It wouldn’t hurt if we stopped using the word sprezzatura.
This lovely italian word took the menswear part of the internet by storm. Its meaning is not confined merely to clothing: it’s the seeming effortlessness, which makes difficult feats look like they’ve been performed with little to none thought to them. One can hear it in a speech of a proficient orator, whose wit is the more impressive, the more his accurate observations and elegant phrases seem to be made on the spot. One can enjoy it in the music of a virtuoso jazz pianist, who creates surprising harmonies and beautiful melodies as if it was as natural as breathing.
In menswear’s context, the best definition I’ve encountered can still be accessed on this blog, which has not been updated in a while. It’s in Polish, though. In a nutshell – no matter how beatiful, expensive or unforgettable clothes you’re wearing – wear it as if they were a second skin to you. A part of you. Don’t let them dominate you.
The one major problem with this idea is that the effect is as subjective and elusive as can be. Sure, it works well with the broader meaning of sprezzatura, which isn’t limited to showing off one’s suits and ties, but every endeavour preformed in front of an audience. This is too subtle, though, to be easily photographed at Pitti, clicked on tumblrs and instagrams, to live on the pages of GQ and its countless online knock-offs.
Sprezzatura has been therefore limited to several easily recognizable symbols – unbuckled double monks, several pounds of bracelets on one’s wrists, a shirt unbuttoned so low that you might be excused for thinking they’re just decoration.
Those are images so prevalent that for people who try to learn style from the web (hey, I’m not judging – that’s me as well, after all), they are almost a second set of rules, next to the classic, traditional ones. According to these rules, you tie your tie so that it touches the belt buckle; according to sprezzatura – so that the narrow end shows from under the wide one. It leads to ridiculous questions, such as “Can X still be considered a part of sprezzatura?”.
The most important thing is lost: the nonchalance is gone, only the rehearsed part remains.
It’s not that it’s unimportant. It is essential – just like for the musician to move around the piano keyboard with ease, he must practise for years. But it must remain hidden.
Subtly bending and breaking the classic rules is okay in terms of sprezzatura only if you seemingly don’t notice this yourself. You simply can’t say “It’s sprezzautra” when somebody points out that the tie is tied wrong. It’s like saying out loud: “I’m nonchalant”. There’s nothing less nonchalant than that.
So I think it would be for the best if we sometimes forgot that the word like sprezzatura exists. Stop using it when someone points out a mistake they think we made. “Oh, yeah, you’re right”, you might react to that and shrug. And smile to the thought of all those morning spent in front of a mirror, in a shirt and pyjama bottoms, tying the tie again and again. So that the narrow end shows just enough from under the wide one.