Pitti Immagine Uomo, the trade show that for forty years has punctually marked and anticipated trends, changes and contaminations of the male style, is just around the corner. It's the all-out vocation that makes this show unique: the desire to embrace fashion in its different and chaotic forms, from the classic ones to the informal, with everything hybrid that lies in between. For those who are not in the sector it is impossible to imagine the sense of anticipation that such an event, which takes place twice a year, manages to create in bystanders including not only designers, brands and fashion groups called to prove their capability of periodically reinventing the same thing, but also of sector professionals, like buyers and journalists, ready to prove their ability to suitably dress and present themselves, busy scrutinizing each other and judging their reciprocal looks. The tension among the latter category, silent but undeniable, is overwhelming: it is so high sometimes that it steals the spotlight from the rest.
A classical anthropologist like Claude Lévi-Strauss would have been very interested in the primordial race between peacocks that takes place at Pitti, under everyone's eyes. To understand it, we have to take a step back and to see modern fashion as a whole. The fact that the current scenario is totally deconstructed; that old methods and old channels no longer work. Designers alone do not control trends. The digital revolution knocked down the barriers and multiplied the possibilities to create a new democracy; maybe in a fake and boorish way, but with a devastating impact. Competition for fashion groups comes directly from the street, from the way individuals choose to represent themselves, putting together pieces, behaviors and accessories. The flashier characters, immortalized by the growing horde of street-photographers, off-springs of Bill Cunningham, but often without his lightness, even become icons. Well, this change in perspective is ever clearer at Pitti. Indeed, Pitti is one of those places where the symbolic handover took place.
Just a few years ago a small group of pioneers, the usual Japanese as well as Scott Schuman, went around the Fortezza da Basso to document the variety and diversity among the public. Today the central plaza that connects the different pavilions was transformed into an open-air stage, on the outskirts of which a crowded and hectic swarm of photographers, young, sometimes very young, is on alert to wait for its prey and these, aware and vain, no longer walk but parade. «Most fashion magazines cover Pitti Uomo,» said young Nam whose blog Streetfsn is among the sharpest and most elegant around. «I have several contracts: ten magazines in different countries. Why? Italian style during Pitti is considered to be the trend.»
The reason why Pitti at a global level is a symbol of Italy is precisely these anonymous figures. One goes to Pitti to see fashion of the future already being worn by its co-stars. The gap is significant: from the producer to the consumer. On the side there is a claim of identity that brings sky-high the natural arrogance of the exuberant Italian male contaminating it with other things but not corrupting it.
WHAT FOREIGNERS APPRECIATE
The Pitti male is one of a kind; one who self-indulges by dressing well, one who enjoys showing off his knowledge as a connoisseur, devastating the competition with idiosyncrasies and poetical licenses, lavishing in nit-picky details and accumulating one sophistication after the other. He is a one of a kind specimen that the digital world made into a model and category of spirit. The icon of the Italian male, so vivid and ridiculous is far from fading. It's not a coincidence that the first to realize this were foreigners who in us Italians appreciate maybe what other Italians don't see.
«I think Italian style is so strong because it keeps a single dose of boldness,» said Scott Schuman, also known as the Sartorialist, who was just invested with the Cfda Media Award. «Concept and sophistication have nothing to do with it. Rather these men seem to say: "hey, I am a man and I wear what I like". Everyone interprets a character, choosing clothes that celebrate his individuality.» Tommy Ton a rising star that magazines and brands want says: «What makes Pitti so special is the fact of moving within a code. They know how to make a jacket or a pair of chinos seem new and fresh. Most importantly, they know how to dare.»
Ton and Schuman go straight to the point: the capability of daring. The Italian man is like a peacock: he likes posing. Exhibited in a setting in which everything is marked, he goes into rupture. Maybe the "sprezzatura" and nonchalance, essential qualities for a real gentleman, give way to a winning affectation, but a well studied pose is better the emptiness that afflicts the rest of the population. While Pitti peacocks exaggerate with pochettes and cufflinks, elsewhere the sense of style flattens to skin-tight pants and gym-style bootie shoes.
Males able to preserve the aboriginal characteristics, using them as a game, are therefore welcome. «Street photography has brought a wave of vanity in men's fashion and this is negative just as much as it is positive. Today many are able to play with style,» said Ton. «What is fascinating in these characters is much more than a fashionable look. It is a lifestyle. The Bella Figura (Beautiful Figure) still dominates the Bel Paese (Beautiful Country),» notes Karl-Edwin Guerre.
Here it is then: nothing changes so that everything changes. This is also the perfect metaphor to define, generally, the male style, which is still in a way that never like today is iridescent and kaleidoscopic.