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Take a burn­ing in­ter­est in the clas­sic val­ues of male el­e­gance, com­bine it with the streets­marts of a blog­ger and you’ll have Fabio At­tana­sio. To­day the blog The be­spoke dudes at­tracts more than ten thou­sand vis­i­tors. Plaza Uomo trav­elled to Mi­lan to re­ceive a les­son in sprez­zatura.

Sim­ply ar­riv­ing at Malpensa air­port in Mi­lan is enough to make you re­alise why some peo­ple call it the menswear cap­i­tal of the world. Ev­ery­where they look, new ar­rivals are met by light boxes ad­ver­tis­ing for this-or-that fash­ion house or in­ter­na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tives ap­pear­ing at up­com­ing fash­ion weeks. On the train into the city, toned Amer­i­can mod­els share up­dates about their lat­est as­sign­ments.

Noth­ing, how­ever, can beat the sight that greets me out­side Panino Giusto, close to Porta Venezia in cen­tral Mi­lan. The com­bined café, bar and restau­rant is lo­cated in­side a beau­ti­ful old build­ing adorned with fresco paint­ings, which are well worth a visit in their own right. Here stands Fabio At­tana­sio. The young voice of a well-tai­lored Italy.

In less than three years his name has be­come in­creas­ingly as­so­ci­ated with words such as au­thor­ity and icon. His blog, The Be­spoke Dudes, at­tracts tens of thou­sands of unique vis­i­tors, pulled in by his Instagram ac­count, with 46,000 fol­low­ers, or his Tum­blr. Fabio At­tana­sio is only twen­ty­seven years old.

On the blog he in­ter­views – in mul­ti­ple lan­guages or with on­line broad­casts – menswear tailors around Italy. Some­times shoe­mak­ers, or per­haps bar­bers or wool weavers. There’s also a wealth of pho­tos of Fabio him­self as a model, demon­strat­ing ev­ery­thing from cloth, cuts, sewing, but­tons and re­gional styles to his own com­bi­na­tions, ad­vice and tips. The clas­sic style of gen­tle­men, an age-old craft, fil­tered through the lens of a young so­cial-me­dia phe­nom­e­non.

The story of ­Fabio At­tana­sio, a Neapoli­tan law grad­u­ate, has some­thing of the fairy­tale about it. When he moved to Mi­lan to at­tend the pres­ti­gious Boc­coni Univer­sity at the age of 19 there was noth­ing else on his hori­zon aside from the le­gal pro­fes­sion. But some­thing was nig­gling at Fabio.

“I no­ticed that I spent more time read­ing books, mag­a­zines and blogs about male el­e­gance, or watch­ing old black-and-white films about my Neapoli­tan cul­ture, than study­ing,” he says over a glass of Peroni.

“Later, when I started the blog I had no plan, no mar­ket­ing sur­vey, I just had to share my pas­sion. And so I started hang­ing out at tai­lor­ing houses. Some­times they’d shoo me away: ’Get out! What are you hang­ing around here for?!’ But I wanted to learn and share the sto­ries of this noble pro­fes­sion and these gen­tle­men: the bear-

ers of the clas­sic val­ues of male el­e­gance”.

Fabio At­tana­sio re­peat­edly re­turns to this: el­e­gance. He re­sists the word fash­ion, and terms such as ready-to-wear are brushed away with his hand as if they were an­noy­ing crumbs on the ta­ble.

“Fash­ion is a code. El­e­gance comes from within your­self. With be­spoke cloth­ing you are the one who de­cides ev­ery­thing, from the cloth to how many cen­time­tres there should be be­tween the breast pocket and the shoul­der seam – it is your style, no one else’s. But el­e­gance is about so many other things; how you think, how you be­have to­wards oth­ers. I know fash­ion peo­ple who are more than happy to speak about el­e­gance but who don’t pay those work­ing for them, that is not el­e­gance,” he says and con­tin­ues:

“Some be­lieve that el­e­gance is to dress well, at­tend par­ties and present an im­age of a beau­ti­ful life. But el­e­gance is the op­po­site of show­ing off, el­e­gance is hu­mil­ity. And this is where cloth­ing brands come into the pic­ture – peo­ple who wear brands are look­ing for an iden­tity but in the world of tai­lor­ing, brands are only al­lowed on sports cloth­ing. If you’re wear­ing a logo you’re im­i­tat­ing some­body else’s idea.”

