Friday, May 19, 2006

Style Cue – Part 2 “Scusi”

I saw the young guy I posted earlier and this fine young gentleman only a few blocks apart the other day. They both share the very Italian style of wearing the back of the tie slightly longer than the front. So Italian ,in fact, that I find it easier when approaching these guys to say “scusi” first, in my very limited but decent Italian accent. I find that this gives the subtle clue that i completely recognize they are Italian by their style alone – it has worked everytime so far. The down side is that they start speaking to me in Italian and I have to quickly explain that “scusi” is one of the few Italian words I know.

This gentleman happens to be an executive at Saint Andrews. Besides the tie, I also wanted to point out that he is wearing a buttondown shirt with his suit. I see buttondowns on Italians much more than Americans even though the buttondown is so essentially American. Thom Browne has done a great job working the buttondown back into our suited wardrobe but I would love to see versions done by some other houses like ,maybe, Hickey. Fred Astaire wore a lot of buttondowns, I would love to see that look modernized.


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  1. argos

    May 19, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    So it WAS the fact the back end of the tie is longer! So much for my humble and ill-informed opinion. I frankly had no idea italians do this on purpose.
    Thank you sarto, for pointing this out.

  2. primavera non è più

    May 19, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    hmmm interesting… now i know

  3. Anonymous

    May 19, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    I’m confused – is the post to suggest that, generally, buttondown shirts aren’t used? If not, what’s the alternative?

  4. Anonymous

    May 19, 2006 at 9:46 pm

    Not only well dressed but what a smile! This gentleman looks like he is enjoying life. No posturing either…very approachable.

  5. Em Lo

    May 19, 2006 at 9:57 pm

    Heh, a good way to edge into a conversation!

    Could you please explain a little more about dress shirt collars? I’m a bit unclear as to why button down is preferred or not over other types of collars.

  6. serge

    May 19, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    anonymous — button down collars were traditionally worn by Ivy Leaguers in the Northeast. Brooks Brothers took the idea from British polo players who had long, long collars that they buttoned down so they wouldn’t flap up in the wind. Then it became the norm for Ivy Leaguers, and accepted generally in the Northeast. In New York it is much more common than where I live, L.A. Many in America think it is too casual and looks sloppy. I tend to agree, even though I grew up in New York and used to wear them. I favor spread collars (because my face is thin). I personally hope button downs die out, although this gentleman’s outfit looks great and I didn’t even notice he was wearing one.

  7. Chris

    May 19, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    In response to some of the questions about collars, button downs are viewed as American, thanks to a clothing store called Brooks Brothers.

    It’s also viewed as a casual look, compared to the other un-buttoned collars (pointed, spread, semi-spread, cutaway, ect.) So to see a sort of casual type (and American) of dress catching on in Italy, it’s a bit of a surprise.

    Hope I’m right with my explanation.


  8. muse

    May 20, 2006 at 12:24 am

    I would love to see Fred Astaire himself modernized and reincarnated. I would marry him!!!

  9. Andre

    May 20, 2006 at 12:24 am

    Buttondown refers to the collars which are buttoned down. It’s considered an more informal collar because of its sporting origins: polo players invented it to keep their collars from flapping in the wind when they were riding around on their horses.

  10. business voodoo

    May 20, 2006 at 3:44 am

    i agree about the smile, and kudos to the gumption and hutzpah (spelling?) !!!! i also appreciate the info on the ‘italian cues’ !!! thanks for keeping us well informed.
    peace & harmony,
    ‘freedom must be exercised to stay in shape!’

  11. Anonymous

    May 20, 2006 at 4:54 am

    what to say…i’m amazed that there are people that would recognize italian style just by looking at someone….i’m impressed! and yes….we know a few things about style and fashion! :) bravo! by Daniela from Italy

  12. antony

    May 20, 2006 at 5:54 am

    I personally wear button down collars only with oxford cloth shirts and am interested as to whether you think that the style works with all shirt fabrics as well as to your opinion re the ideal button placement—how much should the collar balloon? (I hate button down shirts when the collar lies flat.)

  13. The Sartorialist

    May 20, 2006 at 6:33 am

    Two of the worlds most Stylish men Gianni Agnelli and Fred Astaire both wore buttondown shirts with suits.

    Agnelli was famous for wearing his with the buttons unbuttoned.

    I agree that in the US right now, when we see someone in a buttondown and suit it is usually not very well done, but it can be.

    Check my friend Bruce Boyer’s book on Fred Astaire and in a recent Vanity Fair there was the article on Lapo Elkann. In one of the photos of him he was wearing a buttondown (unbuttoned) with a DB suit and it looked very cool.

    Again I think we need someone like BB or Hickey to reintroduce the buttondown and maybe show images from the archives of how it use to be done

  14. Anonymous

    May 20, 2006 at 7:23 am

    I don’t really like buttondowns with a nice suit. It worrks fine when I wear a v-neck shirt over, then the collar stays down in a nice way.
    But in a suit i prefer a classic-collar of some kind!
    One thing I’ve seen here in Scandinavia and Europe is hidden buttondowns, that do their job, but doesn’t show at all.

