In recent years, a Neapolitan fever has gripped the world of bespoke tailoring. Otherwise sane men have hired translators and journeyed repeatedly to Naples for 20-minute suit fittings. Those less inclined towards such trips have furiously debated the Neapolitan style on sartorial forums. Even English tailors have strayed from century-old traditions, distorting their cutting to recreate the Neapolitan mode.
To the uninitiated, this may sound like odd behaviour. Those who have visited Naples may remember the dirt and the warnings about not wearing jewellery out at night. It is not a city in its economic prime, and hardly an established fashion hub.
But this has meant that many traditional ways of making things, including suits, shirts and ties, have remained untouched. While there are very good bespoke tailors all over Italy, Naples has a particular concentration of craftsmen calmly making suits entirely by hand – because mass manufacturing has never come calling.
Naples’ relative isolation and climate have also led to a style of tailoring that is unique, and diametrically opposed to Savile Row. The jackets are extremely lightweight and unstructured, with sloping shoulders and slightly puffy sleeves; they are curvilinear, with scooped pockets and rounded edges. Although originally inspired by the suits of visiting Englishmen on their grand tours, they have been stripped back and adapted to the long, hot days of southern Italy.
Their singular design is one reason they have been so popular with fans of bespoke creations. Another is inaccessibility. In an age when the ubiquity of major fashion brands has made one city much like another, Naples offers something very different. And you have to speak Italian, in some cases even Neapolitan, to buy there.
Perhaps the biggest reason, however, is that the Neapolitan jacket is so suited to the modern wardrobe. Many professions no longer require men to wear a suit. It is rarer still to wear a jacket at the weekend. Yet the Neapolitan cut is so soft, so comfortable and casual, that it complements jeans and chinos where a Savile Row jacket can look a little stiff.
Tailors from Naples, such as Solito, Napolisumisura and Caliendo (Elia Caliendo in second picture; a Caliendo jacket in first picture), now regularly visit London, and the city has its first Neapolitan shop – Rubinacci on Mount Street. So, Englishmen can choose whether to pay to fly to Italy, underwrite a tailor’s trip or visit the store.
With this increased access, the sartorial fever has abated. But the jacket’s comfort and versatility mean that it has already become a permanent fixture in the well-dressed man’s wardrobe. Neapolitan style is here to stay.