Forced Sprezzatura

Sprezzatura is a word that has been bandied about quite a bit in the online menswear scene throughout the last decade. Though its literal definition is "studied carelessness, especially as a characteristic quality or style of art or literature", many have been using it to describe a certain nonchalance in dressing. Permanent Style already covered the misuse of this term a while back, such as how it has been used to describe what is actually flamboyant dressing, rather than studied carelessness. But sticking to the latter definition, what is going too far in achieving this sort of nonchalance? When does it become, ironically, as artificial as the term seems to oppose?

One of the things I've seen a lot of are ties knotted too long on the small end. The inspirations appear to be various Italian clothing companies and their owners, but I can't understand the appeal. Tucking the smaller end into trousers and concealing it with the larger end at waistband-level is an acceptable compromise... that is if the tie is too long and the only other option is mid-crotch, President Trump style. Otherwise, please don't. It looks visually unbalanced and like you dressed in the dark. If you are short and have problems with length, consider having your ties altered or buying them shorter to begin with. It may be less expensive than you believe.

Sprezz or spaz?
Related to this is the refusal of some to make use of the keeper loop in back. This is relatively modern innovation of the last half century, but one I think started for a reason. One doesn't need to worry about the back blade peaking out from behind the large blade. Heck, I can hardly stand my ties swaying about freely at all, ending up on one side of my jacket, which is why I use a Tie Thing to keep it in the middle of my shirt. I also occasionally make use of tie bars, though I understand not all are fans of them. If nothing else, use the keeper. It's there for a reason.

An otherwise great outfit.
Button-down collars should be something that are already effortless and foolproof by design, requiring no collar stays to look good, but some have created a solution to a problem that didn't exist. That is, leaving button-down collar points unbuttoned. I've never quite understood the fascination with doing this. Especially given many people will look at Thom Browne's contrived appearance askance, only to do one of the very same things merely because Gianni Agnelli did it. One may as well wear their watch outside their shirt cuff and tie dangling in front of their sweater while they're at it. To be clear, Agnelli was often stylish as Italians tend to be, but those affectations still looked pretty silly when he employed them. A billionaire, accountable to no one else but himself, he could get away with not worrying about what others thought. If you're reading this blog, you most likely do not have that same privilege. Regardless of socioeconomic status, doing something just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done. After all, I once thought that athletic quarter top socks with dress shoes were stylish. (Those were dark times in my sartorial journey, before I started this blog.)

Pressed and creased, Take Ivy.
If you insist, at least give your shirt a good press as Agnelli did. I know the Trads will argue with me on this ad infinitum, but a shirt that's not only wrinkled to hell but so worn it's fraying around the edges is not sprezzatura. It's for mowing the lawn in. Iron your shirts, iron your chinos (whether or not you crease them), and keep your clothing in good repair. Chino and oxford are two of the easiest cotton fabrics to iron and by the time your clothes are worn out, you can probably afford to repair or replace as needed. The advantage of "OCBDs" with non-fused interlining is that the collars and cuffs can be turned around to the unworn side and resewn to extend their life. It's the difference between looking effortlessly casual and carelessly unkempt.

Which brings me to my next point: Double monk shoes. Stylish. Modern. Cool. One can hardly argue with those descriptors. But I've seen a trend towards leaving the strap closest to the ankle unbuckled. Why? I'm not sure. It's the equivalent of having laces but only lacing them up halfway. Please use the top buckle. Why one would want to walk around like they're wearing flip-flops is beyond me. Loafers are designed to stay on without any laces or straps. Double monk shoes are not. If you hate fastening buckles, perhaps the former are a better choice. Or just get the single monk and you'll only have to use one buckle anyway.

Forgot a step dressing in the morning? Not a great look.
In short, sprezzatura is a fine concept but is not an excuse for shabbiness or looking half-dressed in a vain attempt at uniqueness. I'm not saying that one should never take risks. However, there is a certain point where putting that much work into looking effortless becomes the very thing it's striving against -- pretentious.

Comments

  1. I'm more offended by the sockless and rolled pants than the shoes. The college kid from Take Ivy still looks pretty wrinkled to me.

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    1. Not a fan of those affectations either, just wanted to provide a few examples to state my point. I'm rarely if ever actually offended by the way people dress, I merely think they can do better. The student looks a bit wrinkled after a day of classes, but would look far worse had he not given his clothes a press. You can see creases in the chinos and a shirt that looks like it was ironed before actually being worn.

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  2. When I see more than one person doing something "kool", I want to tell them "you're not in high school anymore." I don't care for double monks anyway, and the "unstrap" drives me nuts.

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    Replies
    1. To be fair, everyone follows trends to some extent. I sometimes unbutton the end of my sleeve and many feel that is also contrived. It's not really what I'd call sprezzatura, just something that looks nice to me. Do you prefer single monks instead? I want a pair in black at some point.

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    2. Single monks are okay, I had a chestnut pair in high school that I thought looked really good. I know we all pick up on looks we like, but I'm talking about when "everybody-the-next-day" has the long thin end of tie, the unstrap, the half-untuck on the shirt, etc, that just looks like following the cool kids back in HS: no real thought given to your own look.

      Jack

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    3. Ah, I understand your meaning now. That makes sense.

      I also remember when everyone was doing what was called the "faux-tuck", roughly the mid-2000s. I don't think that was much of a thing with the online menswear community, but it looked pretty puerile. There were even tutorials online about doing it correctly, as if purposely tucking only half of your shirt is anywhere near correct.

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