September 30, 2009

Bess & the Owl of Minerva

black plumed ravens,
velvet cloaked black magicians,
skins of reptiles,
wandering tribes of street kids,
and the man in the leather uniform—

These are merely a few of the characters that have kept company with the designers at Bess as they have been creating for the autumn/winter season of 2009.

These horrific nightmares have not only haunted Mary Shelley, who breathed life into Dr. Frankenstein, but also Edger Alan Poe, who narrated the descent into madness with his epic poem, the Raven.

But—alas!—it is Hagel, who grasps the tail of the a/w 2009 collection, which he summed up in his famous quote, The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.

In other words, philosophy can only explain a historical condition just as it is passing away.

Steeped in deep introspective thought, Bess was conceived in 2000 by the husband and wife team Douglas and Bess Abraham, who draw their inspiration from shredded Victorian to the post-Punk vintage of Lafayette Street in New York.

So, now, sit back and take a walk through the Goth-to-Grunge Bess experience with this picture gallery!

Photo & slideshow Copyright Bess.

September 26, 2009

Book Review 3: "The People of Bronze"

This is the third article that I have translated from the book, the People of Bronze (il Popolo di bronzo in Italian), which marvelously describes the styles of the Nuraghic men, who lived more than 4,000 years ago in Sardinia. For more information on the author, please refer to Part I and Part II:

Armored Archer from Usellus

This little statuette represents the magnificent level attained by the Nuraghic artists in their sculptural work of descriptive reproductions and shows the evolution of warrior armament right to the minimal details.

Unfortunately the little statue had been already disappeared by the time Giovanni Lilliu described it in his beautiful book, Sculptures of Nuraghic Sardegna, 1966.

The clothing worn by this archer recalls that of the Chinese warriors of the Emperor Qin Shi, 3rd century BC (Xi An, China), depicted in the famous “terracotta army,” as well as the fabulous armament of the Japanese samurai. The helmet is a conical type, presenting a very high and elaborate rim with a lower part of spiral work and an upper part that is bound to metal studs. In back, the head armor presents a decoration of herringbone, while the braids fall in front.

The peculiarity of this helmet is the small fox or weasel head, which is placed in front just under the plume. The statuesque figure represents the type of animal force that is incarnated in a warrior: the fox representing astuteness and the weasel—speed. It not merely recalls the depiction of the Egyptian god Anubis but moreover the description of the archer Dolon, a character of the Iliad (Book X), who wears “a helmet of a weasel”!

Ours is wearing a long overcoat that covers the body, almost down to the knees; the upper part seems to be elaborated with reinforced metal plates, which shield also as short sleeves. He is wearing a large defensive plate that hangs from a Y-shape harness, similar to that of No. 38, which is finely decorated and extends to the rear where it supports a cone-like case, a quiver, and launching cane.

The legs are protected from knee to ankle by finely made shin guards, which are composed of a reinforced tibial finishing with tassels on the top and a snug-fitting structure that seems to be made of strips of intertwined leather.

In back, ligatures create extra space to alleviate the complex structure and allow for easy bending of the limbs. The feet are bare. His right hand is clenching an object, which has disappeared but could be a weapon—perhaps a javelin?

As for the left arm, it is protected by a wonderful example of an armored glove (similar to those of the samurai), which, on the back of the hand, bears protective metal washers. The rest of the limb shows a reinforced splint and a long elbow guard, both of which are connected to the sleeve of his jacket with leather straps. The weapon that he is clenching is a long, simple bow.

Particularly curious is the object that is strapped across the shoulder, which can be seen in part from under the arm. They look like two tubes of equal length with some metal fittings. What could it be?

Given the position that allows a rapid extraction, maybe it was a quiver with a reserve of arrows... or it could be a tool disassembled into two pieces to reassemble when the need arises, such as with a javelin or a spear? Unfortunately, one can only dream since the precious and unique figurine has disappeared. It would be useful, given its immense historical value, to inquire into its whereabouts.

Photos & text Copyright Angela Demontis 2005, used with permission.

Book Review 2: "The People of Bronze"

This is a second article that I have translated from the book, the People of Bronze (il Popolo di bronzo in Italian), which describes in great length the fashion of the Nuraghic men, who lived more than 4,000 years ago in Sardinia. For more information on the author, please refer to Part I:

Man with Jacket and Hood

The character represented here is wearing his hair in two short braids, which, starting from the very top, fall down in front of his ears. In back, the hair is kept short.

He is wearing a garment of clothing, which I would dare to define incredibly “modern.” It consists of a jacket that is closed in front with long sleeves and a hood. The shortest section of the coat is decorated with a triple band that ends in a frill with long fringes. In front, on the lapels, one can see the buttons that close it. Underneath it, the hem of a simple tunic hangs out.

In addition, this man of Serri is wearing a pair of long pants that have a crease in front and in the back. The feet are bare. He is carrying a plate of food for offering.

Of important note, the custom of men wearing braids has persisted in Sardinia until about 1800. In fact, numerous noble Sardinians used to wear such a hairdo with pride, as cited in the dictionary Angius-Casalis and in the stories of Grazia Deledda.

Photos & text Copyright Angela Demontis 2005, used with permission.

