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The key differences between English and Italian style

Posted on: 26th Jun, 2019

The English and Italians have each developed their distinctive attitudes to style over the centuries, each refined by their own climates and cultures. The strong English focus on formality and tradition runs in sharp contrast to the Italian laid-back, expressive style. Here, we’ll be examining a little of what makes each style unique, so you can get some ideas of how to adopt it for your own!

The classically reserved English attitude to style

If you had to describe English style in a word, it would probably be: conservative. The English ‘look’ owes its roots to aristocratic and military style, and as such, tradition has heavily influenced its look going forward. They’re worn neatly, and according to rules that have been firmly established for centuries. This is evident in the formal look, for example; it tends to be understated, as the product of a culture which places a keen emphasis on following the rules. English suits tend to accentuate the physique in an effort to project authority; perfect for businessmen looking to make a powerful first impression. The English country style, on the other hand, evolved from the practice of hunting in all weathers. Argyle knits and waxed jackets are the norm here.

British weather, meanwhile, has had a noticeable influence of our choice of colours. On the whole, the English have proclivities towards shades that are dark or neutral, as the grey clouds so often hanging overhead would have the effect of making bright colours look washed out. Shirts and accessories often get more colourful in the summer (even in weather like we’re currently experiencing!) but there’s still noticeable restraint in many personal styles. There’s also a tangible difference in the colour divide between rural and urban dress, with the former favouring browns, olive greens and other earth tones, while the latter tends towards blues, darker greys and even blacks. Predictably, another aspect of British style influenced by our climate is our choice of fabrics. Thickly textured fabrics like wool, Oxfords or corduroy are often preferred, with linens only seeing sunshine in the midst of the summer months.

The Italian style of exuberance and flair

The English values of politeness, tradition and what is proper and ‘gentlemanly’ run in stark contrast to the Italian approach to personal style. Famously, the perception of Italians is that they prefer to want to make an impact, to be the most memorable person in the room. Though there are distinct menswear traditions separated between the North and South of the country, they’re unified by the notion of being relaxed and expressive. This is exemplified by sprezzatura, the Italian art of being intentionally careless with a style of dress, giving the appearance of ‘dressing well without trying’.

Suitmaking traditions in Italy aren’t nearly as old as their English counterparts, mainly hailing from the 40s and 50s. This means that it’s less deeply rooted in tradition, allowing for much more flexibility and personal expression. Notably, Italian suits feature a lack of padding or even of canvassing. Colour rules are similarly expanded by the vast quantities of sunshine Italy enjoys in comparison to its European neighbours. Deep greens, turquoises and even wilder colours like pinks or fuchsias are permitted, even encouraged, in Italian style. For similar practical reasons, Italians tend towards much lighter fabrics like linens or cottons, or thin wools or blends.

There’s nothing to say you have to choose between the two approaches; one of the greatest things about cultivating your personal style is that you can pick and choose your favourite aspects from others! Whatever your approach, here at Acorn Fabrics we’ve got a fantastic stock of fabrics for you to choose from, ranging from superfine poplins to stylish printed fabrics. If you need any help or advice, you can always give us a call on 01282 698662 – we’re always happy to lend a hand!