While some might see Fabio At­tana­sio talk­ing about his pas­sion for unique stitch­ing as elit­ist, the sheer amount of faith­ful fol­low­ers in his me­dia chan­nels, in a va­ri­ety of coun­tries, paints another pic­ture. He be­lieves that the suc­cess of The Be­spoke Dudes – I’m the one us­ing the word suc­cess, At­tana­sio humbly de­murs – could be partly at­trib­uted to him hav­ing been the first Ital­ian to report from within the well­tai­lored Ital­ian world, and partly to his age. In ad­di­tion to that, the fact that he writes in both English and Ital­ian. You could also say that the blog is im­bued with a no-non­sense qual­ity and func­tion­al­ity.

“And I only paid 200 euro for the web design,” he says with a laugh.

That’s what he’s like, Fabio At­tana­sio. Very cour­te­ous, pre­cise in the way he moves and ex­presses him­self, in­cred­i­bly mod­est. And nat­u­rally di­vinely dressed – a clas­sic style with a twist here and there, in fab­rics, cut and colours to die for. A per­fec­tion­ist. At the same time there is a ca­sual air about him and he is far from a know-it-all or a snob. He or­ders beer af­ter beer while we’re talk­ing and looks of­fended when I, in the man­ner of a jour­nal­ist, of­fer to pay. He laughs a lot and shrugs his shoul­ders. He also tells me that he was crip­pled by shy­ness when he first started mod­el­ling clothes: “I couldn’t even look at the cam­era.” Clas­si­cally el­e­gant and a dude all-in-one. The new gen­tle­man.

And one with a bright fu­ture ahead of him. When cloth­ing be­comes crit­i­cally scru­ti­nised from a sus­tain­abil­ity per­spec­tive – qual­ity and authen­tic­ity are in de­mand – the in­ter­est in tai­lor­ing reawak­ens. More and more peo­ple want to know where the ma­te­rial is from, how items of cloth­ing are man­u­fac­tured, and from what. Fabio is get­ting more tech­no­log­i­cally in­tri­cate ques­tions from vis­i­tors who en­quire about the whole man­u­fac­tur­ing process. It is a de­vel­op­ment driven by the young, he says, peo­ple who want to spend less but fo­cus on qual­ity.

“Fif­teen years ago be­ing a tai­lor in Italy you’d have been per­ceived as some­thing of a loser, un­less you were fa­mous and tai­lor­ing suits for celebri­ties. But ever since the eco­nomic cri­sis more and more peo­ple are ques­tion­ing the value of get­ting an aca­demic ed­u­ca­tion – say, in economics or law – when you might not even get a job. So to­day more peo­ple want to be­come tailors again, and it’s even the case that some are keen to say that they are a tai­lor with­out ac­tu­ally be­ing one. Like pat­tern cut­ters, an im­por­tant job in it­self,


”My favourite place for suits is Naples, the cra­dle of Ital­ian menswear tai­lor­ing.”

but they’re not tailors. It’s not about un­earthing an an­cient and buried pro­fes­sion, in­stead it is about chang­ing and de­vel­op­ing it. That’s started to hap­pen now – tailors are trav­el­ling around the world to gain in­spi­ra­tion and new knowl­edge. Things are hap­pen­ing.”

“This is in­ter­est­ing in other as­pects as well. Mod­ern hu­mans are close to for­get­ting what things ac­tu­ally feel like. Only fast things are in­ter­est­ing. I want to go in the other di­rec­tion, I want to hon­our the slow side of life.”

Fabio quickly no­ticed that other peo­ple felt the same way. When he be­gan to shine a light on well-tai­lored style it was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally lapped up all around the world. He laughs about the early days, how he didn’t earn a penny in the be­gin­ning, but nev­er­the­less paid pho­tog­ra­phers out of his own pocket. Even­tu­ally peo­ple be­gan to un­der­stand that he was on the side of both tailors and his fol­low­ers.

