If any of you kind souls reading this are generous enough to follow my work, you’ll know that for the past two or three years, I’ve made a point of writing a column after every Pitti Uomo, for whichever publication might take one. In recent seasons, these have been predominantly rallying cries to decry the infamous and troubling species that is the ‘Pitti peacock’ with all his vain, weak-willed foppery and lemming-like mentality; flocking to the nearest camera lens in a gaggle of neon-coloured idiocy.
Last week, though, while the peacocks remain an unfortunate side-effect of the show, they seemed less visible. Despite the gloom and uncertainty brought on by the state of Western politics as we move into 2020, the menswear industry at large seems to be in rude health. It was lovely to see so many friends and colleagues feeling positive about the year to come, excited about each other’s various projects.
For me, Pitti Uomo is a rare chance to catch-up with creatives and brands from far flung corners of the world, and whether a quick handshake with the team from Tokyo’s Bryceland’s & Co in the show’s central square, or dinner and drinks after hours with New York’s hottest tailor, J.Mueser, it’s always exciting to see menswear gurus doing their thing so brilliantly.
It’s also one of the most productive weeks for me in terms of story-hunting, whether for one of the brands I’m lucky to work with, like Crockett & Jones, my magazine editors, or for HandCut Radio. There were a few things this season that really struck me. Ivy League style is continuing to influence how stylish men are dressing in a number of ways; indie French and Japanese brands in particular are doing a superb job of revisiting and redefining what preppy menswear looks like today, sharper and cleaner than it has been, with the minimum of fuss and some witty streetwear touches thrown in. Brands like J.Press Japan and Beige Habilleur are leading the way here.
As far as footwear is concerned, this ‘New Ivy’ trend is holding sway too. As preppy as can be, white socks were everywhere this week. There were dozens of stylish men wandering about the show with bright white socks and rolled up trouser hems, always paired with slip-ons – generally in brown suede or dark Shell Cordovan. If you’re curious to try pale socks, preppy unlined shoes tend to work best: I wear my Crockett & Jones Harvard loafers in Dark Brown Cordovan almost universally with white socks and selvedge denim these days, but a pair of Cavendish loafers in Polo Brown Suede, or Dark Brown Suede Hardwick Derbies would work equally well.
Denim is another trend too, come to that. In contrast to the last half-decade of immaculate sartorial style that’s starting to look a little tired, denim and workwear is drifting back onto the radar, with seriously good jeans and a healthy amount of Western shirts on show. The stylish men I saw were primarily layering their denim beneath tweed sports coats or trad navy blazers with brass buttons. Throw the aforementioned white socks and preppy footwear into the mix, and you’ve got a look that feels very 2020.
All in all the fair is slowly getting more serious, it’s a place for brands to connect and do business first and foremost, after all. The peacocks may have dominated for the past few seasons, but they’re now a tired looking bunch on the fringes of the show, fighting to grab the attention of street style photographers who don’t have any interest in shooting them.
Instead, real, wearable, well-made menswear is starting to take centre stage. And that, if nothing else, is extremely exciting.