First of all, before we start to look at how to dress with sprezzatura, it would probably help to explain exactly what sprezzatura is. For Baldassare Castiglione, the Italian Renaissance writer who coined the phrase in the 17th century, it is “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”.
Applied to men’s clothing, Neil Balani, the head honcho at HKT, describes it as “a stylish look a man has carefully put together but which gives the impression that he’s simply picked out what was at the front of his closet and then put everything on in the dark.”
So now you know what sprezzatura means, the big question that follows is, “How can you dress with sprezzatura?” Well, there are a few techniques you can adopt, which we’ve listed for you below. But before you start putting these style methods into practice, please read our ‘Warnings about sprezzatura’ too, because there is a very fine line between achieving sprezzatura excellence and looking like a preening peacock who’s spent too much time perfecting their outfit.
Ways to achieve sprezzatura
Wearing clothing that looks like you’ve owned it for a long time and which appears to fit you like a second skin is a good way to achieve sprezzatura. This could genuinely be a garment that you’ve had in your wardrobe for many years, or it could be something vintage you’ve bought like a pair of beautifully crafted Italian leather shoes. Equally – and ideally – your well-worn piece of clothing could be something you’ve inherited from a family member, such as your dad’s tuxedo. If anything, this is what epitomizes sprezzatura best in this instance. It’s a garment that feels like it’s part of you and completely reflects who you are.
Interestingly, and turning everything on its head, your “well-worn clothing” could also be brand new. If a piece of custom made clothing is made to the highest quality, it should look like it’s always been part of its owner’s wardrobe and something they’ve felt comfortable in for years. In fact, we’d be a little disappointed if we produced a new business suit for you and everyone in the office commented that it looked new. It should be something that always looks great but feels like it’s been around for a long time.
Leaving bits of clothing undone, or wearing garments haphazardly, is what most people know sprezzatura for. It’s certainly something that’s easy to adopt, but it can be hard to achieve this look successfully, as it can often look sloppy or contrived. Therefore, it’s important to take small steps and slowly introduce this element of sprezzatura into your day-to-day appearance.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to leave your suit jacket or blazer undone when you’re standing. This can be a particularly bold move if you’re wearing a double breasted jacket. Another option is not to button the sleeve cuffs on your shirt or the points on your collar if you’re wearing a button-down collar. You could also show the narrow blade of your tie more than the wider blade (the type of thing you do when you first learn to tie a tie). Or how about leaving one buckle open on a double monk strap shoe, or wearing your watch over the top of your shirt sleeve?
Combine casual with formal dress
This element of sprezzatura is something we really like at HKT, because it typically looks less contrived than the other two elements we’ve already talked about. Pairing a white tee and some sneakers with a bespoke navy suit looks great and has lots of flexibility in terms of where you can wear that look. Equally, teaming up a fine pair of shoes, such as some classic brogues or Goodyear welted shoes, with a pair of fitted jeans and a T-shirt is total sprezzatura, and is a look that men of all ages and sizes can carry off comfortably.
Blending casual with formal can also be something quite subtle. For example, we really like the idea of taking off one of the buttons on a blazer or sports jacket and replacing it with a button that’sless formal, or at least a brighter color. You could also wear a pin badge on the lapel of a suit jacket to marry the two styles together, or if you’re sporting a casual look, why not dress it up with a pair of suspenders?
Warnings about sprezzatura
As we’ve already mentioned, achieving sprezzatura is not easy. There are lots of ways you can come unstuck and end up creating some crimes against fashion. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to read and adopt the following advice.
Choose the right time
Sprezzatura is something that you shouldn’t be looking to constantly achieve; it’s a much more subtle thing than that. Also, it’s not a stylistic statement you should try to achieve in places, and at times, which require you to follow certain dress codes. For example, don’t start wearing a T-shirt and sneakers with your tailored suit at a wedding or funeral. Or if you’ve got an important business meeting, it might not be a good time to start leaving the buttons on your cuffs undone if you’ve never done this before.
A little goes along way
Today, a lot of men who try to project sprezzatura do so by adopting a number of elements linked to it. As a result, their look begins to appear over the top and starts to border on the ridiculous. So instead, begin by adopting just one element of sprezzatura while still dressing sharp, for example, leaving the buttons on your double breasted jacket undone. If you do this regularly people will see it as natural and simply part of your style. You could then think about slowly introducing another element, although do be careful not to sacrifice style and elegance for the sake of standing out from the crowd.
Originality is key
Sprezzatura at its best is about dressing in a unique way. In the past, this was far easier to do, as nobody had access to social media like Instagram to show off the way they dress and their interpretations of sprezzatura. Because of the mass exposure of styles, we strongly advise that you stay away from the internet and don’t begin to research other people’s interpretations of sprezzatura. Instead, simply work with the advice we’ve given you above and choose something individual that suits you and which you can wear with total confidence. That way you’ll feel less conscious about the style you’ve adopted, and it’s far less likely that you’ll see somebody sporting a similar appearance. Alternatively, you could take Neil’s description of sprezzatura literally and dress in the dark using whatever is at the front of your closet.
Still not sure about how to achieve sprezzatura? Book a style consultation at HKT by calling 770-458-8682 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We can chat through what might work for you, explore which bespoke essentials are great for achieving sprezzatura, and take a look at some garments from our in-house range, including premium T-shirts, pants and jackets, as well as accessories from some of the world’s most luxurious brands.