Book Review 1: "The People of Bronze"

When I was travelling through Sardinia earlier this month, I picked up a fascinating book entitled the People of Bronze (il Popolo di bronzo in Italian), which describes to minute detail the styles and fashion of the Nuraghic men, who lived more than 4,000 years ago.

In a previous article, Nuraghic Men Rocked the Styles!, I posted a design and gleaned much information from the book, which deeply impressed me. I am amazed at the author’s keen insights into the styles of her Sardinian ancestors and, in turn, I was equally struck by their sense of fashion.

The author, Angela Demontis, is an artist and designer, who for many years contributed to the Naturalistic Museum Sa Corono Arruba as scientific designer. Angela has been fascinated with the bronze statuettes called bronzetti, which she describes to great length in her book.

For the next several articles, I have obtained permission from the author to post the English translation of three designs, which represent the Nuraghic fashion scene. The following article is entitled A Man with a Bag from Aidomaggiore:

This bronzetto, unfortunately very destroyed, represents a man who is carrying some very important objects on his shoulder. On his head rests a simple cap and he has short hair.

It seems that he is wearing a tunic with one flap crossing the other, as seen with models no. 70, 72, 80; but they could also be a Cossack and a skirt, which is tied at the sides. The shoulders are covered with a rectangle mantle, not very long, with a turned-up collar, which is closed with double latches and a button.

This person from Aidomaggiore holds in his fist a double rod, which, resting on his shoulder is bent probably due to the weight of the objects at both extremities. In front, exactly under the hand, we see an object, which, although difficult to interpret, I have rendered as seen in the design.

Extreme corrosion and particularly the fact that it was not kept in a museum make the analysis of the object difficult. Hanging from the rod in the back, we see a cylindrical object whose surface is divided into six sections.

Although corroded, one can see clearly the little handles, strap, and hinges of the symmetrical enclosures placed at both ends of the container. It consists of a handbag with two caps (in the design at the bottom), which probably served as a case for musical instruments like the benas and launeddas (‘triple flutes of cane’).

Containers like this are still used by the “old” maestros exactly for carrying such cane instruments. One cannot exclude other uses, too, such as for carrying various tools and other.

Photos & text Copyright Angela Demontis 2005, used with permission.

September 20, 2009

Advertisements—Italian Style!

Dolce & gotta love them, at least for the ads!

At the start of my trip back to Italy, I was walking through the airport of Milan where I saw this advertisement! As a swimmer myself, I had to jump in and join the excitement!

Well, with this ad, I conclude my trip and documentary on the history of menswear in the Mediterranean. I hope you have enjoyed it!
Until we travel again...grazie a tutti!

Photo Copyright Men's Fashion by Francesco.

September 19, 2009

Dooa—Fresh New Trends for Young Men

Although I have known and worn the Dooa Denim Industry label for years, I still know very little about this brand, except that its showroom is located just outside Naples, Italy, in the fashion commercial center, which we call CIS (pronounced cheess).

Despite Dooa’s target clientele, which ranges from 16 to 30 years, I always find something appropriate for myself.

In fact, back in 2006 I purchased a pair of Dooa pants, which continue to bring me compliments no matter where I go!

The look is usually very casual; but do not be fooled, the fit is perfectly tailored to the contours of the male physique.

Have a look at the 2009 a/w collection of this fast-growing brand from Naples.

Photo & slideshow 2009 a/w collection Copyright Dooa Denim Industry.

Hamaki-Ho: for Work, School or Play

Hamaki-Ho is another label that I have known for years, but I still know very little about.

Do not let the name mislead you: although it may have a slight Japanese ring to it, the company is 100% Italian—Neapolitan, at that!

The company runs a showroom just outside Naples in the fashion commercial center, which we call CIS (pronounced as cheess).

While the Hamaki-Ho look is relaxed, the style leans more formal than casual with suits, ties, and dress shirts.

Take a peek at the 2009 a/w collection.

Photo & slideshow Copyright Hamaki-Ho.

Popular Island Dress & "L'ndrezzata"

L’ndrezzata (pronounced lan-drey-zzata) is a characteristic popular dance that has been preserved and passed down through the centuries in the town of Barano on the island of Ischia.

The name of the dance—l’ndrezzata in dialect and l’intrecciata in Italian—derives its origin from the crescendo of unbridled movements and swift, orchestrated swings of clubs, which appear to be “intertwined” into a frenzied dance that is reminiscent of historical combat.

The traditional dance is performed with 18 dancers, a clarinet player, a tambourine player, and a “corporal.” Half the dancers sport a red vest and a white shirt with a green sash, while the other half don white shirts and green vests with red sashes. All performers wear white pants and socks. Each dancer holds a club (mazzariello) and a wooden sword (spada).

The clothing recalls what the fishermen wore back in the 1500’s.

Photos Procession Sant'Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.

20th-Century Island Life in the Bay of Naples

The first hundred years of freedom in Naples and its bay were beset with a sea of troubles attributable to the mismanagement of our liberators, who drained the South of its capital funds and transferred industry elsewhere.

With offices dismantled and public services suspended in Naples, the aristocracy deserted the city, leaving the posterity of squalor, crime, and unemployment.

By the end of WWI, strikes, disorder, and repression were rampant. Multitudes groped for consolation in either “isms” or emigration, which truncated one third of the population. Along with the rest of Italy, Naples and its island-studded bay have survived a Fascist regime, 2 world wars, and a myriad of governments.

