopolitan cities with inhabitants from all over the world, they can still feel like very small towns to the average Italian resident.
You never know when you're going to run into your mother's cousin, so if you go out looking anything less than impeccably dressed, your mamma will hear about it. (The flipside is La Brutta Figura, or the surest way to bring shame to your entire family. Running shoes and wrinkled t-shirts definitely fall into this category.)
The other uniquely Italian concept is Sprezzatura. In fact, you can draw a direct line from our modern concept of cool to the 16th Century writings of Castiglione. In his The Book of the Courtier he describes how the ideal man is well-versed in all sorts of difficult skills but somehow manages to make it look easy and unaffected.
I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all other, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.
What do you think? Do these guys pull it off? Does it even matter when they look so great?