There is nothing like the sarto napoletano, the Neapolitan tailor. Everyone has to have one. Naples and its sartorial skills are legendary worldwide. Deep in the heart of Campagna, tailors passionately create timeless and luxurious works of art that embody their long history. Their precise craftsmanship define the rules of fashion, perfectly blending exceptional style and refinement in their creations. The tailoring tradition, whose luminous history spans close to 700 years and began with small artisan shops, has since expanded to become an international industry across the globe, captivating the most sophisticated eye.
Talented artisans, Neapolitan tailors have earned their own classification “Neapolitan tailoring”, and some champion that they merit UNESCO World Heritage status. With a preternatural ‘sixth-sense’, talent is part of Neapolitan tailor’s DNA. The tradition dates back to 1351 with the formation of the Confraternita dei Sartori, a tailoring school in the church of Sant’Eligio al Mercato. At the time, Naples was at its peak, the capital of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, a socio-economic leader in splendour and style. European nobility were captivated by the artisan tailors who used the finest fabrics, including silk and wool, in their masterful cuts.
The Neapolitan school developed and expanded over the centuries, flourishing until the late 1600s when Neapolitan moda began to languish in favour of the less embellished styles coming from Milan, London and Paris. Thankfully, the Bourbon court continued to favour Neapolitan tailoring, ensuring the tradition never lost its strength. Jump forward to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the school found new energy, exploding with innovation thanks to new materials, new designs, new innovators and even the silver screen.
Enter Italian actor/comedian, Antonio de Curtis, better known as “Totò”, and Italy’s emblematic example of dapper style. Key to Totò’s success was his curated elegance, cultivated from decades of friendships with Neapolitan tailors. Dapper tuxedos, perfectly starched tailored white shirts, suits designed with Prince of Wales fabric, inevitable cufflinks, silk scarves, hats, gloves and bespoke shoes were featured in everything he did on and off seem and became testimonials for some of the most iconic Made in Italy names, including Marinella, the historic Neapolitan artisan workshop whose famous handmade ties he sported. Totò’s elegance represented that of true Neapolitan nobility, a sophisticated gentleman whose choice in clothing always had a raison d’être. Ever the chic connoisseur, an award known as the “Totò elegance of genius” was created in his honour. An extraordinary symbol of the Golden Age of Italian cinema and the Dolce Vita, Totò was an elegantone through and through, a true mark of Neapolitan style and his flair helped export Neapolitan style around the globe.
Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t covet the made-to-measure elegance of a dashing Neapolitan? The half-lined jacket (giacca con mezza fodera), distinct cravatta (tie), crisp camicia (dress shirt) with monogram skill-fully embroidered on a cuff or waist, is enough to make anyone swoon. It is this elegance, precise cut and soft lines that ensure Neapolitan elegance stands apart.
How to identify a Neapolitan cut in the wild? Renowned for its ease of movement and soft contour, the jacket is defined by a shorter cut with wide lapels that end in a point, “boat” like pockets, less padding, minimal lining and narrower and shorter sleeves that allow for the escape of the shirt’s cuff. The meticulous handmade Neapolitan camicia includes a double stitch on the central button. Trousers tailored with sleek lines for a perfect silhouette.