Emerging indisputably as a leader of fashion and design, the nation has numerous hot spots of sartorial activity and several major epicenters of apparel production. Although marred by a reputation for counterfeit, the Naples area happens to number among the nation’s primary centers for fashion design and production.

One of the greatest occurrences of the 20th century was the birth of sportswear in the 1920’s, which marks the beginning of contemporary menswear as we know it today. From there on, well, it’s all history, which I have assembled for you in the form a slideshow that will walk you around the island of Ischia, introducing you to the men and their styles throughout the 20th century.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
The relaxed tailoring of the 20th century prevails in most 2010 spring/summer collections. Similar to the entry of sports clothing into daily dress during the 1920’s, sweat suits have been modified for common attire. Work clothing like jumpsuits and laboratory coats will also enter the wardrobe of everyday.

Photo top left & slideshow Public Domain

Naples, Nations & New Notions

Refused of their demands, the freedom fighters of Naples and its isle-studded bay beat the drum to unification as a last resort. In 1861, the tiny island of Ischia joined the forces of Garibaldi and united with the Republic of Italy.

Nine years later, on September 20, 1870, even my tatà tatà (dialect for ‘great grandfather’) enlisted with the troops of Italy’s first king, Vittorio Immanuele II.

Bombing Rome’s gate, Porta Pia, great grandpa and the partisans liberated central Italy from the domain of the Papal States and rebaptized Rome as the nation’s political capital. Alas, Naples and its surrounding islands have been slowly acculturating to the mainstream of Italian peninsular life ever since.

The 19th century laid the foundation of the modern era for menswear, introducing concepts like lounge wear, formal wear, outdoor wear, sportswear, and the tuxedo—but all based on the 3-piece suit. Changes occurred progressively by the decade.

With the new notions of equality from the French Revolution, menswear became less ostentatious and more uniform. Embroideries and lace went out the window. The length of pants dropped to the ankle. Boots became a mainstay. The dandy was conceived.

Double-breasted waist coats featured long tails and high collars. Overcoats were particularly façonnable. Broad shoulders and a narrow waist portrayed a real gentleman. High collar shirts were worn with wide cravats.

Out went the wigs and in came natural hair, just oiled or waxed. Curly hair was prized, as well as sideburns and—later—goatees. Conical hats evolved into the top hat and, soon wide brim hats, bowler hats, and straw boaters were sported.

Eventually the frock coat replaced the tailcoats, which were reserved for formal occasions, while numerous new styles of coats and jackets appeared on the scene. Collars evolved continually, as well as the shape of ties and bow ties. Shoe heels grew in height.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
Although the tuxedo will not vanish from formal occasions, the most formal look of spring/summer 2010 entails a relaxed version of the dapper debonair dandy with a double-breasted jacket and fedora hat. Like the popularity of boots in this period, boots will be one of the key accessories that add authentic masculinity to the androgynous trends of spring/summer 2010 collections.

Photo top left Vittorio Immanuele II, Copyright Men's Fashion by Francesco.
Photo middle right French Nobleman, Procession Sant'Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Slideshow Public Domain.

Bourbon Anyone?

The last overlords of Naples and its sea-girt holms were the Bourbon kings whose family name and birth site can be traced to French feudal lords who ascended to baronage in the 9th century.

They ruled Spain and the southern half of Italy under the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from 1734-1860, wherein the economy languished in spite of significant contributions and reform.

Meanwhile, the French Revolution of 1789 had pulled the floor out from the century-old traditions that had regulated European life. French ideas won proselytes in our area, nesting themselves in a secret society whose members were ultimately executed.

Under the protection of the French in 1799, an emancipated Parthenopean Republic was proclaimed in Naples and washed apace to the shores of the isles. Within five months, the Republic was quelled and the patriots were punished by hanging and exile.

So with a short-lived French aperitif, the islanders had to settle for Bourbon!

Menswear during this period was dominated by French styles, regardless of ruler, and featured the prototype of what we would consider the 3-piece suit. Unbuttoned, high-collared red coats were sported with short vests, velvet knickers, and silk stockings.

Instead of large collars, men donned an assortment of cravats around the neck. Combinations of colors were fearless! Men wore wigs with curls that were often tied back with a ribbon. Wide brimmed hats were turned up on three sides in this era.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
Just as this period marks the end of an era for adventure and exploration, 2010 spring/summer collections are geared up for contemporary explorers, globe trotters, and journeymen of the millennium, all of whom require tasteful but handy bags and backpacks as accessories. Expect nautical themes and a chic twist on the safari look, as well.

Photo top left Ferdinando II of Bourbon, King of Two Sicilies & Maria Teresa, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Photo middle right, typical 18th-century clothing on Ischia, Bourbon Period, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.

Slideshow Public Domain.

September 18, 2009

Of Kings and KUKs

The sixteenth century hoisted the banner of a brand-new era—the dominance of nation states. In 1503, Spain deposed from Naples the Aragonese monarch, who fled to Ischia for refuge and concealed himself in its castle (see photo below).

The two-century colonization by apathetic Spanish viceroys, or what I term “KUKs”—kings under kings—gestated an irreversible process of stagnation in the Bay of Naples that was reflected in the imports of obscenities, abusive language, and falsehood, the art of which continues to develop even today.

