Population: too many
IT’S NO COINCIDENCE that the epicentre of global men’s street style is an oblong concrete area, about 30 by 20 metres, slap-bang outside the main building of the most illustrious men’s-clothing trade fair. It’s the biannual Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence, and for 45 years, it’s been the fulcrum of new ideas and old ideas emanating from the (mainly) Italian brands.
In January and June, for four extremely neatly dressed days, that tennis-court-sized piazza, once merely a place to get outside for a five-minute breather, a cigarette, or a phone call, becomes ground zero for what may be the highest expression of sartorial performance art. Variously named by menswear aficionados—and with varying degrees of affection—the Cock Pit ( sic), Peacock Square, and DB Central, it has in the past five years become a mecca for overdressed young men (and old ones, too) with a hankering to be blogged or Instagrammed. Taking cues no doubt from their Renaissance past (see right), the “pigeons” bust out poses to show off the cut of their tight jackets, pitch dangerously rakish angles with the broad brims of their fedoras, and prop one foot up on a low wall to offer the perfect angle on their double-monk-straps. A glut of photographers is ready to photograph anything that moves and everything that doesn’t.
That this happens in Italy, in bourgeois-minded Florence, even, is hardly a surprise, and if there were a recipe to make a scene, it would go something like this:
Combine in a bowl equal parts the Italian notions bella figura (“good appearance”); la passeggiata, the civic propensity to go preening about town at sunset in your Sunday best; and sprezzatura, that old and molto- misunderstood chestnut that has been quickly inverted from its original meaning (appearing not to care about your appearance) to something else altogether (appearing not to think about anything else). Then throw in a large dollop of socialmedia opportunities and it’s no wonder it thrives.
But the truth is it’s all getting a bit much— you begin to wonder what legitimate purpose these men have here, and where is this all going? In an effort to find answers, or rather solutions, to these ( de) pressing questions, Esquire teamed up with Pitti Immagine Uo- mo to handpick men at the show we thought are getting it right and stick them in front of a camera, but a safe distance away from the Cock Pit. What we found (see the best of the bunch, above) was a definite resettling of the instruments. There’s still a strongly Italian sense of elegance, and still a focus on casual tailoring, but there’s a bit more restraint and sophistication to it. In Peacock Square, as in life, sometimes less really is more.
— NI CK S U L L I VA N