Not quite so simple.

One thing I learned back in my high school art class is that it’s difficult to draw what you actually see. The mind tends to translate everything into basic shapes and symbols. So, unless we train ourselves to overcome that tendency, we’re likely to draw simplistic caricatures rather than realistically nuanced depictions.

  • Vittorio Feltri
  • Luca di Montemozolo
  • Gianni Agnelli

And so it is with the uniform of Italian businessmen–the well-known staple combination of grey or blue suit, light blue shirt, and dark blue tie. It’s an excellent foundational approach. However, many men inspired by it unwittingly convert themselves into caricatures. While your mind may see just grey and blue, the truth is that the uniform relies on texture, tone, and pattern to really shine. If you observe some sterling examples, you’ll see there’s much more at work than might first appear.

Vittorio Feltri here is exceptionally styled. Note the patterns in his shirt and tie, and the way he’s used white as an accent color rather than a mere background. Ferrari’s Montezemolo often employs a similar strategy, demonstrating a consistent mastery of patterns and textures. In fact, you might notice his ties are often a bit lighter than the navy blue that your memory recalls.

No less than Gianni Agnelli knew to use the uniform as a platform for nuance, rather than rely on its basic elements to do all the work. It was never about the grey and blue, but what you can do with them.

Things just aren’t that simple.

    2 thoughts on “Not quite so simple.

    1. Interesting point of view, Will. I agree with you, the lighter and medium shades of grey come to mind first when I think of what to pair with a blue shirt. But I’m agnostic on using charcoal. I think it can work, though you do have to play the game a little differently. A solid navy tie, for example, should be avoided.

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