THE NEAPOLITAN JACKETWhat is it about the Neapolitan jacket that draws the eye of so many men? A Neapolitan jacket oozes coolness and Italian nonchalance, or sprezzatura, and feels a little edgier than the classics with young men in particularly recognizing the versatility of this soft-tailored jacket.
Even as made-to-measure and ready-to-wear suit-makers across the globe blaze a trail of their own by offering Neapolitan crafted suits, it has become obvious that those predictions from the past that told us that Neapolitan suits are likely a fad, have proved the contrary, and Neapolitan tailoring has shown its viability and entrenched itself firmly into the league of becoming a classic in its own right
ORIGINS: A SMALL STORY ABOUT ITALIAN TAILORINGAlthough it is sometimes perceived otherwise, the history of tailoring in Italy that lead to the Neapolitan jacket design that we know today, isn’t that old (although tailoring for aristocrats and dandies dates back several centuries). The rise of Neapolitan tailoring began to take root in the early 1900s, where we find on the scene, Angelo Blasi , who has become one of the most famous tailors in Italy. At the time, Mr. Blasi finds his inspiration in English tailoring (a structured coat with padded and narrowed shoulders), and crafts his work to emulate many of the characteristics that he sees in the suits coming out of London.
Yet, as a contemporary of Blasi, it is Vincenzo Attolini that ushers into the city of Naples, the distinct look of Neapolitan tailoring, as we know it today. Vincenzo Attolini, once a main cutter at a London house, begins working for Gennaro Rubinacci (an aesthete, courtier, and a leading dandy based in Via Filangeri). While Attolini is working for Rubinacci, something in the city of Rome grabs his attention and prompts him to borrow a tailoring technique that will lead to the development of the Neapolitan suit.
Tailor Domenico Caraceni of Rome, whose work possibly inspired Neapolitan tailoring, in the 1930s –far right (source: IPS Community: A Golden Age of Italian Tailoring )
Attolini is inspired by the work of Rome’s Domenico Caraceni, a tailor known for making suits with soft lines. It is at this point, that Attolini abandons the more structured methods of suit-making that he learned from his training in London, even veering away from elements of British tailoring that Blassi favored, and creates a distinct jacket that can be recognized by the trained eye, as being “Neapolitan”.
Vincenzo removes the coat pads and inner linings, adds his own fine details, and makes a jacket so light that it can be folded up to eight times…a revolution in tailoring that will lead to the invention of the modern jacket.
Giacomo Bruno is another tailor at the time who had been planning on entering the naval academy, but changes his course and works as an apprentice in Rome and Milan, later landing in Naples to open his own tailoring house. Perhaps borrowing from his training in Rome, Giacomo Bruno brings to Naples his own interpretation of Neapolitan style, and refers to suit-making as an art, rather than a craft. He refuses to call his store a tailoring shop, insisting that it be referred to as a “Art and Fashion” workshop.
In knowing part of the story of Italian tailoring, it becomes easier to understand that just because a suit hails from Naples, it does not mean the that suit is a classic Neapolitan suit, as the roots of tailoring in Naples also include a very present early English influence, which is why Naples also crafts a substantial number of Roman style structured suits.
In order to identify a classic Neapolitan Suit, pay attention to:
1. SOFT SHOULDERS (no padding, pleated sleeve head — spalla camicia or con rollino).
As the Neapolitan shoulder can be quite confusing to many, BespoKenN does an exceptional job illustrating the differences between two frequent Neapolitan shoulder constructions: the spalla camicia and the con rollino):
Spalla camicia adopts a similar technique that is used in shirt-making . By tucking the seam allowance against the shoulder (not against the sleeve), the jacket follows the shape of the body causing the fabric to fall naturally from the shoulder-down. There is an absence of padding in the shoulder and a natural puckering that is formed flowing down from the sleeve head, since sleeves are cut wider at the top with excess cloth eased into the shoulder and armhole–a look thought of as a fault to some, and pure poetry in motion to others. Notice how the shoulder is knocked down, with no appearance of padding.
Con rollino (or “with roll”) jackets are made by taking excess fabric from around the sleeve head, and forming a roll that bulks up the area and pushes the sleeve head upwards, creating a bump that gives the same appearance as roping. Sometimes this bump or roll can be quite pronounced, and other times, not as obvious.
© Ezra Paul (ezrapaul.com)