A frantic fondness for Neapolitan tailoring

An award-winning men’s style blogger unravels the appeal of the city’s lightweight, unstructured jacket

Image: Luke Carby

In recent years, a Neapolitan fever hasgripped the world of bespoke tailoring. Otherwise sane men have hiredtranslators and journeyed repeatedly to Naples for 20-minute suit fittings.Those less inclined towards such trips have furiously debated theNeapolitan style on sartorial forums. Even English tailors have strayed fromcentury-old traditions, distorting their cutting to recreate the Neapolitanmode.

To the uninitiated, this maysound like odd behaviour. Those who have visited Naples may remember the dirtand the warnings about not wearing jewellery out at night. It is not a city in its economicprime, and hardly an established fashion hub.

Image: Luke Carby

But this has meant that manytraditional ways of making things, including suits, shirts and ties, haveremained untouched. While there are very good bespoke tailors all over Italy,Naples has a particular concentration of craftsmen calmly making suitsentirely by hand – because mass manufacturing has never come calling.

Naples’ relative isolation and climate have alsoled to a style of tailoring that is unique, and diametrically opposed to SavileRow. The jackets are extremely lightweight and unstructured, with slopingshoulders and slightly puffy sleeves; they are curvilinear, with scoopedpockets and rounded edges. Although originally inspired by the suits ofvisiting Englishmen on their grand tours, they have been stripped back andadapted to the long, hot days of southern Italy.

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Their singular design is one reason theyhave been so popular with fans of bespoke creations. Another is inaccessibility. In anage when the ubiquity of major fashion brands has made one city much likeanother, Naples offers something very different. And you have to speak Italian,in some cases even Neapolitan, to buy there.

Perhaps the biggest reason, however, isthat the Neapolitan jacket is so suited to the modern wardrobe. Manyprofessions no longer require men to wear a suit. It is rarer still to wear ajacket at the weekend. Yet the Neapolitan cut is so soft, so comfortable andcasual, that it complements jeans and chinos where a Savile Row jacket can looka little stiff.

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Tailors from Naples, such as Solito, Napolisumisura and Caliendo (Elia Caliendo in second picture; a Caliendo jacket in first picture), nowregularly visit London, and the city has its first Neapolitan shop – Rubinacci on MountStreet. So, Englishmen can choose whether to pay to fly to Italy,underwrite a tailor’s trip or visit the store.

With thisincreased access, the sartorial fever has abated. But the jacket’s comfort andversatility mean that it has already become a permanent fixture in thewell-dressed man’s wardrobe. Neapolitan style is here to stay.

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