STICK TO THE TOGA

When in Rome, no­tice how the na­tives dress up as Bryanstonites and are out­shone by Braam­fontein

Sunday Times - - Style -

One of the most suc­cess­ful prod­ucts from the stereo­type fac­tory has been that Ital­ians are ob­scenely stylish and ex­ude cool with the ease that plants ex­ude oxy­gen. Their men are al­legedly all Dzad­dies (de­li­ciously good look­ing older men) and their wom­en­folk make knees weaker than a wet tea bag. Per­haps things are dif­fer­ent in other parts of the coun­try, but in Rome the stereo­type fac­tory has been sell­ing us porky pies. What they need to start man­u­fac­tur­ing is the idea that South Africa’s street-style GDP has eclipsed Italy’s.

The av­er­age young stylish Ro­man man es­sen­tially dresses like a Bryanstonite, that is, some­one who fre­quents Rock­ets Lolita. Tight-fit­ting long-sleeve shirts that ac­cen­tu­ate the pecs, G-Star Raw type jeans that do a bad job of look­ing “dis­tressed” and squeaky clean sneak­ers. Older men keep it sim­ple with slim fit white shirt, blue fit­ted pants and nice shoes from what­ever passes for Woolworths. Young fash­ion­able women are rarely with­out a black leather jacket and seem to have been told that their dress code is “Cape Town blog­ger”, that is, black Doc Martin-type shoes, loose-fit­ting black blouses and black pants or acid-washed jeans. The older women do a bet­ter job, play­ing with plain white blouses and ret­rostyle loose fit­ting pants from across the colour spec­trum.

Per­haps the prob­lem is that Ital­ians seem un­healthily ob­sessed with try­ing to bal­ance their love for la­bels with a fear of com­ing across as gaudy. A strange quirk in Eu­ro­pean wiring has led mil­lions to do a daily dance where they want to be no­ticed but not seen. This is ap­par­ent in the back al­leys of the Colos­seum. Where tourists may wear a shirt em­bla­zoned with MOSCHINO across the chest, Ro­mans walk around des­per­ately hop­ing you no­tice that the bot­tom left cor­ner of their bag says moschino. It’s fun the­atre.

Ro­mans a la mode are not badly dressed per se, they’re just blandly dressed. They keep it sim­ple and safe. It looks good but it’s not par­tic­u­larly ar­rest­ing, whereas the use of colour in Braam­fontein alone is enough to make you want to buy a rain­bow and weave clothes out of it.

Should you want dress like a Ro­man, you will need:

A leather jacket

Cows must speak of Rome in hushed whis­pers, as a myth­i­cal hell they get sent to when they aren’t good veg­e­tar­i­ans. Leather jack­ets are so com­mon you even­tu­ally stop notic­ing them.

A va­ri­ety of white shirts

What un­fail­ingly goes well with a black leather jacket? That’s right, a white shirt/blouse/T-shirt. Wear those two on the Via Leon­ina and com­bine with a cig­a­rette in your mouth.

Fit­ted clothes

Obese Ro­mans are rare so they get along with­out over­sized cloth­ing. It is the one area they have us beat. If you’re go­ing to do safe chic then make sure your clothes fit. Think about it as a wed­ding ring, not so loose that it falls off and not so tight that you can­not eas­ily take it off when cheat­ing.

Hair prod­uct

One day not on the Ro­man cal­en­dar is bad hair day. Through Jupiter’s bless­ings and what­ever con­coc­tions are hid­den in those Al­pha Romeo red L’Oreal con­tain­ers, their hair brings terms like “lush”, “coifed” and “I’d hit that” to mind.

L

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