The despotic Spanish reign of apathy and indifference injected the populace with an all-absorbing dose of anguish. Their misery turned into a pressure cooker of desperation.

Patriots vented their steam in foredoomed moves towards independence, while secret guilds like the Camorra—the Neapolitan-styled Mafia—labeled out revenge. Banditry and delinquency incubated.

Although the Inquisition in Naples was blocked by the masses, their best effort could not turn the Spanish tide of corruption, bribes, taxation, and tyranny. The growth of culture was stunted by the censure of the press, which rooted out what was considered the “heretical ideas” of the Reformation.

From 1707 to 1734, the rod of command fell into the lap of the Austrian Hapsburgs, the crowned heads of the Holy Roman Empire, who furnished Hungary, Bohemia, and Spain with kings. Their domains embraced Austria, Hungary, Poland, northern Italy, Sardinia, and the Netherlands, where they diffused Catholicism and conservatism.

Their curtailed regency in Naples was so destructive, partly because of inept and greedy leadership, that the gentry reminisced for the Spanish days of yore!

Menswear during these centuries continued to develop rapidly, culminating in the coat, vest, and loose-fitting breeches. Starched collars rose high with lots of ruffles.

The square look of the previous periods was replaced by a long slender silhouette. The long white ruffled shirt was soon accompanied by the appearance of the cravat, which was tied with a bow.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
Probably the most significant trend of this period is the elongated silhouette. You will notice that 2010 spring/summer collections include an assortment of long slim shirts, particularly tee-like tops, which create a long, thin look.

While in Naples, I went on a shopping spree and picked up all sorts of jackets and shirts, pants, and jeans, which are tight-fitting, creating a lean, slender silhouette.

Photo top left Guevara, Duke of Bovino, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Photo middle right Nobleman, Ferrante D'Avalos , Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Photo bottom left Giulio Iasolino, medic, Ischia, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Photo bottom center, Aragonese Castle, Ischia, Copyright Men's Fashion by Francesco.

September 17, 2009

From Feudalism to Family Feuds

From the Swabian rule of the southern Italian peninsula, the baton soon passed on to the pro-papal party, the Angevins (from the House of Anjou, a northeastern French province that gave kings to Hungary, Poland, and Naples), who, with whip and spur, dispatched four hundred soldiers to ravage Ischia with fire and sword.

During their reign, Naples was second only to Paris. From the raising of this dynasty’s flag in 1266 until the unification of the Italian peninsula in 1860, Naples was hailed as the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily, an empire that encompassed the entire South of the boot.

In 1442, however, Naples kissed Anjou “adieu” and bid “hola” to Aragon, a Christianized kingdom in northeast Spain whose reign endured from the 11th to 15th centuries and, having united with Castile, formed Spain in 1479.

When he House of Aragon harnessed the southern empire, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was inaugurated, embracing the sourthern half of the Italian peninsula.

This period, the dawn of the Renaissance, marks a time of new dress, which was characterized by stylish excessiveness, complexity, and flamboyance.

Basically, the natural silhouette was distorted through padded sleeves and doublets, ruffles, and stuffed stockings.

The basic elements consisted of the wide, low-neck shirt and tight-fitting doublet, which had with puffy sleeves. Belted at the waist, the doublet gave the appearance of a pleated skirt.

A technique called “slashing” started on the Italian peninsula and spread throughout Europe, whereby slits were “slashed” into the doublet so that the shirt could be pulled through.

Colors were dark but bold, often found in combinations like black and gold, black and red, and so on. Menswear abounded in new accessories.

Feathers were placed anywhere from wide-brimmed hats down to the legs. A bowl cut was a popular hairdo and, at times, a frizz or a lovelock down over the shoulder.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
Be prepared for some outlandish but playful patterns and prints in the spring/summer 2010 collections! You can expect lots of collage patchwork and kaleidoscope patterning with nature and floral themes, all the while mixing it up in all sorts of ways. Larger sleeves to the elbow and extremely low-cut neck lines will accompany bold surfacing and sequins.

Photo top left Ascanio Colonna & Giovanna of Aragon, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Photo middle right Fabrizio Colonna & Agnesina of Moltefeltro, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Photo middle left Holy Roman Emperor Carlo V & Isabella of Portugal, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.
Photo bottom right Prospero Colonna & Isabella of Aragon, Procession Sant’Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.

Tonight is the Knight by Ontfront

Yesterday I posted an article entitled Naples, Normans & Nabbings, in which I discussed menswear inspired by the medieval knight.

Well, here is an example of the contemporary knight that will be charging down the spring and summer streets of 2010, courtesy of Ontfront.

Slideshow 2010 s/s lookbook Copyright Ontfront.

September 16, 2009

Naples, Normans & Nabbings

By the twilight of the first millennium, the isles in the Bay of Naples had become demonstrably Greek at heart and passed over to the jurisdiction of Naples, which at long last had declared independence from Byzantium.

Naples’ autocratic rule, however, was short lived on account of the expansionism of the Normans (short for ‘Northmen’), a Scandinavian tribe and descendents of the Vikings, who had settled northern France.