“And that’s when tailors started ap­proach­ing me and want­ing to dress me for a fea­ture story. I re­alised that there was a busi­ness here.

These days Fabio At­tana­sio charges for his ser­vices. But only if he likes what the tai­lor is do­ing, or in his own words: if they are true to the val­ues.

“I say no to sev­eral in a week. Oth­er­wise I go there, in­ter­view them, get to know how they work, I bring a pho­tog­ra­pher, I write and pub­lish. All of this for a very small sum con­sid­er­ing the con­text, and in most cases for more read­ers than an ad­vert in a mag­a­zine. And I get a new suit. Ev­ery­one’s a win­ner.”

“But noth­ing for­eign. I was of­fered a lot of money from a cloth­ing brand, which isn’t Ital­ian, to be­come their spokesper­son. A lot of money. But, and I have no idea where I found the courage, I told them no. Be­ing able to stand be­hind some­thing com­pletely is a core value of the blog.”

Fabio At­tana­sio fre­quently talks in terms of “we”. He points out the plu­ral form of dudes and sug­gests that he should merely be the ve­hi­cle for the sto­ries.

“You don’t fol­low me to find out about how I live my life, and I don’t give them that, or even to find out how I dress. This is about our pas­sion for the craft. A ser­vice for like-minded peo­ple. The rea­son I chose ’dudes’ in­stead of ’gen­tle­men’ for ex­am­ple, is just to em­pha­sise that we are nor­mal dudes, but with a spe­cial in­ter­est.”

This is where we get onto the sub­ject of sprez­zatura, and here Fabio At­tana­sio straight­ens his back and leans for­ward. The ex­pres­sion was coined by re­nais­sance au­thor Bal­das­sare Casteglione as early as 1528 in his book Il corte­giano – a guide of sorts on how to best be­have at court as a courtier, lady-in-wait­ing or guest. The ex­pres­sion can be loosely trans­lated as “con­scious non­cha­lance, not try­ing too hard”.

“Not try­ing to look pretty, never be­come a pea­cock,” says Fabio. “To ig­nore that the hand­ker­chief in the breast pocket should have a cer­tain num­ber of cor­ners or the per­fect, sym­met­ri­cal Wind­sor tie knot. I hate the Wind­sor knot. And I don’t like the word dandy, that’s ex­cess. I’m more in favour of un­der­state­ment. A sober bal­ance is key – maybe not when it comes to al­co­hol [he laughs], but for ev­ery­thing else.”

“Some­one from GQ Italia [At­tana­sio con­trib­utes for the mag­a­zine, Ed.] asked, ’Fabio, how should a man dress?’ But that is not some­thing for me to de­cide, he must to do so him­self. It also de­pends on the sit­u­a­tion; to be dressed ap­pro­pri­ately with re­gards to his en­vi­ron­ment, the colour of his eyes, his body – he needs to find out what it is that will make ex­actly him el­e­gant.

So how do I find that, who is “my” tai­lor?

“That is a good ques­tion. I think that the most im­por­tant as­pect is the tai­lor’s own style. If he looks a bit tacky you will find the prod­uct a bit tacky. Re­gard­less of the qual­ity and the ex­e­cu­tion. So get a sense of who they are, talk to them. And look at them.”

“But be pre­pared for a bat­tle. If the tai­lor is sixty-five years old you will dif­fer in opin­ion in some ar­eas. That is why I’m look­ing for younger tailors, they un­der­stand my re­quire­ments. Or a hair­dresser, I was never re­ally sat­is­fied. But then I came across a sa­lon where the hair­dresser was an el­e­gant guy, and look – now I get the hair­cut I want, ev­ery time.”

Italy is still char­ac­terised by a num­ber of re­gional spe­cial­i­ties and style ideals. For an out­sider it seems like a jun­gle that changes sur­round­ings with ev­ery step you take: Mi­lan, Florence (The Be-

spoke Dudes of­fers an in­ter­view with An­to­nio Liver­ano, the fa­ther of the Floren­tine jacket with its slightly ex­tended shoul­ders and ‘slop­ing’ sides) Naples, Rome, Apu­lia, Si­cily, Venice …

“Ethan New­ton from The Ar­moury in Hong Kong com­pared it to food – a pasta dish could be as good in Bologna as in Bari but they will taste dif­fer­ent. Dif­fer­ent pe­cu­liar­i­ties that will suit your taste or per­haps not.”

