SUIT CUTS: BRITISH VS ITALIAN?
Q I have always worn Italian suits. How is the British cut different from the Italian – and which is better? A Bespoke tailoring is a craft that originated in England some 400 years ago when suits were essentially a battledress or a military uniform. Back then suits were very structured and form-fitting. Their purpose was to hold the shape of the body in a manner that made men look and feel sublime. Suits later evolved into the lounge suit that we wear today, which was founded by Anderson and Sheppard of Savile Row.
It was when a client asked Anderson & Sheppard for a suit that was slim fitting yet comfortable that the legendary drape cut was born. It had a relaxed form that had a fuller chest and draped over the midriff in a manner that gave gentlemen a more smart and relaxed look. The next major shift in the bespoke craft came when Italians from Naples learnt the bespoke craft from Savile Row and took it to Italy in the early 1900s. They changed the construction of suits to make it more suitable for the weather in Naples, which is mostly warm.
This gave birth to the Neapolitan tailoring method we know today. A Neapolitan jacket is deconstructed, made without lining, giving a more casual shirt-like appearance and remaining more cool and comfortable. They were often made with bright and vibrant colours and paired with cotton trousers or chinos, which are ankle length, cuffed and worn with slip-ons. A Neapolitan jacket will also have its signature camicia rollo shoulders. ‘Camicia’ means shirt-like and ‘rollo’ means roped. It was usually paired with a barchetta (boat-shaped) breast pocket.
An English suit jacket will have a clean and classic slightly angled breast pocket and soft yet structured shoulders forming a natural slope. The trousers will be comfortable around the thighs tapering slightly towards the bottom, which is cut at an angle with the back just kissing the heel of your shoes – either Oxfords or brogues.
Today, a Neapolitan jacket speaks of Italian nonchalance, with straight lines and sharp edges, while English bespoke tailoring is slightly structured, more fluid, yet formal with a light drape that accentuates your natural physique.
While they both have their own place in the school of traditional bespoke tailoring, it is the purpose of the suit that should determine whether you wish to go with the casual effortless elegance of Neapolitan tailoring or the formal structured and sublime elegance of English tailoring. However, a gentleman’s wardrobe is only considered complete if it is carefully balanced with both English and Italian bespoke suits.
PAWAN AND ASHISH ISHWAR are tailors at Knights & Lords, a bespoke tailoring house in Dubai