The first exposure that I had to a true-to-life Norman was in my senior year of college, during which time I roomed with a brilliant exchange student from Normandy. His ancestors were valiant warriors, who, in the 12th century, gained a foothold in all of southern Italy through the mediation of the duke of Naples, who had solicited the Normans to exact revenge on an enemy and drive out the Arabs from Sicily.

But the duke’s scheme backfired. In 1139, Naples was annexed to the Norman monarchy whose capital was conveniently set up in Sicily on the remains of an eroding society, which the Normans imbued with new economic vigor. The Kingdom of Sicily, which comprised the southern half of the Italian peninsula, was born.

Every component of civil life, including customs and language, had long been fused to the religious life that the Greek Byzantine Church had propagated in Naples and its island-specked bay.

Thus, when Naples pledged allegiance to its new landlords, who were the land tenants of the Roman papacy, a vibrant campaign to Latinize the Church and religious life was set on foot. Clashes on doctrine and debates over the theology rocked the established order, spinning off liturgical and monastic reforms.

With the disembarkation of every intruder, a renewed wave of decimation, punishment, and torture (retribution for our ancestors’ loyalty to the previous regime) crashed on the shores of the islands.

Such was the case in 1194 when the scepter was then conferred to the Swabian emperors, better known as the Hohenstaufens of southwest Germany. The Italian peninsula was torn from the top to toe over the issue of authority as the Pope and the “Germanized” Holy Roman Empire competed for power.

Under both the Normans and the reign of Germanic kings, the Kingdom of Sicily, Naples, and the isles were imbued with various Gothic influences. Gothic men wore tunic-like “cotes” with tight sleeves. Knee-length and party-colored, these garments sported belts with elaborate buckles. Hats consisted of hoods or conical caps.

Eventually the tunic gave way to the doublet, a snug-fitting buttoned jacket. A shorter version of the tunic also developed, the cotehardie, which was buttoned down the front and covered the buttocks.

A square male silhouette was introduced through cloaks and mantles of the times. Tights were worn on the legs, while shoes were low cut. Hair was cut in a jaw-length bob with bangs.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
Several designers have looked to the medieval knight for their 2010 inspiration, creating tops that resemble a coat of mail—the cumbersome armor that was formed into a mesh with thousands of tiny metal rings. Adapted versions for 2010 include chunky-knit sweaters, mesh shirts and tees, and perforated garments.

Eventually the mail was replaced by the coat of armor, which consisted of full-body plates of metal. For more reading on these influences in 2010, please refer to my articles Tonight is the Knight I and II with Ontrfont and Knights in Armor by Asger Juel Larsen.

Although developed in later periods, hose were worn by men in this period, just like the leggings that are gaining popularity for 2010! It so turns out that, what we consider feminine today, was not feminine at all in the past!

Photo top left, Ruggiero II the Norman, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.
Photo middle right, Knights in Armor, Copyright
Asger Juel Larsen.
Photo middle left, Frederick II Hohenstaufen Duke of Swabia, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.
Photo bottom center, Castel Nuovo or Maschio Angioino, port of Naples, Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

September 15, 2009

Roman Blockbusters, Byzantium & Barbarians

Ninety years before the birth of Christ, Naples aligned with Italic tribes in a defensive front called Italia, which was doomed to failure against the indestructible war machine, Rome. Italia’s defeat swept Naples and the entire bay under the domain of Rome in 82 BC.

Although the islands were transferred back into Naples’ hands in 29 BC, Rome retained use of them as resorts. Despite the diffusion of the Roman culture and the Latin tongue, Greek language and culture persisted in Naples and on the islands until the 6th century of our era. Cities like Pompeii and Herculeum, however, were entirely Roman cities.

Five hundred years later, the collapse of the Roman Empire created a vacuum in southern Italy and paved the way for the Byzantine Empire to impose its rule in AD 553, governing its possessions through the nomination of local noblemen. From 661-1137, these dukes, as they were fitly called, progressively forged a sphere of autonomy.

The Roman dress code was complex, reflecting the individual’s social status, gender, and language. Talk about “in your face”!

Stately and dignified, Roman dress was a bit more cumbersome than that of the Greeks. The actual garments, however, were similar to Greek clothing, except for the toga.

Made of wool, this flowing garment was draped carefully around the body to create graceful folds, leaving the right arm exposed and the left arm covered to the wrist. Colors varied according to age and social rank.

Underneath, Roman men wore a tunic, often striped, which was rectangle in shape with openings at the shoulders. Footwear consisted of sandals with leather soles and long laces that were tied up the leg. Clean-shaven, Roman men sported short hair.

As for Byzantium, Roman dress was developed by adding ornamental embellishments, headdresses, and length to the toga. Skull caps were popular, as well as the colors gold and violet; in essence, less earthy than the Romans in the West.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
In addition to more recent “nomadic” influences, the Roman art of draping has guided many spring/summer 2010 collections.

Inspired by the long voluminous layering effect of this period, designers have employed sheer, lightweight—almost airy fabrics—in their 2010 creations, adding a stylish flow and revealing the skin.

Photo top left Ceasar's Murder, Public Domain.
Photos middle right & bottom left Copyright Men's Fashion by Franesco.

September 14, 2009

Grottoes, Grapes & Greeks

In 1684 BC, nearly 3 thousand years ago, the Phoenicians sailed the coast of Italy and, discovering their new treasure, extracted metals from the island of Ischia. It is a good possibility that the shores also hosted waves of ancient Philistines.

