Pitti is Cornered

Once a year, Pitti Uomo in Florence puts the “what to wear?” question to an authority in men’s fashion. It’s a sticky subject, no matter how much style equality men and women have today, the double standard remains: women can indulge, but too much for a man is just not on. And neither is too little. Angelo Flaccavento, the Italian fashion journalist known for his beard, pince-nez, and 19th-century exuberant restraint, has addressed the subject squarely by plunging into the racks of his favorite brands at Pitti to select a man’s ideal wardrobe. The result, 21 key items, are now available for a limited time on thecorner.com, the primo fashion site from Italy’s YOOX Group, in a section called “Vestirsi da Uomo” (Dress Like a Man).

YOOX Group has turned curated selections into its specialty on thecorner.com and the yoox.com sites with recent items like a collection of perfect little black dresses hand picked by the editors of Vogue Paris, or deals like the first Francesco Vezzoli special edition, a portrait of himself by Francesco Scavullo in an edition of 399 for $399 to benefit the earthquake-damaged town hall of Finale Emilia. “We look for fresh projects that aren’t heavy to get away from pure marketing,” says Federico Marchetti, founder and CEO of YOOX Group. Next up for thecorner.com is a dedicated spot for emerging women’s designers curated by Vogue Italia during Milan fashion week.

Flaccavento penned a small primer, an inspirational “how-to” and “why not?” guide, to the subtle ways of modern menswear and invited three sages—L’Uomo Vogue editor Gianluca Cantaro, Matthew Schneier from style.com, and Nickelson Wooster, known for his sharp suits, tattoos, and extensive retail experience, who is currently giving JC Penney a men’s makeover—to share their expertise.

Essentially, Flaccavento and his natty cohorts see today’s man as a curator who lets his eye consider everything out there before zeroing in on a selection of classics and innovative pieces, which he then filters and refines on himself as an eternal work in progress. While the panel discussion centered on the glories of Internet celebrity (indeed, Nickelson Wooster’s amazing style has made him a star on Tumblr) and the condition of streetwear, Flaccavento’s style philosophy and his astute men’s selection for thecorner.com are the real stars.

If you only take one shopping spree this winter, Vestirsi da Uomo is a very good place to do it. Thecorner.com’s curated selection, which would be next to impossible to assemble under one roof, functions like some miraculous personal shopper with an insider’s mix of up-and-coming and good old brands, from a gold button purple sweatshirt blazer from Cristano Berto’s 1st Pat-Rn brand to revamped brogues by France’s Heschung, and the modern traveler’s 24-hour bag by Canadian twins Dexter and Byron Peart for their Want Les Essentiels de la Vie.

Flaccavento’s 21 also includes backbone items like a clean-cut navy rain topper from “quintessentially British” Mackintosh, which has had a place in well dressed men’s wardrobes for generations. Then there’s recently discovered gems like Jupe by Jackie, established in 2010 by Jackie Villevoye, which produces the Harley, a silk tie with small geometric floral hand-embroidered in India. Flaccavento’s current suit of choice is “a mix of casual and sartorial,” which looks like sleek workwear by Camo, Stefani Ughetti’s young brand from Italy’s Biella.

Shirts range from an Oxford cloth classic from Pennsylvania’s Gitman Bros. to Italian shirtmaker G. Inglese’s chic, understated take on the pleat front. There’s Lardini’s irresistible tweed double-breasted coat, a perfect pair of turquoise chinos from Italy’s Pence, a monochrome paisley silk scarf by master illustrator Pierre-Louis Mascia, and a quietly outrageous “mixed media mountain shoe” from Diemme, an Italian family company started in 1992.

Asked for tips, Flaccavento stresses that it’s often the “mistakes” that make the man. “Putting together different shades of blue that don’t match, or the wrong pair of shoes—like wearing hiking boots with a suit—could either be a mistake, or a sign of personality. “I like it when what a man is wearing looks like he just ran out of the house and grabbed something. The point is to seek balance and then put it off kilter.” Flaccavento’s guide, which is displayed like an alphabet book, is illustrated with Marcel Duchamp-type collages and includes exercises, lists of places and ideas to appreciate, suggestions, notes, hints, credos, and recipes.

By the end, you get the feeling that he might be modern man’s answer to Diana Vreeland, whose fashion pronouncements beginning with her trademark “why don’t you…” urged women to forget about convention and try something new in clothes, and life in general. “Reality is the product of the imagination,” says Flaccavento. quoting Wallace Stevens, his preferred poet—a mid-century American whose gray-suited exterior (he worked for an insurance company) camouflaged a creative mind.

Take Flaccavento himself: a very classic, slightly bookish-looking Italian who pursues his country’s “Sunday best” and style-before-dinner approach to dressing. (Who knew, as he reveals in the book, that he likes to wear tweed without underwear!)

“What I find very flat today,” says Flaccavento, “is that people look at you, take your picture, and then they think they know who you are, while we all know that the façade can be totally different from what’s going on inside.”

Despite the huge selection in menswear today, choice is still hard to come by. “I find it a bit sad when I visit a store and it’s all one brand, because I always want what’s not in the selection. The Internet is a great tool, but it has also put us all in our own little world. In some ways, we’ve never been more alone.”

In the meantime Flaccavento suggests: “Look in the mirror. Do it throughly, severely. Consider your highs and lows, and decide what to highlight. It can be everything.”