  15. Anonymous

    May 20, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    I think anonymous @ 9:15pm is thinking in that very American way of speaking -
    Buttondown shirt….not collar.
    That is, a shirt with buttons on the front. I have heard this a few times and I always get confused (I think in reverse to 9:15pm’s thinking I guess).
    To most people on this site a shirt is a shirt, with buttons.
    A button down is a shirt with a button down collar.
    What 9:15pm is asking, from their point of view, is: what is the alternative to a button front shirt?
    The answer is a shirt – without a buttondown collar!

  16. oldog/oldtrix

    May 20, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    It’s not surprising that anonymous is confused by sarto’s use of the term “buttondown.” Even writers (ill-informed) for so-called men’s fashion/style magazines have taken to using the term to denote cut-and-sewn, coat front shirts, I assume because such shirts button down if one starts buttoning from the collar. I guess, depending upon how the wearer gets dressed, these shirts could also be called button up or button out (from one of the middle buttons). Such shirts used to be called “shirts,” and could be further classified by style of collar (e.g. buttondown, spread, point …) and cuffs (French or double, barrel …). Shirts of the non-”shirt” variety were distinguished by adjectives such as knit, pullover, etc.

    For business voodoo, the spelling is usually “chutzpah.” But you get maximum points for following at least half of my grandfather’s rule, “Think Yiddish, dress British.”

    Longer rear blade of the tie is not just Italian. The Duke of Windsor is often pictured wearing his tie that way, usually with the rear blade tucked into his trousers. Works as well as a tie bar/clip/pin to keep the tie centered, so long as the rear blade is slipped through the keeper on the back of the front blade. Also keeps the front blade from dangling too long if the wearer is short or the trousers are higher waisted.

  17. iopine

    May 20, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    I’ve noticed that tie trend recently and am glad to know from whence it comes. In my ignorance, I just assumed that these guys hadn’t noticed the way the tie was tied, and well . . . they’d gone out that way oblivious.

    You mention the button-down. I remember when button-down meant button-down collar, not button-FRONT shirt. What has happened? Why are the two confused?

  18. The Sartorialist

    May 20, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    I agree about the Duke of Windsor, the Italians are very influenced by the British.
    A guy I use to work with said certain style things were Anglo-Milanese

  19. Anonymous

    May 20, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    American and Italian button down collars are usually different.

    If you look closely at American and Italian button down collars you’ll see that they’re cut differently. Unbutton both American and Italian collars and lay them flat to compare. You’ll see that the front edge of the America collar has a pronounced curve whereas the Italian collar is more straight (This applies only to the quality American shirts.) The curve on the American collar produces a nice “roll” in the collar when it’s buttoned down – especially noticeable when not wearing a tie and with the top front button undone. The Italian button down collar has a straight front edge and the collar lies flatter.

    It looks a bit off (strange) to my eyes when an American button down collar shirt is worn with an European cut suit or blazer or vice versa. Gianni Agnelli carrries it off because he’s Agnelli and he leaves the collar buttons unfastened.

  20. Anonymous

    May 20, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    I love my button-downs. As ridiculous as this may sound, I think it makes my roundish face look slimmer and I have several for different occasions (dressy or sporty). Like Sarto suggests, you have to know how to wear it; not based on some “rule”. In a broader context, you have to consider everything, then forget about it.

  21. EMNH

    May 21, 2006 at 3:57 am

    Whew…could you imagine the thread if it was a photo of a guy with an Italian button down shirt unbuttoned, wearing a Thom Browne suit jacket , red pants and an orange scarf? Come on…you all are some seriosly savvy muthas…the sharing of this kind of fun/seriousness would have been impossible only a few years ago. Thank you Al Gore for inventing the internet.

  22. Anonymous

    May 21, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    This is so interesting. As an American woman with a (now ex) Italian husband, I was always trying to convince him not to wear his button down collars, and attempting to get him to tie his tie “correctly” so the skinny end didn’t hang down. I guess that’s just what Italian men do. Silly me. He was very natty. I should have known he knew how to dress himself, after all.

  23. Max

    May 22, 2006 at 1:43 am

    I see buttondowns all the time here in New England, but I think it’s more a casual thing than a deliberate decision. People own button-down shirts and don’t think of them as essentially different than their other shirts.

  24. fashmoda

    May 22, 2006 at 6:19 am

    Yes, very italian style. But normally, Italians wear their ties a bit shorter. I had a look this morning in the streets here in Milan. Most men are waering a French collar (extra wide spread)- button down is known but not in the foreground.

    One thing of the Scusi-man’s look is very italian – the colour of the suit and the pochette.

    Saluti da milano

  25. tomassocroccante

    October 20, 2007 at 2:50 am

    My good friend Andrea Morganti buys Brooks Brothers button downs on his annual NY trips. Why? because they aren’t what everyone else in Rome is wearing! He (with help from his beautiful wife, Barbara) cultivates a sort of special, American slant.

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