The Difference Between English and Italian Tailoring in Bespoke Suits
Bespoke tailoring is a craft that originated in England approximately 400 years ago when suits were essentially a battledress or a military uniform. Suits back then were very structured and form-fitting. Their purpose was to hold the shape of the body in a manner that made men look and feel sublime. Suits later evolved into the lounge suit that we wear today which was founded by Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row. This was the first major shift that suits had seen since its early heritage of being a battledress. It was when a client asked Anderson & Sheppard for a suit that was slim fit yet comfortable. Being a Bespoke Tailor true to their craft, they could not say ‘No’ to any request made by a client.
They invented the legendary ‘Drape Cut’ which was a suit that appeared slim without compromising on comfort. It had a relaxed form that had a fuller chest and draped over the midriff in a manner that gave Gentlemen a more smart and relaxed look. This new cut was achieved by cutting against the grain of the fabric in a diagonal manner which used the stretch property of wool to conceal the flaws of a Gentleman’s body and drape over it in a manner that achieved a slimmer silhouette with immense comfort.
The next major shift in the Bespoke craft came when the Italians who were from Naples, learned the Bespoke craft from Savile Row and took it back to Italy in the early 1900’s. They changed the construction of suits to make it more suitable for the weather in Naples which was mostly warm. This gave birth to the Neapolitan Tailoring method that we know today. A Neapolitan jacket is deconstructed, which is made without lining, giving a more casual shirt like appearance and remaining more cool and comfortable. They were often made with bright and vibrant colors and paired with cotton trousers or chinos which are ankle length, cuffed and worn with slip-ons. A Neapolitan jacket will also have its signature 'camicia rollo' shoulders. 'Camicia' means shirt-like and 'rollo' means roped. These casual shoulders crafted through careful randomness have a combination of random pleats and a high sleeve head and was usually paired with ‘Barchetta’ (boat-shaped) breast pocket.
An English suit jacket will have a clean and classic slightly angled breast pocket and soft yet structured shoulders forming a natural slope. The trousers will be comfortable around the thighs which tapers slightly towards the bottom which is cut at an angle with the front forming a break and a half while the back is just kissing the heel of your shoes which were either oxfords or brogues. These trousers are again geared towards appearing slimmer and yet being comfortable with a formal elegance.
Today, a Neapolitan jacket speaks of Italian nonchalance, or sprezzatura, known as casual, effortless elegance with straight lines and sharp edges while English Bespoke Tailoring is slightly structured, more fluid yet formal with a light drape that accentuates your natural physique while maintaining the tradition of making Gentlemen look and feel sublime. While they both have their place in the school of traditional Bespoke Tailoring, it is the purpose of the suit which should decide whether you wish to go with the casual, effortless elegance of Neapolitan Tailoring or the formal structured and sublime elegance of English Tailoring. However, a Gentleman’s wardrobe is only considered complete if it is carefully balanced with both English and Italian Bespoke Suits. Achieving the right balance of both will give Gentlemen the power to arrive at their destined door of the unknown pleasures of life.