I’ve recently returned from a trip to Florence for Pitti Uomo, the biannual menswear trade show. Pitti is based in a beautiful old fortress in a series of old and new buildings that collectively make it the most visually attractive trade show in the world. Obviously, being Italy, nothing actually works, whether it’s the air conditioning (it was 99 degrees), or the Wi-Fi, but that doesn’t matter: we are here to look good, not to do business.
What I love about Pitti is that everyone wears the trends of the day down to the minutest detail. It’s like a catwalk show with 2,000 models walking in random directions, all dressed by a single stylist. So here is my guide on how to fit in if you decide to visit.
Firstly, don’t eat anything but dust for six months before the show. If you weigh an ounce above the weight of your Filson tote bag, you will instantly be marked as an outsider.
Secondly, ignore the weather. It doesn’t matter that it’s hotter than the Gobi Desert – your wardrobe is not there to keep you comfortable. You need to have a jacket and it needs to be three sizes too small. Basically, if you can get into your ten-year-old son’s school blazer, you’re heading in the right direction. Also the jacket needs to be buttoned up right to the top and the shirt, which is also three sizes too small, also needs to be done up to the top, with your tie knot wedged high enough into your throat that you can only breathe by putting your finger inside the collar and pulling it away for a split second every now and then.
Trousers must be so tight that your genitals look like Sainsbury’s shrink-wrapped kumquats, end about six inches above your shoes and be rolled up. If you can get your hands in your pockets, you have misunderstood the brief.
Clearly socks are not allowed, but there is an ongoing debate as to whether women’s “hidden” tennis socks (or “Serenas”) are allowed. People try to hide them and usually fail, but the alternative is feet that smell so badly that when you take off your shoes in the evening, you instantly enter a mini coma in your hotel room. I suspect some people simply don’t take off their shoes for the entire week, rather than endure the nightmare of having a little piece of white sock show at a key moment.
Shoes of course have to Grenson or Tim Little brogues, or failing that, stripy espadrilles that either cost hundreds of pounds from a famous designer or, if you think no one will notice, £5.50 from the baskets outside a blow-up crocodile shop in Estepona.
Accessories should include a tote or messenger bag with a creative-looking Moleskine book to write in – typing notes into anything that requires a battery is considered rude. Oh, and don’t forget to check whether it’s Wayfarers or aviators this year – one mistake could render you blinded as you certainly won’t be able to wear them for the entire week.
So that’s it. It doesn’t matter if you are selling, buying or writing articles: if you go to a menswear show like Pitti, you must follow the above rules or your trip will be ruined. Don’t ever forget that even though you think you’re trying to stand out, you’re really just trying to fit in.