The first recorded settlers were the Osci (also known as the Opici or Ausoni). Labeled Tyrrhenians by the Greeks, they were a branch of the Etruscans who migrated from the Aegean region in the 10th century BC and first introduced the arch and vault in Italy. These aborigines had migrated from Lydia (Greece) under a leader of the same appellation.

Consequent to the destruction of Troy, in 770 BC Greek refugees disembarked onto the shores of the island and set up the first Greek colony in the West—on Ischia! For the next 6 centuries, southern Italy belonged to Greater Greece, otherwise known as Magna Graecia.

Soon, they planted a colony across the bay on the mainland, in Cuma, just down the block from where Sofia Loren was born. They called the city Parthenope, and it was not long before the Greeks grew tired of their old city and established a “new city”—Neopolis—a name that mutated to Napoli, or Naples in English.

The clothing of Greek men was loose fitting, as opposed to the tight-fitting attire of the Barbarians. Greek men wore a tunic of linen or wool called the chiton, which was tied at the waist and—shorter than the women’s, just above the knee—usually covered one shoulder.

During cold periods, a rectangular cloak known as the himation could be draped over the body. Footwear consisted of leather sandals, if anything. The key word during this period? Functionality. Ancient Greek men were practical.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
There are many elements of ancient Greek menswear that will appear in 2010 spring/summer collections, such as white linens, elaborate designs, marked borders, and sleeveless garments.

Like the chiton, unisex styles will prevail, blending the boundaries of masculinity and femininity. As with the chiton, you can expect to sport outer belts around the waist of your jackets and coats.

Probably the greatest source of inspiration for s/s 2010, however, is the free-flowing and loose-fitting style of draping, which the Romans developed with the toga.

Photos Procession Sant'Alessandro, Ischia, Public Domain.

September 11, 2009

Ischia: Roots on a Rim

What most people fail to realize is that Italy is a relatively new country—before unification in 1861, the peninsula and its surrounding islands had been carved up by a host of empires, republics, and foreign dominations from the fall of the Roman Empire.

Since the Southern half of the peninsula and its islands share slightly more history in common, we are going to explore these similarities by focusing on the place I know best—Ischia.

Dating back to prehistoric times, this isle rejoices in the byname, the Emerald Island—Isola Verde in Italian. With its crater submerged beneath the sky-blue ripples of the Mediterranean Sea, what exists today is merely a rim—the remnants of an extinct volcano, which has been dormant only since the 14th century, constituting the largest island in the Bay of Naples.

Because of its strategic position, the green island has sustained a troublesome history. Recurrently colonized, punished, dominated, and sacked by a succession of ruthless invaders, the island has been infused with unique features that greatly distinguish it from areas on the mainland north of Naples whose language, culture, and social customs have only recently converged with those of Ischia. To that effect, islanders are a peculiar breed.

A simple glance at the Neapolitan language and its insular dialects reveals the lengthy history in a nutshell: paccaro ('slap') comes from ancient Greek; pretrusino ('parsley)', from Latin; spasso ('fun'), from German; buatta ('barrel') originates from French; semmana ('week'), from Spanish; tavuto ('coffin'), Arabic; and maccaturo ('hanky'), Catalan.

Like the language, the Neapolitan variety of music is enriched by its turbulent past and equally diverges from other regions of the peninsula. Folk songs, which date back as far as the 1200’s, are sung in an oriental, arabesque melody. Musical contributions include the romantic guitar, the mandolin, and several forms of opera. O Sole Mio and Enrico Caruso both originate from Naples.

With roots in the Greek and Roman periods, gastronomy is out of this world! Naples is the birthplace of pizza, which is about 200 years old. The Neapolitan coffee pot (‘a cuccumella) was the forerunner of the modern-day espresso pot, which, when the water boiled, was turned upside down.

In the next several articles, we are going to take a walk through approximately 3,000 years of history, as well as the evolution of menswear in the Bay of Naples, focusing on the island of Ischia.

View of Forio, Ischia, from the the Soccorso
(Turn off the playlist below before clicking to start.)

Photo top left, Naples.
Photo middle right, 'o pizzaiuolo.
Photos, slideshow & video Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco

Sulcis—the Why to it All

My last day in Sardinia was spent exploring Sulcis Iglesiente—the southwestern area of the island, which originally drew the attention of the Phoenicians for its abundance of minerals, coal, and metals.

Now the region is home to abbandoned mines, nuraghi, a temple to the Punic (Carthaginian) deity Sid near Fluminimaggiore, a Phoenician acropolis on Mt. Sirai, necropolises, and a Phoenician-Punic tophet, which was a burial ground for children.

My attention was mostly directed to the Phoenician acropolis, which is situated on a hill that rises 191 meters high and dates back to 730 BC. One of the most impressive remaining structures is the temple to Astarte (photo above).

Slightly down the hill is a necropolis, which consists of underground burial rooms. Just below are the foundations of a tophet.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed the first part of the trip! The next time I write, it will be from the romantically wild metropolis of Naples, which I consider the second fashion capital of Italy.