“My favourite place when it comes to suits is Naples, the cra­dle of Ital­ian menswear tai­lor­ing and where it is still a tra­di­tion to bring your son to a tai­lor on his 18th birth­day.”

Fabio At­tana­sio be­gins to squeeze and weigh the cloth of his jacket. He prods and pulls at the ma­te­rial while hold­ing out his jacket over the café ta­ble.

“Feel how light it is. Just a lin­ing, noth­ing be­neath, no shoul­der pads what­so­ever. I love it. “How­ever”, he says hold­ing up an in­dex fin­ger, “this ver­ti­cal seam in the waist is typ­i­cally Neapoli­tan and … not good. Here I pre­fer the Mi­lanese style with one whole piece. So, to con­tinue with the food metaphor – a Neapoli­tan pizza with a bit of Mi­lanese top­ping? I’m try­ing to get tailors in Mi­lan to make a Neapoli­tan jacket.”

And how is that go­ing?

“Good, if they’re young. But some of the older ones are in­cred­i­bly con­ser­va­tive. They throw their hands up: ‘It’s im­pos­si­ble.’ In Naples I asked a tai­lor for just two but­tons for the cuff: ‘No, sig­nore At­tana­sio, we can’t do that.’ I never got my two but­ton cuff [he laughs].”

In the man­ner of a mis­sion­ary, Fabio At­tana­sio takes his time to con­vince oth­ers of what is right and wrong, although in a gen­tler fash­ion. And it seems as if he is slightly amazed by the lack of knowl­edge and the mis­con­cep­tions. Es­pe­cially that you need to be rich to af­ford tai­lored suits when they can cost less than ready-to-wear, or all the peo­ple mis­tak­ing made-to-mea­sure for be­spoke tai­lor­ing.

“But then ev­ery­thing isn’t black or white. I man­aged to get a good made-tomea­sure jacket once and I’ve even got one from a brand that a tai­lor changed just a lit­tle bit. I’ve also ex­pe­ri­enced tailors fail­ing to meet my ex­pec­ta­tions. But that’s pas­sion, some­times it will dis­ap­point you.”

“Like Naples. One of the most beau­ti­ful places there is, but also one of the most dan­ger­ous. It’s not pos­si­ble to ei­ther hate or love Italy, you’ll do both. It’s like a beau­ti­ful woman, you know that she is un­faith­ful with ev­ery man she meets but you can’t stop fall­ing in love with her.”

The dial on the Dic­ta­phone shows we are close to ap­proach­ing three hours. Over cof­fee and a tiny cube of ice cream, Fabio At­tana­sio tells me about the lat­est news on the blog, his lat­est de­vel­op­ment:

“Our own line of eye­wear! TBD by Kadór 1962. I found this maker of sun­glasses who has been run­ning his own fam­ily busi­ness since 1962. This 82-year-old man still bends ev­ery frame by hand. Ev­ery­thing, ev­ery­thing, is hand made. Look at these four tiny screws be­tween the frame and the ear­piece. And they still use pumice for the pol­ish­ing. In a year they pro­duce what the large fac­to­ries do in a day, it can take months to get a pair, but it fully ties in with my phi­los­o­phy: Crafts­man­ship. At­ten­tion. Slow.”

In ad­di­tion Fabio At­tana­sio is writ­ing a book. About what? Ital­ian tai­lor­ing cul­ture, of course.

“But it’s tak­ing some time”, he says. Nat­u­rally, it has to be crafted to per­fec­tion.



Irish linen suit by Edesim Napoli, tie by Chi­aia Napoli, shirt by Cam­ice­ria Be­sani, hand­ker­chief from Serà fine silk and Cran light tor­toise frame sun­glasses from The Be­spoke Dudes Eye­wear.

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