Here’s a how to guide to dressing well in Italy which was inspired by a conversation with a male British Italy lover who felt under dressed when visiting Milan.
This guide is primarily aimed at men, but women can also, to an extent, follow the same rules. Depending on the kind of work setting you find yourself in, these rules may be OK too – though they are mainly aimed at people in Italy for pleasure, not business.
Worthy of note before moving onto the style-guide is that stylish Italians tend to look down on those who are not as stylish – which generally means anyone who is not Italian. A lack of sartorial elegance may cause certain Italians to treat you with less respect too. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them, as the old adage goes.
I should also point out that I’m no dedicated follower of fashion but since adhering to the rules I’m about to share with you, I’ve been complimented by Italians on the way I dress. If I can achieve this, you can too.
The Three Shades Rule
First of all, don’t break the three colour rule. Now, even though it has been explained to me, I can never remember just which three colors are supposed to go together and still tend to get the color combinations wrong in the eyes of my Italian better half.
Cunningly, I’ve adapted this three color rule a little. All you have to do is to wear three shades of the same color. One color which Italian men like happens to be blue. Not garish, loud blues though – pastel blues and navy blues tend to appeal in Italy. Subtlety is key in Italy – you clothes should not ‘shout’.
Spring, Winter and Late Fall Attire in Italy
In spring and winter, wear a blue shirt, blue pants or jeans, a blue pullover and blue socks. Top this off with a blue coat and you’ll blend into the Italian, er, clothes-scape very well. You may even attract a few admiring glances and, you never know, attract a few Italian women. You could also wear a blue sport coat/jacket over the top of your blue duds.
Blue shirts can be finely pinstriped – with white pinstripes, but plain blue is fine too.
Now, if you wear the same blue clothes every day, Italians may begin to wonder if you have fallen on hard times. This will put off Italian women too. It may also put off Italian men, if you are a man who prefers men. So, go for shades of grey – not fifty, but a maximum of three. Black and grey are OK too, though you might want to avoid black shirts unless fascism is your thing.
After those blue and grey days, go for brown – mid-browns and tans tend to be popular in Italy. Shades of natural greens go well together as well.
Socks should be knee length not short during Italy’s colder seasons. Short socks in the cold months are a no-no, I have been reliably informed. Believe me, Italians will notice if you get your sock length wrong.
Which Color Shoes?
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
If you can find matching blue, grey or brown shoes to go with your clothes and socks, great. Otherwise, mid-brown shoes tend to be worn with grey and blue attire. Black shoes are warn with black trousers in Italy, though a few fashion rebels can be spotted wearing black shoes with grey trousers – especially if the pants are so grey as to be almost black.
(Note for passing Brits – pants does not mean undies, it means trousers)
Shoes may be traditional style brogues or those more modern sports shoe lookalikes – but don’t put on your running shoes! Sneakers are OK, as are Timberland boots.
In the heat of an Italian summer, you’ll probably not need more than a shirt and pants. Simply follow the same rules though: blue shirt – a polo shirt is fine – with blue pants or shorts and follow the same footwear-color advice too. Remember too that grey, brown and green are OK – especially if they are pastel shades.
As for your summer feet, loafers are fine in Italy – but wear short socks with short pants or as a much cooler alternative, wear those virtually invisible sock things – which may well be in white or a skin-colored tan. Don’t worry, they can be hardly seen anyway.
Follow the Rules, Look Cool, and Be Safer in Italy
The next time you visit Italy, follow these guidelines and you’ll look fine and won’t stand out from the crowd either.
An added benefit is that pickpockets and other thieves will be less likely to target you because you won’t look like a tourist.
However, hanging a big camera around your neck, clutching guidebooks and maps, and dragging luggage behind you do tend to ruin the ‘I am not a tourist’ camouflage.
Look Italian Cool at Home too
You could, if you wish, stick to the same rules when you get back home, though your buddies may wonder what’s happened to you. However, if you look good, you tend to feel good too. Try it and see how you get on. As an added bonus, the ladies back home may well appreciate your new look.
For the Ladies
Women can broadly follow the same color coding advice, though violet/lilac colored tops can be worn over black trousers. Really though, I’m not the best person at all to go giving ladies fashion advice, so I won’t go any further.
Italians tend to be rather staid dressers and may be regarded as being somewhat unadventurous by other nationalities, but they do tend to look good. Dress like an Italian and you will too. When in Italy, you may even find yourself being treated with more reverence as well and, guys, you may even attract a few good looking Italian women 😉
Go for it guys, and gals.