Panoramic View from Acropolis

Photo, slideshow & video Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

Paolo Midolo: the Pride of Orani

Surrounded by hills in a lush green valley of central Sardinia, the inhabitants of Orani cannot boast a large population, which number about 3,100 inhabitants, but they can celebrate a long history of artisans, craftsmen, painters, and designers.

One notable “master of apparel”—mastru 'e pannos—is Paolo Midolo, who not only inherited but also revived the tradition of the 3-piece pastoral suit.

For years, while jeans in the sixties and seventies overcame traditional styles, Paolo worked in the talc mines of Orani; but his boutique was never closed.

Then, something happened in the 1980’s: the new generation of youth started to yearn for the classic fabrics of their grandparents.

The corduroy and coarse woolen material called orbace (pronounced “orbache” in English), which constituted the traditional garb, began once again undergirding the pastoral ethnicity of inland Sardinia.

Paolo swiflty fused contemporary styles with the traditional tailoring of his sartoria into an new “ethno-chic” look.

Photos Copyright Paolo Midolo.

September 10, 2009

Antonio Marras—the Designer from Alghero

My prime reason in going to Alghero was to visit the showroom of the internationally renowned Sardinian designer, Antonio Marras. Antonio’s showroom is located in the center of historical Alghero.

Born 1961 in Alghero, Antonio grew up in his father’s clothing store where he conceived a passion for fabrics and materials. His first ready-to-wear collection entailed a line of white t-shirts that he produced in 1998; whereas he completed his first menswear collection in 2002.

Far from the fashion meccas of Europe, Antonio remains attached to his roots.

Working in the scenic workshop of his own home, which overlooks the Mediterranean sea, Antonio mixes traditional Sardinian dress with additional styles like Russian constructivism, film noir of the 30’s and 40’s, and illustrators of the early 1900’s.

Antonio’s collections narrate local and global tales of tradition and innovation, nostalgic memories, and exciting things to come, as they are manufactured by the hands of local Sardinian artisans.

Identifying with his roots, Antonio reaches beyond the creative confines of his island, intertwining opposite expressions of vintage and modernity as he experiments with art, music, and literature.

Photo top left & slideshow Copyright Antonio Marras.
Photo bottom right Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

Alghero—Sardina’s Little Catalonia

Also known as Barceloneta—‘little Barcelona’—Alghero is a small town of roughly 42,000 inhabitants, 22% of whom speak a variant of the Catalan language.

While the name Alghero derives from the word algae, because of the quantity of this marine vegetation that is deposited onto the coast, the native population derives its origin from Catalonia, Spain.

Traces of civilization date back as far as the 4th century BC. Monuments from the Nuraghic civilization have been unearthed, as well as Phoenician buildings near the city.

The city of Alghero, however, traces its modern beginnings to the Republic of Genoa in the 11th century, which built the fortifications of the city. The Genovese were completely removed from the city in 1353 by the Kingdom of Aragon, which began populating Alghero stricly with Catalonians.

Although Alghero became part of the Kingdom of Savoy in 1720 and, then, the Republic of Italy in 1861, Alghero has remained predominantly a Catalan city.

I dare to say that Alghero is the most picturesque city that I visited in Sardinia, boasting nearby grottos, white beaches and emerald waters, red coral reefs, and a warm mild climate all year.

Photo & slideshow Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

Oristano: Its Musuem & Festivals

My main purpose of visiting Oristano was to see the artifacts that were taken from the Phoenician colony of Tharros, which are housed in the local museum called the Museo Comunale Antiquarium Arborense di Oristano.

Oristano, or Aristanis in Sardinian, is a small town of about 33,000 inhabitants whose livelihood is based on fishing, farming, and tourists.

The city rose to power in the first centuries of the Saracen attacks, going on to wage war against other Sardinians as it vied for insular power.

One of the most famous events held in Oristano is the 500-year-old equestrian tournament called Sa Sartiglia, which is performed on Carnival Sunday and Fat Tuesday. The event concludes with la Pariglia, a time of equestrian acrobatics.

Notice that in both pictures the men are wearing masks, a ritualistic custom that dates back thousands of years to Sardinia’s ancient past. For more information, check out Sardinia’s museum of masks: Museo delle Maschere Mediterranee.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the festivities since it is now September, but I did enjoy walking about this Medieval town.

Photos of Sa Sartiglia & la Pariglia Copyright by Igor Bellini reproduced with permission.
Slideshow Copyright Men's Fashion by Francesco.

Bauladu—Country Living in Sardinia

On my way from Cagliari to Alghero, I stopped to see the Nuraghe Su Nuraxi near Barùmini and the Phoenician colony of Tharros, just outside Oristano, so I decided to lodge in the countryside.

I choose a bed & breakfast run by a sheepherder and his wife who live in a small town called Bauladu, which lies in an area that is filled with ancient historical sites.

As I was driving about the town, I ran into some young teenagers who were dressed in the traditional local dress!

After I asked them permission to take their picture, they explained to me that they are part of a folkloristic dance group called “Gruppo Folk Bauladu,” which performs at special events and festivals.

The boys and girl were dressed in the typical dress of their village, which differs in many ways from other cities and towns throughout the island.

Notice the spacious white shirt, normally made of linen or cotton and called ghentone, which often has an embroidered collar and buttonholes for gold jewels.

Over the shirt is a vrassette, a type of vest, which can also be a double breasted jacket of corduroy with red borders and a red inner lining.

