Put a man in a well-fitting suit and he’ll be at his superlative. This is an absolute truth. In my opinion, it’s also when man is at his most attractive, most delicious.
A good suit is a masterpiece, a gift that does not discriminate—each yard and each stitch is done with the express purpose of lending comfort and boosting confidence. A transformation—no matter how subtle—is inevitable. Every man who has ever worn a masterpiece can attest to this. They feel a touch taller, prouder, more powerful.
It’s a heady thing; and what man would refuse a taste?
But here is another absolute truth: as beautiful and beloved a country as the Philippines is, it is not a temperate one. There are many days when the heat is oppressive rather than welcome, and a walk outside feels more like a punishment than a reprieve. This is even worse in the major cities, where almost everything is made from concrete, or steel, or glass.
Tailored suits, with all their layers and linings, unsurprisingly rank low on the everyman’s choice of everyday clothing. There are some who are more than willing to suffer for style, of course. Some, not a lot.
And there lies the dilemma… as well as the secret. The Philippines isn’t the only country to have a climate that chooses to make itself the opponent of style; there are plenty of other places out West, especially in Europe along the Mediterranean, where people want to stay comfortable but still look sharp.
Take the men of Naples, for example. Located in the sunny south side of Italy, this coastal city has been the home of countless sartoria (sar-to-REE-ah; “tailoring houses”) and has nurtured generations of maestros who have long since cracked the code and perfected their own style and silhouette for the suit.
Where the English suit is stiff and heavy, and the American version is straight and baggy, the quintessential Neapolitan-style suit is anchored on comfort and lightness. If you imagine these silhouettes as contestants on a televised dating game show, the Neapolitan would be the carefree Italian heartthrob who likes long walks on the beach and al fresco dining.
Neapolitan style is a study in sprezzatura (spret-sah-TOOR-uh), or the Italian concept of studied carelessness. To possess sprezzatura is to achieve looks that are peak poise but still nonchalant. It’s hard work to look effortless.
Take the Neapolitan suit jacket. Structure-wise, the signature suit jacket features shoulders that have little to no padding. This results in a softer and more unstructured look that follows the natural slope of the shoulder. If you look closely at the seam where the shoulder meets the sleeve, it’ll show the spalla camicia or the slight bunching of fabric that comes from sewing in a sleeve larger than the armhole. Combine this with the high placement of the armhole and you get a garment that follow its wearer’s movements more closely.
To possess sprezzatura is to achieve looks that are peak poise but still nonchalant. It’s hard work to look effortless.
Meanwhile, a peek at the inner side of the jacket reveals a body with minimal lining—either half- or quarter-lining—to avoid any bulk. This is also the reason why the jackets are known for being as soft as shirts and can be folded just as easily.
Suits on location
The experience of wearing Neapolitan tailoring is one of those things you need to encounter in person to fully appreciate.
Following the great tradition of women borrowing clothes from men, I went to Signet—a specialty store for fine men’s clothing and accessories—to try on a Neapolitan-style jacket and see if it was something I would be willing to incorporate in my own closet. If any borrowing was going to happen on my end, I decided that I might as well aim for quality.
At Signet are a few pieces from Sartoria Dalcuore, a tailoring house established more than half a decade ago by Luigi Dalcuore. Once a humble atelier along Via Cervantes in Naples, Sartoria Dalcuore has come a long way. It now enjoys a more international presence with Dalcuore himself flying out to various countries—including the Philippines—every quarter to see his clients.
Maestro in our midst
A scheduled fitting with a maestro is a sacred time. To have a suit custom fit for you, whether it be made-to-measure or completely bespoke, requires levels of trust and communication between the tailor and wearer, nurtured and cultivated for months. Fittings can run to as many as two to three sessions and with an arrangement similar to Dalcuore’s, wherein he only flies in quarterly; tailoring a suit from start to finish would easily take months.
If you simply don’t have enough time to invest in a fully bespoke suit, one option that can be explored is made-to-measure. Here, pre-tailored suits called master garments serve as templates that tailors can adjust to fit the wearer better. In the case of Sartoria Dalcuore, their made-to-measure option is not reliant on fittings with Dalcuore himself—the staff is specially trained to take measurements, and they are sent to Naples alongside the corresponding master garment for adjustment. This process takes about two to three months. A fairly short time, considering the shipping involved.
To have a suit custom fit for you, whether it be made-to-measure or completely bespoke, requires levels of trust and communication between the tailor and wearer, nurtured and cultivated for months.
Finally, for the more impatient, there’s always the off-the-rack option. Sartoria Dalcuore has found itself a compromise that allows their quality jackets to be made in larger volumes without sacrificing quality: a new atelier established in Arzano, Naples, near the sartoria’s original workshop. It houses a whole team of tailors trained to recreate the Dalcuore signature look, with Dalcuore, of course, as the head of styling. It’s an arrangement that allows them to sustain a bespoke house and operate a 100% family-owned ready-to-wear business efficiently.
Living up to the expectation
Back in Manila with my personal quest, I gave in to curiosity and tried on a ready-to-wear suit jacket.
Boy, was I in trouble. It was a plaid-patterned number made from a blend of wool, silk, and linen. Soft as advertised and despite my generous curves, the sleeves followed my every move without feeling tight, and the front closed without any unflattering bumps or bunches in sight. I looked good. I felt good.
And since the staff informed me that Maestro Dalcuore also does bespoke women’s suits?
Trouble with a capital T, I tell you.