Pants, called cartzones, are made of white linen or cotton and, while wide at the top, are tucked into boots. Around the waste, they sport a leather belt—chintorja—whose embroideries used to display social class.

Over the pants, they boys are wearing a short kilt-like black skirt known as the cartzones de vresi, which, gathered at the waste, is usually made of the coarse Sardinian wool called orbace (pronounced orbache in English).

Not seen here is the floppy black cone-shape cap called sa berretta, which tops off the outfit. Sometimes a brown or black long-hair fur coat called sas peddas is worn over the jacket.

Photos & slideshow Copyright Men's Fashion by Francesco.

September 9, 2009

Tharros: from Phoenicia to Carthage & onto Rome

Sometime around the year 730 BC, the Phoenicians settled the area also for the purpose of trade, founding the colony of Tharros, which in all probability meant ‘island’ in their language.

In 500 BC, however, Tharros was conquered by the Carthaginians, descendants of the Phoenicians, who built the preponderant walls of the city and a Semitic temple to Tanit.

The Romans conquered Tharros in 238 BC and urbanized the colony with hot and cold thermal baths, a small gladiator arena, aqueducts, roads, and a sewerage system. The two picturesque columns are the remains of four, bearing testimony to the temple of Jove where animal sacrifices were offered.

Finally, Tharros suffered over a hundred years of raids by the Vandals, from 450-533 AD, ultimately inviting the aide of Byzantium, whose reign over the city lasted from 533-900 AD.

By 1070, the city was completely abandoned, most likely due to the incursions of Barbary pirates.

Lower Tharros: Phoenician, Punic & Roman Remains
(Turn off the playlist below before clicking to start.)

Photos, slideshow & videos Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

Tharros: Nuraghic Foundation

The ancient colony of Tharros was one of the principal attractions that drew me to Sardinia.

Like other ancient colonies in Sardinia, not just one people settled the area but rather successive civilizations built upon the foundations of the previous ones.

The first settlers of what is called the Sinis promontory, near present-day Oristano, were the Nuraghic people, who lived in circular, cone-shaped buildings of stone with thatched roofs and engaged in trade with the Greeks.

Have a look at their location on the hill (video) and, then, take a walk amidst the foundations of their ancient village (slideshow). To see how Nuraghic men’s fashion rocked—literally—click here.

Nuraghic Village at Tharros

Foundations of Nuraghic Structures

For more reading on Nuraghic men and their fashion, please refer to the following articles:

Nuraghic Fashion: Intro
Nuraghic Fashion: Part 1
Nuraghic Fashion: Part 2
Nuraghic Fashion Part 3

Photos, slideshow & videos Copyright Men’s Fashion by Francesco.

September 8, 2009

Nuraghic Men Rocked the Styles!

When it came to styles and fashion, the Nuraghic men rocked—literally! Various bronze statutes called bronzetti have been discovered allover Sardinia, giving testimony to the fashionable dress of the Nuraghic men. Take a close look at this picture of a bronzetto (left).

The clothing of the Nuraghic people has been cleverly analyzed and interpreted by Sardinian designer, who has recorded her findings in a fabulous book entitled il Popolo di Bronzo:

A chieftain is wearing a cap on his head, very similar to the Sardinian beret worn today. The front of this cap is folded with the upper and lower folds fastened with a button. Later, we shall see other statues sporting caps with fringes, rows of creases, or a central band spanning from back to front.

In back, the chieftain’s hair is parted and shaved in the shape of a wide triangle. Other statues evidence different manners of shaving, such as two waist-length braids with a part that has been shaved about an inch (2.5 cm) in width. Stylistic shaving was definitely in among the rocks!

The chieftain is dressed in a double tunic, one longer than the other, with the two fringed ends of a decorative belt hanging out in front. Tunics were often sleeveless. The neck of this tunic is round, but other statues feature very cool asymmetrical v-necks!

Strapped across one shoulder and around the chest is a leather bandolier, which holds a dagger. The staff—an offensive and defensive weapon—has four rows of buds fashionably arranged from top to bottom. The chief’s legs and feet are bare; others wore fancy sandals.

Finally, the chieftain dons a rectangular cape, which is stylishly folded down over the arms and sown into sleeves. He ties the mantle in back with a fringed scarf. Hey, matching scarves and belts! The bottom of the mantle has a decorative border.

Other curiosities of the bronzetti include Nuraghic men in short wrap-around skirts with a handbag under the arm and strapped over the shoulder—wearing nothing else but a high, wide band around the head. A v-shaped beard seems to be the Nuraghic suggestion for this look.

Nuraghic men also enjoyed wild hairstyles like a long twisted lock flowing down over one shoulder with a braid that wound around in a circle on top! Other statutes part the hair into two braids, which are wound into circles at each side around the ears.

Now it is your turn to check out the bronzetti below and try to decipher what other styles were rocking in the nuraghi!

For more reading on Nuraghic men and their fashion, please refer to the following articles:

Nuraghic Fashion: Part 1
Nuraghic Fashion: Part 2
Nuraghic Fashion Part 3

Photo top left from the Museo archeologico di Pula.
Photo middle right Copyright Angela Demontis 2005.
Slideshow from the Polo Museale Casa Zapata in Barumini.